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STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
BRICK FOUNDATIONS & WALLS
CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
COLD POUR JOINTS, CONCRETE
COLUMNS & POSTS, DEFECTS
DISASTER BUILDING INSPECTION & REPAIR
EARTHQUAKE DAMAGED FOUNDATIONS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOD DAMAGE TO FOUNDATIONS
FOOTING & FOUNDATION DRAINS
FOOTINGS EXPOSED, Repair Methods
FOUNDATION BULGE or LEAN MEASUREMENTS
FOUNDATION CONSTRUCTION TYPES
FOUNDATION CONTRACTORS, ENGINEERS
FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
GRADING, DRAINAGE & SITE WORK
GUTTERS & DOWNSPOUTS
INSECT INFESTATION / DAMAGE
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS
MODULAR HOME CONSTRUCTION
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
RETAINING WALL DESIGNS, TYPES, DAMAGE
RETAINING WALL GUARD RAILINGS
STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION
STRUCTURAL DAMAGE PROBING
STRUCTURAL WOOD ASSESSMENT
THERMAL EXPANSION of MATERIALS
TIMBER FRAMING, ROT
WATER BARRIERS, EXTERIOR BUILDING
WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article explains how to recognize, diagnose, & repair brick foundation & brick wall defects & failures such as cracks, spalling, movement, bulging, leaks, damage due to impact, settlement, frost or water damage, and other problems.
We describe types of brick foundation or wall cracks, crack patterns, differences in the meaning of cracks in different brick wall types (veneer vs. structural or solid brick walls), and where there is brick wall damage, the role of site conditions, building history, and other causes of building movement and damage.
This information helps in recognizing foundation defects and to help the building owner or inspector separate cosmetic or low-risk conditions from those likely to be important and potentially costly to repair.
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Examples of structural & other failures in brick walls & foundations
Brick wall settlement: These photographs of a Canadian brick structure (courtesy Carson Dunlop) show what is probably old and recurrent structural damage to a brick building in its above-ground walls. We suspect there has been ongoing foundation settlement below these problem areas. [Click any image to see an enlarged, detailed version]
Watch out: Any movement in a structural brick wall which risks having broken the bond courses in the wall, and any movement in a brick veneer wall which has broken or loosened the connections between the veneer to the underlying structure are potentially dangerous and risk collapsing masonry! Also see BRICK VENEER WALL LOOSE, BULGED.
Structural brick wall collapse: This historic brick structure in Saugerties, NY, had already begun to collapse when we inspected its condition. The root cause of failure was water from roof leaks and at the building right side (not visible) in-slope grade and surface runoff which soaked the structure's lower foundation walls and permitted frost damage.
As bond coursed break and walls bulge, structures of this type are unstable and dangerous.
It is likely that considerable portions of this structure will need to be removed before repairs can begin. Inside we observed other evidence of collapsing foundations below other walls and we considered this building dangerous to enter.
Structural brick foundation collapse
We can see that this collapsed brick wall was a structural brick foundation, and the soil piled up suggests it was done in by pressure from wet earth - a drainage or roof drainage problem may have been the root cause of this collapse.
[Photograph courtesy of Alan Carson, Carson Dunlop, Toronto]
Some common brick foundation wall or brick structural wall defects to be observed and reported include:
This sketch of the components of a preserved solid brick foundation with masonry exterior walls is courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Improper repair mortar used during "repair work", tuckpointing bricks, or re-pointing bricks can cause
surface spalling of bricks if the mason uses a too-hard mortar high-portland content mortar on soft brick in a climate
exposed to freezing weather.
We continue discussing how to inspect and diagnose brick foundations and walls at: BRICK WALL THERMAL EXPANSION CRACKS and how to recognize and evaluate it, and what causes thermal cracks in brick foundation walls or building walls is discussed and illustrated at BRICK WALL THERMAL EXPANSION CRACKS.
Also see this close companion article: FOUNDATION CRACK DICTIONARY which discusses in detail the process of evaluating foundation cracks and signs of foundation damage by examining the crack size, shape, pattern, and location.
Continue reading at BRICK STRUCTURAL WALLS LOOSE, BULGED or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Great article! Although this information isn't specific to Australia, it has still helped me understand more in my building contractor course. Thomas Wong, 11/29/2011
Thomas thanks for the nice comment about our website content. We know that we have many readers in Australia and New Zealand and I'm anxious to add terms and technical details that match those used in your area. While climate and constuction practices vary around the world, brick and masonry construction in general suffers similar problems in most places - often it's the local names for materials & construction methods that vary more than the materials and pracices themselves. One man's septic drainfield is another's soakaway bed.
We'd welcome specific questions, comments on different construction terminology used in different parts of the world, etc. We are dedicated to making our information as accurate, complete, useful, and unbiased as possible: we very much welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles. Working together and exchanging information makes us better informed than any individual can be working alone.
Questions & answers or comments about structural brick foundations & brick walls: crack, leak, or movement diagnosis, defects, & repairs, risks of collapse.
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