Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

ASK THE INSPECTOR: Brick foundations pose repair challenges

  • Print

QUESTION: In a previous column for the Winnipeg Free Press you gave some advice on repairs to leaks for non-stone foundations. In that article you wrote that epoxy injection is not an option for stone foundations.

What options or advice would you recommend for a brick foundation built in 1925? Marg Friesen

ANSWER: The advice I would give to anyone living in a home that was almost 100 years old in our area with a brick foundation would be to move or sell. While I am obviously kidding, this advice is not far off the mark, unless you live outside the Red River Valley where soil conditions may be more favourable to brick foundations. Certain types of repairs to some foundations are not practical. For the same reasons, some types of materials used for foundations in the past may not be worth repairing. Clay brick foundations fall into this category. There are two main reasons why this is the case: structural problems and moisture.

The main problem with brick foundations in our area is the inability to withstand the tremendous forces they face from our expansive clay soil.

Because brick walls are constructed from layer upon layer of small individual units held together with mortar, they have a tendency to have very limited flexibility and lateral strength.

Over time, the forces of the soil outside the foundation will cause the walls to bow inward as the mortar ages and wears.

While this should not initially compromise the vertical strength of the foundation, further deterioration may lead to serious movement in the home. While it may be possible to do repairs similar to other foundation types, by exterior excavation, reapplication of damp-proofing and bracing the interior, complete replacement with new concrete walls may be the only solution in the worst cases. Even in moderately damaged foundations, the second property of brick walls may make standard repairs prohibitive.

Clay bricks are porous and absorb moisture. While this may be a good property for an exterior product used for siding, it is not desirable for any material to be used below grade. Even with a heavy application of a bitumen-based damp-proofing material, clay bricks eventually deteriorate due to ground moisture. As the waterproofing layer and mortar joints wear out, and the foundation walls allow moisture to penetrate the clay bricks, deterioration can accelerate.

Even if the walls are several courses thick, deterioration to the outside course will compromise the strength of the inner layers. This will allow more water to penetrate the foundation during heavy precipitation, creating more inward movement, more mortar damage, and an escalating cycle of deterioration.

The only way a brick foundation on a home your age can be repaired is if you live in an area with highly sandy soil conditions. If the soil is quite sandy, rather than clay-based, then lateral pressure may not be a major consideration.

Also, sandy soils drain much better than other types, minimizing the amount of moisture that can be forced into the bricks from hydrostatic pressure. If that is indeed the case in your home, I could see how this type of foundation has survived for almost a century without collapse. In that situation, any possible repairs would only be attempted from the exterior.

Excavation outside your foundation will be the only practical way to not only prevent leakage and further deterioration, but also assess the condition of the brick walls. Even with sandy soil conditions, there may be considerable deterioration to the bricks hidden below grade. Digging down in a few test areas, where seepage is the worst, may give a rough idea of the current state of the foundation. If there is no serious damage to the surface of the exterior course of bricks, and minimal inward bowing, typical repairs may be possible.

Remove all dirt, debris and loose mortar before repairs begin. After this is done, fill all worn mortar joints, followed by a complete parging coat of mortar over the entire foundation.

If a limited number of bricks are badly damaged, loose, or missing, these can be replaced prior to the parging coat.

Once that is completed and the mortar has cured, covering the foundation with a waterproofing membrane is the next step. Use of a more modern membrane system, such as a blueskin or semi-rigid dimpled sheathing should be superior to a simple bitumen coating.

Following the membrane installation with a thin layer of rigid foam insulation will give added cushion and protection to the brick walls. Replacement of a plugged weeping tile system, if one was even installed, with modern corrugated plastic drainage piping will be the final piece of the repair puzzle.

Because of the nature of brick foundations, simple, inexpensive repairs are not normally possible to stop seepage and movement issues.

Depending on the soil conditions, repairs may vary from exterior excavation and repairs detailed above, to complete removal and replacement with modern reinforced concrete foundation walls.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors - Manitoba (www.cahpi.mb.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at (204) 291-5358 or check out his website at www.trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 F10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart: 2014 Year in Review

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Jia Ping Lu practices tai chi in Assiniboine Park at the duck pond Thursday morning under the eye of a Canada goose  - See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge Day 13- May 17, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

With the Canadian junior team off to such a great start, will you be watching the World junior hockey championship?

View Results

Ads by Google