Basements Bricks Crumbling

Published on April 29th, 2018 | by Henri

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Bricks crumbling in basement condo

Q.  Six years ago we purchased a “walk in” condo in New Haven, Connecticut. It is a rental for our son (yes he is paying rent!). The building is about 100 years old. It was converted into eight condos 25+ years ago. This is the basement condo with an inside entrance and also has an entrance from the outside.

In the first few months of his living there, we noticed the brick on the wall facing what would be front yard and would technically be “underground” crumbling. After putting in a dehumidifier the crumbling stopped. (Note: Other brick walls in other parts of the condo, both painted and unpainted, were not crumbling. We basically left it as is for the past six years. Now with his departing next summer, we are looking at selling the condo and need to do something about the wall. Is there a way to patch these walls where it would not crumble in the future? Is there also a way to give it the brick look that it had? Thank you.

A. The damage your photos show is caused by moisture. It sounds as if the grade outside this wall facing the front yard may be too flat or negative (slanting toward the building), which allows moisture to collect and seep against that wall.

The wall’s waterproofing, if any was attempted, has not successfully kept the moisture out and the bricks have absorbed the moisture, which caused disintegration of the bricks, the mortar and the face coating that was applied over the bricks.

For a longer-lasting repair, but not an absolute cure that would require expensive exterior repairs, correct any grade deficiencies in order for the soil to dry. This will require raising the grade to direct water away from the foundation and encouraging a healthy stand of grass to draw moisture out of the ground.

A mason should be able to scrape all loose stuff from the bricks, perform the necessary tuck-pointing and face repairs of the damaged bricks and apply a coating to match the existing. Hopefully, there will be no need to replace bricks that are too badly damaged.

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