Structural Issues in Brick Rowhouse - Idea of Repair Costs

5 Replies

So, fairly new investor here.  I see a lot of end unit brick rowhouses on sloped lots that have some kind of structural issues.  Some minor stair-step cracking in the mortar, some slight sloping in the floors and out of square doorframes, a bit of bowing in the exterior wall.

I'm pretty good at finding these issues, but I have no idea what it costs to repair.  I could be looking at $5k or $50k.  Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing that could give me some kind of ballpark?

For reference, here's a place I'm currently looking at.  Not the best picture, but might hopefully give you an idea of what I'm talking about.  It's not so bad that you look at it and cringe at first glance, just enough that I'd definitely want to make sure to stop it from getting worse and fix what's there (if necessary).

It would be best to have 2-3 local contractors give you a estimate. You then get an idea of what it will cost of future projects, and maybe someone to do the work when you get the deal.

Yeah, unfortunately that's tough to do in DC.  It's a hot reno market, so it can be difficult to get contractors to call back.  Getting estimates on a property I don't own in a time-frame short enough to allow me to buy it (will probably have a contract on it by the time the weekend is over) isn't very workable.

Too general a question and your area could be more or less expensive (probably more) than mine. Minor cracking could be under $1k to repair, demo and rebuild an entire wall could be over $20k...the answer is, it depends. Get a few estimates on specific houses and you'll then have an idea what you're looking at cost-wise. It also depends on who you have perform the work. I have a handyman that does great brick work for $225/day plus materials. I've had him patch cracks and replace spalling bricks, he's too slow and works alone, so to have him do a huge job like rebuilding an entire facade wouldn't be feasible. 

Few months ago I got an estimate from a mason to replace ~50 spalling bricks for $800. Ground level work, pretty easy stuff. My handyman did it in a day for $225 plus $100 or so in materials. Hell, he wasn't even there the whole day and that included getting lost picking up the bricks on my time. I think he had 6 hours into it total. 

Just got an estimate from another mason to repair some bricks on a 2-story row, front only. I just wanted any loose mortar scraped and replaced as there's no real cracking, just some loose mortar here and there. He said he'd only grind and repoint the whole facade...for the mere cost of $6500. This is on a $115k ARV flip! Even if it takes my handyman 3 or 4 days to do at $225/day. Come on!

Sorry for the rant. Point is, shop around, get estimates. It's bricks and mortar, not quantum physics. Sometimes you need a true craftsman and that's what you pay for, other times, some dude with a van, a wheelbarrow and a trowel will fit the bill nicely. :)

Originally posted by @Will Johnston :

Yeah, unfortunately that's tough to do in DC.  It's a hot reno market, so it can be difficult to get contractors to call back.  Getting estimates on a property I don't own in a time-frame short enough to allow me to buy it (will probably have a contract on it by the time the weekend is over) isn't very workable.

 You want to learn to estimate this stuff, you gots to pay your dues. Bring them by anyway even if you missed out or passed on the deal. Offer them $50 to walk down a block and throw numbers at you as you point problems out. Stop at brick work-type jobs you see underway and ask the scope of work and roughly what its costing the owner to have done. If it's important to you you'll figure it out. You need rough numbers, not exact. 

@Will Johnston  

I'm a native Washingtonian and have lived in and worked on these rowhouses most of my life as a carpenter & contractor so I speak with some authority on this.

One of the first things I assess is whether the property is racked via settling , if this is the case and an entire perimeter wall is listing repair measures can be more intensive. A good way to check for this, is in the basement if the brick is sitting on the foundation wall an extended  framer's plate level or rotary level can give you an idea of what's going on. Neither item is cheap but Amazon can ship either in a day...if your evaluating a lot of properties or just don't want to deal with a contractor (most of them suck to deal with...I know full well) it can be well worth the cost..

If it's an issue of some exterior cracking and patching that is fairly inexpensive and easy to have dealt with. Likewise sagging floor joists are a simple repair *if* you are going for exposed beams or demoing the ceiling anyway, sistering and jacking joists is a fairly straightforward that doesn't require Norm Abrams level carpentry wizardry to accomplish.

As far as getting someone decent to look at it...probably run about $150 for a trip from someone knowledgeable unless they happen to be in the vicinity. If it's man in a van giving free advice beware...I get constant pitches on my jobsites from those looking for work willing to say anything to secure it. Free estimate are worth exactly what you pay for them in this area, the folks who aren't working aren't working for a reason. I can't even find decent laborers right now due to the level of activity in the market and get more bid solicitations than I have time to even look at.

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