Brick wall has a "bow"/leaning inwards... Is there a good fix?

10 Replies

I'm not sure if this is the correct forum category to put this in, forgive me if it is not. A good friend of mine called me today to look at a property with him. It has a lot of potential (so long as this does not break the deal), it is in a great area, price is right to make some good money on a flip. The one problem we noticed is in the basement (I should have gotten pictures, but I did not think of it at the time. I will when we go back). There is a large "bow", if you will, in tow of the brick walls on the exterior of the house in the basement. The house is 102 years old. The walls are made of brick. One wall is fairly bad, with some bricks missing near the top and it has moved inward more than I would like to see. The second wall is a pretty steady bow inward all the way across with no bricks or anything missing. 

Has anyone dealt with repairing exterior/foundation brick walls in basements? Is this something we should completely steer clear of? I know a friend who bought a house which had a block wall where it had bowed out and they made a bracing system which was considered an acceptable fix. Is this a possibility for a brick wall too?

Thank you for any insight!

@Paul Schanbacher

That bow is the wall yielding to the pressure /push of the soil and water on the outside.  If left unchecked the wall could eventually collapse inward with undesirable to catastrophic results.

It may be possible to brace the existing wall to halt movement and/or support the building to allow that section of the foundation to be repaired/replaced.  In addition to the deflection of the wall, you need to determine the condition of the bricks themselves and the (likely limestone) mortar holding them together.  If the bricks have deteriorated or the mortar washed out, then you would be heading in the direction of rebuild/replace rather than repair.

You should probably consider having a foundation specialist and/or structural engineer examine the foundation and provide you with an effort and cost estimate for repair/replacement before finalizing a purchase of the property.

@Roy N.

Thank you for the reply. I'm working on getting ahold of a couple people to come look at it and give me their professional opinion. Fingers crossed, but I'm not counting on an easy fix. Thanks for the reply!

I am one that usually doesn't shy away from a challenge but what you just described is a massive problem. Brick has weak lateral resistance from pressure and brick walls respond poorly to tension. Too many joints and they are not bound, consistent, and uniform structural assemblies. Great for compression, bad for tension. You are most likely replacing those brick walls with concrete and it will be very expensive. Buy it right.

@Paul Schanbacher this could be an awesome opportunity. Get a solid mason in to look at it under worst case scenario. Use that to negotiate. I was able to shave over $30k off an asking price (It might have been closer to $50k) due to a foundation and garage floor issue. The issue scared other rehabbers. My mason gave me a worst case cost, my engineer and him met and I was able to lock the house down. I ended up making a very healthy profit on the deal, and 100% attribute it to the foundation issues.

Just be certain your mason has experience with fixing this issue, and really go over it with him.

Look into "star bolts" but I've only seen them used for exterior brick movement. You also may be able to take the bricks out that are misplaced and re-install them . Need to address that extra pressure coming in from the outside.

@Brian Pulaski

This is what we are working on right now. If the property could be had at the right price, it would be very worth it. 

@Max Tanenbaum

Yeah, this particular case will need more than some star bolts to fix the problem! Even though they point to weak points, love the way old vintage star bolts look!

Paul, I would stay away due to the age of the home and that the brick is the foundation. I have seen rock foundations on older homes but they are solid. If I had to guess you would have to jack the house a little to remove the brick and rebuild a portion of the foundation. I’m not a specialist in this area but this seems like a money pit unless you can get it for a great price with a contractor’s quote to fix it. An engineer would probably not like a repair if it has bowed unless this is typical for your area.

I had a similar situation on my current flip. Although intimidating at first if you find the right company to do the work and build it into the budget you can make it work while other investors run away.
We had (the worst part) 40’ of basement wall totally rebuilt and used Foretress Systems carbon straps on another 60’ of basement walls. The straps are paintable and come with a transferable lifetime guarantee.
All in I think it came in under $15k

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