Cracks in outside brick wall

hailefinnMarch 25, 2009

Need to know do we use regular brick mortar or something else? The cracks are on both sides of one corner of our home. Around the base of two (2) windows (one on either side of corner)the mortar has come out also. Need to know what can we use to get the mortar to the deepest inside of the crack? One crack line is in a diagonal line.

Can we do this ourselves or should we get a brick mason?Thanks for any advice.

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That corner is settling for some reason and the first thing you need to do is fix that. You may also have cracks in the concrete floor that are covered up by carpeting. If you don't fix the settling problem then the cracks will just keep reappearing after you fill them. I would start by looking in the yellow pages for house leveling or foundation repair. There are several companies offering various ways to stabilize your foundation, talk to several and pick the one you feel comfortable with. After the foundation is fixed, sometimes the cracks close up on their own and sometimes you have to dig out the mortar and repoint. It is not a hard job and you could probably do that part yourself. If you have never done anything like that then get someone that has to show you how.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 11:41PM
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shadetree bob---Thanks for replying. We did have a problem with this same corner a few years ago due to a sink hole under the house. Thought the company fixed the problem. My DH started filling the cracks today (he had never done brick work before)but I stopped him when inside the room on that corner of home, I pulled a chair away from that corner and found 3 cracks in the drywall. We called the insurance company to have an adjuster come check it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 9:42PM
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I see you're in FL, me too. If the company that "fixed" the problem before used "high-pressure grout", or any type of FILL, pumped under the slab, they just wasted your time and money, and kicked the can down the road, so to speak. This process temporarily compacts the sandy soil, but it just ADDS TO THE WEIGHT which must be supported by said sandy soil. The settling/cracking later resumes (after the "warranty" expires), as you see.

You need pin-pilings, driven DEEP. You might need only 2 such pilings, but possibly more... a civil engineer at a piling/foundation firm will analyze and tell you for sure.

A neighbor recently had 3 pin pilings installed, to stabilize a "notch" corner, and I observed much of the process, and was surprised it cost only a bit over $3,000... considering all the labor, excavation, permits, hydraulic rams, and engineering involved. (Now that the housing "bubble" has popped, prices are reasonable on this type of service... silver lining!)

Anyway, it worked like a charm; up-lifted the footer, and closed up the massive 1/2" crack in their CBS-on-slab home. Those pilings are driven-to-refusal (DTR), and will NEVER "settle", shift, or go anywhere! SOLID fix.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2009 at 10:49PM
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fixizin---yes the fix was 13 loads of concret grout pumped into 8 holes. The adjuster came by---is sending a company to test the soil (same process as before). She said the work, done by the company that did the 1st fix, is only maybe guarranted for a year.
Before--no one ever mentioned using pilings. I will surely keep that in mind to ask after the testing is complete.

Question--do you think the fact that the cracks between the bricks weren't filled caused (or contributed to)the cracks getting bigger? All the inside drywall cracks were repaired. The adjuster was told all the cosmetic repairs were not before.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 1:39AM
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It boggles the mind that an insurance company is stoo-pid enough to pay for a STRUCTURAL repair that is only warranteed for a year! THAT alone should tell you the "value" of pumped grout--i.e. ZERO.

Don't feel bad, my own father and probably a million other people have been led down this merry path to expensive ruin. You will note that NONE of the "grout" companies employ a Civil Engineer, while EVERY one of the foundation/piling companies DOES employ at least one, with a Florida P.E. (Registered Professional Engineer) License. That's another huge clue. Plus the pilings are warranteed for decades, not months.

I'm not sure how many cubic yards you mean by 13 loads of concrete, but I hope it doesn't interfere with driving the pin (or auger) pilings. I'm sure the piling/foundation firms have dealt with that before... though it could increase the price.

Question--do you think the fact that the cracks between the bricks weren't filled caused (or contributed to)the cracks getting bigger?

NO. That would only happen to a horizontal surface (e.g. driveway), and in an area with hard freeze-thaw cycles. Your cracks are getting bigger because 13 loads of HEAVY "grout" are dragging your footer+slab deeper and deeper into the sandy soil. As the Roman engineers discovered 2,000 years ago, PILINGS are the only answer.

REJECT any "remedy" offered by ignorant insurance people which:

a) does not involve PILINGS;
b) has a warranty less than 15-30 YEARS!

Even if you plan on never selling this home, take lots of pictures of the piling installation. It increases your home's value.

For instance, I may soon be picking up a foreclosed CBS home which "died" during construction. It's at the bare-block plus roof stage, no stucco, no interior, just the empty concrete shell. The yard needs so much clean fill and grading that the footer is actually showing, so...

... I might PRE-EMPTIVELY have 8-12 pilings installed all the way around the foundation, because:

a) It's such a heavy structure--i.e. TWO-story, block all the way up, pre-cast concrete 2nd floor deck, all poured columns and beams, heavy concrete tile roof, etc.
b) I have no idea how well the soil-compaction was done (while I DO know inspections were lax during the "bubble/boom");
c) There will never be a cheaper (or easier) time to have it done, i.e. recession prices, no sod, fill, irrigation, sidewalks, or driveways to tear up, etc.

KEEP US POSTED... we all learn from the tribulations of our fellow homeowners!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 12:32AM
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It was 13 of the regular size concrete truck loads--over 100 yards I think. They had a guy constantly siteing our home---raised it 1/16 of an inch as I recall. I am going to download your info so my husband and I will have it on hand. Interesting about the lack of PE with grout companies.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 1:02PM
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WOW! That is a tremendous amount (and WASTE) of concrete! But you see, it's a very low-grade (low-cost) type of concrete (i.e. "grout"), and the whole process is very LOW LABOR--bore a few short holes, and pump away!

Installing any type of pilings is much more involved. The upside is... IT WORKS! FOREVER!

As for the PEs on staff, it's required BY LAW for the piling/foundation activities, because it's REAL structural work. OTOH, the grout-pumping lobby in Tallahassee got their "service" classified as "repair and maintenance", hence, no Engineers... and a lame warranty.

Educate your insurance company. Keep us posted. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 6:45PM
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The soil testing company is coming Tuesday April 21st to look around and testing will be done a few days later. The letter stated they would not reveal any info to us---their report goes to the insurance company who in turn will give us a copy of the report. I know before when they were drillling the testing guy told us there was a sink hole. Just keeping my fingers crossed that what ever they find that the repair will be covered.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 2:23AM
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I'm no lawyer, and common sense seldom applies to insurance companies, but you'd surely EXPECT a sinkhole to be covered!

Even with a sinkhole though, PILINGS WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM!

The neighbor I mentioned above, with the 3 new pin pilings, had nothing so exotic as a sinkhole, yet IIRC, one piling went as deep as 42', while another one approx. 10' away went down only 25'... such is the variability in soil compaction, rock formations, etc.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 4:12AM
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The testing company sent 3 to map our home and ground on all sides. Inside they took pictures of the cracks. Using water mounted atop a tripod with a long connected plastic tube they checked all rooms on the bottom floor to see if they were level. Also asked if we had noticed any hollow sounds in any of our 900 sq. ft. of porcelain tile floors. We haven't but in 2002 there was big hollow areas in the broken quarry tile floors we had then. We replaced that with porcelain tile. This company is owned by 3 P.E's that also have taught at a Florida university.

Outside they checked the top 12 feet of soil with a ground penitrating ?????. They used many many long tape measurers to make a grid of the grounds---marking (took measurements) every few feet. I wanted to ask them from their testing did anything show up but they left before I could ask.

Two facts I had not considered before.

ONE---a couple years ago my daughter thought our in ground gunite pool was loseing water (faster than normal evaporation). Had a leak detector guy out for $300.00 who said he patched a couple of small cracks near the tile along the upper edge. If there is still a leak it is very small.

SECOND---about 20 feet out from the cracked corner of our home the roots of a big oak tree rotted and the tree fell falling away from the house. The incharge guy today said as the long roots, that remain in the ground that we don't see, rot the soil around them can become less stable. If the tree roots created the problem I hope our insurance covers it.

Next Tuesday (April 28)is the day they drill test holes. The company subs out this work. Will report later.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 11:07PM
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SOIL SAMPLES ----- Tue April 28,2009
Drill company had 2 guys (subcontractors)
Testing company (1 Geologist to oversee / bag samples)

Drilled two holes: Bagged samples every 18"

1.End of master bedroom between the 2 septic tanks--- 45 feet
2.Front of house---55 feet Front hole revealed soft

Geologist wanted to drill 3rd hole S of house----between pool and back of house----but the drill broke. After data is reviewed they may come back to drill the 3rd hole. He stated he liked working for this company because they donÂt lean toward the insurance company---they want to find the true cause---on home owners side. He wouldn't give my husband any info.

I watched them for a long time trying to judge if they found more evidence of sinkhole activity but I couldn't tell. Now we just wait for the report.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 8:48PM
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This was a very helpful post, thank you Hailefinn.

We have noticed some cracks outside by the bricks (near a window), and I have been wondering why my entryway seems to be sloping. I don't know if the reason I see this now is that the tiles have cracked in certain areas, and also the flooring which is Pergo, seems to be a bit warped.

Do insurance companies typically handle what needs to be done if there is settling issues? Hope you don't mind me adding my problem here.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 12:35PM
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mariposatraicionera---your problem is welcome here. I am not sure if sinkholes are always covered by insurance---maybe someone else here knows. My insurance company pays for the testing to determine the cause and to determine who is responsible for the repair.

In 2002 we noticed one door was hard to close--the broken tile was bulging sp? up. The insurance adjuster noticed the cracks in the brick wall.
What is the location of the tiles that have cracks--(floor or wall)? Has the Pergo ever had alot of water on it--that could have seeped underneath? What state are you in? I am in FL and most sinkhole damage is further south of me.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 7:41AM
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In response to your questions about insurance companies and coverage. If you have sink hole coverage your company would pay to that limit for that particular coverage, but most companies limit the amount of the coverage. And if you dont have the coverage for sink hole specifically most companies will not cover it at all. HTH, flowerpetal

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 9:58AM
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Still no word on results of testing.

I found my year 2002 records from the testing company and the repair. I am anxious to compare their results with today's findings which were done by a different testing group.

From reading and asking questions I learned the insurance company hires the testing company. Said testing company owns no equipment so they oversee the company who they sub out the collection of soil samples to but do the actual testing of the soil samples in their own lab. Testing company P.E.s test the soil samples, evaluates all findings and then makes a repair recommendation to the insurance company.

The testing company can / will also be responsible for repairs. Again, since they own no equipment, they sub out the repair to another company but oversee and sign off on the repairs.

Fixizin said the "repair and maintenance" companies have no engineers on staff----so that is why the testing company P.E.s oversee all testing and repairs.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:45PM
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Still no report of soil samples. Ins. company sent a note stating it the report may not come until middle of July. They did increase my insurance--added "sinkhole collapse" so that kinda tells me there may be some sinkhole activity. Will report back when I receive the results.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 9:03AM
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The ins. adjuster called (7-08-09) to report the findings show Sink Hole Activity present. The main area is the same area effected as in 2003. Couldn't determine if it was old/new activity.

Stated the testing company recomended "grouting around the entire house". I asked about pinings--she said our house isn't experiencing alot of "distress" so pinnings not recommended. Said we, ourselves, are to choose the company we prefer to conduct the stabilization.

She will send me a written copy of the findings. Ins. company also is giving us several thousands of dollars for cosmetic repairs but not to do them until house is stabilized.

I plan to talk to the testing company (they also do repairs)since they are local and PEs are owners. Will ask about pinnings, warrenty and possible future troubles. Wish I was more knowlegeable with soils/sink holes ect but since I am not I will have to go with what the company recommends.

The ins. comp. has been so nice (telling us to pick repair company and money for cosmetic repairs)---I am concerned that they may decide to drop us later. I hope some of you will tell me questions (or suggestions)I should ask repair guys.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 1:50AM
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I swear I made a post AFTER June 9, 2009, which has vaporized... =:O

Hailefinn, we are all LEARNING SO MUCH from your travails, so please update us, even though we realize it's not at all pleasant (and frequently downright MADDENING) to sit down and re-visit it here on the "innanet". ;') We're all pulling for you, and DO appreciate it.

Your ins. company's reluctance to pay for pilings falls somewhere between puzzling and... suspicious? I'm thinking they want a repair that lasts just long enough to drop your policy, and move on to the next victims, err, I mean homeowners.

... she said our house isn't experiencing alot of "distress"... Well "she" is an insurance scammer, err, I mean "adjuster" (i.e. working AGAINST you), NOT a PE, and besides, that's a rather vague phrase. Call me a nervous nellie, but your HOME SINKING INTO THE EARTH, not once, but TWICE in just 6 years, sounds like quite a lot of "distress" to me. Who wants to deal with this EVER again, let alone twice every decade forever and ever?????

Sooner or later you're going to come to the following conclusion, so I'll just blurt it out: I'm 99% sure you need a LAWYER in your corner, dealing with the evasive, squirrely, has-an-army-of-their-own-lawyers, drop-you-in-a-minute INSURANCE COMPANY. (Please tell us which insurer this is, BTW.)

Hope you're now sitting on "level ground", and look forward to hearing the updates. Best Wishes.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 7:17PM
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I just happened to check this site tonite. Haven't posted repairs (completed the week of Christmas)since no one made comments or questions. Will write it out when I have time.

Fixizin---the PEs (not the insurance company) at the testing company made the decision for pilings not being necessary. Our home was only about 1 inch off level---pilings are used for greater distresses.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 11:14PM
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