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Old 01-28-2017, 11:26 AM  
Onslaughs
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Default Missing brick

Dear House repair enthusiasts,

I recently bought this house, built in 1965. There are a couple of places where it seems like a brick is missing from the exterior walls . I am posting the pictures of those spots:

https://www.dropbox.com/sc/04cqdabm2...NzRx2BqwrXh4ra

One is just on a side, and the other spot is underneath a brick staircase.

I am looking for an advice on the following:

One. What are some of the possible causes of these holes?
Two. Do these present any hazard, in terms of animals getting inside or outside elements getting inside?
Three. What is the best way to patch them up, both from the perspective of keeping animals and outside elements out, and from the aesthetic perspective?

Thank you!


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Old 01-28-2017, 03:32 PM  
vinny186
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Are any of the adjacent bricks loose? Is the mortar losing it's grip in other areas? Do you have water pooling by the missing bricks?

I'd be very worried about water AND critters entering.

If you clean out the holes, you should be able to install new bricks. Do you have the bricks that fell out?


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Old 01-28-2017, 03:56 PM  
joecaption
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Somethings very wrong about that whole thing.
What's your location, should have been added to your profile when you got on the site.
Unless you paid cash, and had no inspection, or used a home inspector the realtor suggested (huge mistake) this should have been a red flag!
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:43 AM  
jmr106
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One. What are some of the possible causes of these holes?

The bottom hole: Well, what I see is a hole that someone knocked out on purpose for the bottom block. I don't believe that it fell out on its own. See that brick/block barely visible under the right side of the opening? That looks like it is behind some kind of cement that they just did some quick swipes with, possibly to hide it or reinforce the area and/or keep water out of it if water was somehow getting through the wall. You can see that the cement is across the bottom of the house, completely covering the seams of the blocks to the left and right side of the hole for a considerable distance. That's alarming. They may have been trying to do that to keep water from coming in through cracks in the blocks in those areas or to cover up some kind of crappy job that somebody did. The hole may be there because the previous block became loose over years of water running under/around it and eroding away at the mortar. By the looks of that cement, it was at least maybe 2-3 years ago when they smeared that on. Either that or a lot of mud has splashed up on it during rains and made it look older more quickly.

Have you looked down in the crawlspace in that area? What does it look like? Is there any water in there when it is dry or when it rains a lot? Go down and check regularly. They may have removed that bottom brick to let water run out. That's the wrong way to do it, of course. If the crawlspace takes on water, it would have needed a sump pit and and a sump pump to be installed with a pipe going out through the wall. Is that area a low point in the crawlspace that water would run to in order to exit? You may not know until it rains. I hope that's not the case. Those are really random places to be missing bricks like that. Look at the dirt on the outside of that hole. It looks like water has washed the dirt out from under the crawlspace as it was moving and/or critters have been pulling out dirt as they entered/exited the hole.

Second hole: Now look at the one under the staircase. If you zoom in, you see a dark hole maybe about the size of a golfball or larger. It almost looks like they built a "ramp" of some sort with cement/concrete for water to flow out of it and down to the ground more smoothly without eroding the ground underneath. That may be an odd suggestion since this hole is about a foot off from the ground. What's behind that? Is it getting water into it somehow so that it runs out of that hole from somewhere? Look at that when it rains and see if water is running out of it for some reason. The same for the bottom...I see a hole below that mess of cement. Could be a critter hole where something dug in or it could be another spot where water flows out of the crawlspace.

Two. Do these present any hazard, in terms of animals getting inside or outside elements getting inside?

Very much so. Both. Like water, critters will usually take whatever the least path of resistance is. They're not going to dig a hole up under the foundation of the house if there's already an open one to just crawl right through. What area do you live in? We have some spaces around our crawlspace door where critters can fit through easily. I'm working on fixing that. Sure, mice/rats can get through it. However, I live near Atlanta, Georgia. While mice/rats carry disease...stuff like Hantavirus is very rare here. The field mouse typically carries it, but it is more common in the Midwest USA. People have gone to places like Yellowstone National Park and just raked the leaves around in the woods trying to build a fire/set up a tent while camping and stirred up rat droppings. That exposed them to Hantavirus. Very nasty disease with like a 40% mortality rate. You breathe it in by disturbing the rat droppings. If this house is in the Midwest, close that hole immediately and do what you need to do to get rid of any rats in there. If there are rats in the crawlspace, I wouldn't recommend live traps at all. Inhumane and when you approach them, the rat can go #1 and #2 and expose you to the virus if they have it. I'd use rat poison. They typically run outside on their own in that case. With a trap, the same issue with the live traps. The last minute fear and natural process as it dies can expose you to the droppings that may be infected. Wear a half-face respirator with P100 or N100 filters on it if you go crawling around in the crawlspace. I use the 3M 6000 series. Very comfortable and cheap to buy replacement filters. I also wear gloves and prefer to wear safety glasses, along with a hooded tyvek suit that I can throw away when done. It isn't as expensive as it sounds. You can't put a price on your life. I do that here with our place and it isn't even common here. There's mold and all kinds of gunk you don't want in your body. Crawlspaces are nasty places.

Three. What is the best way to patch them up, both from the perspective of keeping animals and outside elements out, and from the aesthetic perspective?

With the hole on the bottom, it looks like they used a much smaller brick or something behind that cement. You'd have to see what they did. You really need a block of that same size and it needs to be mortared properly, like the others. Aesthetically speaking...they screwed it up when they swiped that cement all over the good blocks to the left and right of the hole. Without removing them too (and they look quite solid), it may not look right, quite frankly. Perhaps you "might" be able to chisel chunks of the cement off from the good blocks using something flat and sturdy. I have actually done something similar with other stuff. It is odd, but I have a really thick putty knife/spackling knife that is about 1/4" thick that you could probably hammer under the edge of that smeared concrete on the good blocks and get it to break off in large pieces if you are careful. You'd have to get an edge started with something, of course. I can't promise that will work as well as hoped, but it might. It looks like somebody was looking for a quick fix or trying to hide some stuff by doing these things.

Keep in mind that this house may have some serious water issues in the crawlspace and you just haven't seen them yet. To me, it looks like they either patched up these these walls because water is making the mortar joints weak and blocks are getting loose or they were just trying to find a quick way to let water inside of the crawlspace flow out. Very hard to say exactly what is going on here. Can you show us pics of the inside of these two spots?

Last edited by jmr106; 01-29-2017 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 01-29-2017, 09:36 AM  
kok328
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had the same issue on an old building I was responsible for.
from time to time there would be paw prints leading into the hole.
I plugged the hole and after a few weeks whatever managed to dig around my plug.
Come to find out I was doing battle with a skunk.
Throw some smoke bombs in there to flush out the animals and brick the hole back up.
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Old 01-29-2017, 11:18 AM  
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Thanks to everyone for your replies so far.

Vinny, the mortar seems to be pretty solid in other areas. There is a loose brick that's laying nearby, but I'm not sure it came from the same hole.

Joe, I added the location to my profile, thanks for pointing it out. I did have an inspection, by an inspector we found ourselves. The inspector recommended getting a structural engineer to inspect the house, which we also did. The structural engineer did not think this was a big deal structurally.

Jmr, thank you for the detailed analysis and replies, great detective work here! This brick is underneath the front porch, here is a more zoomed-out view of these holes, to show where they are relative to the rest of the house: https://www.dropbox.com/sc/aun37ffjz...SxcLuiakK9Fi1a. On the inside adjacent to this area in this area is not a crawl space, but a lower-level bathroom. The drywall on the inside looks fine, with no signs of moisture or other deterioration. Here We did have some heavy rains this winter, but the inside stayed dry.

Your comment about someone removing that brick to let water run out is very interesting. Is it possible that water accumulates underneath the front porch, and they made this hole to let it run out? As you said, this could indeed explain the dirt that’s outside of the hole, that it is being washed out from underneath the front porch. What would be the proper way to let the water run out from underneath the porch? There is no way to access the underneath.

The other hole is beneath a pedestal supporting the stair landing. Looks like your comment about letting water runoff is spot on – there appears to be dirt washed out of the hole. Again, what would be the proper way to handle this, given there is no access inside the pedestal?
We live in a wooded but fairly densely populated area in Northern VA. We do have mice inside, and so far I’ve caught 3. But I’m not sure they use these holes to get it, I’m thinking they might be getting in through the garage. I did use live traps, and your comments are making me reconsider using live traps.

Regarding patching these holes, I now think I need to first solve the problem that they were trying to solve with these holes in the first place, and then think about aesthetics.

Kok, thanks for your comment about smoke bombs, I might that once I solve the water problem.
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Old 01-29-2017, 11:25 PM  
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As I understand it, brick buildings are supposed to have weep holes to allow water out that the bricks have absorbed. This may be a sloppy attempt to add weep holes after it was built.
Another thought is that both holes aren't - or don't seem to be - in the bricks, but actually in the block foundations. The one under the stairs looks like someone didn't want to mess up the brick work at the corner so just ended the wall short. And yes, that would be a great place for small animals to shelter. Is the space under the stairway part of your basement or just dead space?

Edit: that blob of concrete at the corner is clearly not the work of someone afraid to mess up the brickwork. It looks like it may have fallen out of the hole before it could set.
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:37 AM  
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Do the holes go anywhere or you just looking at concrete on the back of the hole?
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Old 02-05-2017, 10:29 AM  
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Slownsteady, Nealtw, thank you for the additional observations.

Today I tried to stick a 3ft metal rod into those holes. I was able to stick it about 2 feet deep into the hole that's below the front porch, through what felt like soft sand or dirt. I was able to stick it completely into the hole below the stair landing pedestal, with no resistance.

These spaces are completely dead spaces, with no connection to the basement or crawlspace.

Based on all the comments and my own observations, I now think that these holes were made deliberately to let water escape from those dead spaces.

What would be some of the better ways to make sure that water drains out of those spaces?

Or - since there is no evidence of water getting inside the house, maybe these holes actually do what they are supposed to, and there is no cause for concern, besides aesthetics? In which case, what would be some ways to make them more aesthetically passable?
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Old 02-05-2017, 02:09 PM  
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IF they don't cause water to get into the basement, and are just accesses holes to under the porch, and all you want to do is make it look nicer while still allowing water to flow out.
You could clean it up as best you can, re-brick it with a PVC pipe in the wall so it still drains. Then put a grate over the PVC to keep the rodent residents out.
Also, are they there for water to flow out or just a poor attempt to provide ventilation under the porch?
If they really are there just to provide ventilation with a little more work you could put vent grates in the brick? That would look good, but it depends why they're there in the first place.



Last edited by Gary; 02-05-2017 at 02:11 PM.
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