Cracks Mortar of Brick Veneer Over Extended Roof Line - Differences of Opinion?

Discussion in 'Bricks, Masonry and Concrete' started by sardismerc, Aug 7, 2018.

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  1. Aug 7, 2018 #1

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

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    Two story single family home wood framed, with engineered members (LVLSs and PSLs, trusses, iJoists), brick veneer. I called for a residential home re-inspection as it is approaching one year since closed on new construction. Some parts of the home warranty by the builder expire after one year. I did have an engineer (PE) do framing and crawl space inspection 15 months ago during construction, and then an inspection by a licensed inspector just prior to closing in late August 2017. During the one-year re-inspection July 2018, some cracking of the mortar for brick veneer found. All cracks found in roughly in a 20 feet wide area on the 2nd floor rear home over an extended roof line. Below, on the 1st floor, there is a small breakfast room that extends off the kitchen further then the main rear brick veneer wall of the home. The breakfast room is about 15 wide and protrudes about 8 feet beyond the main rear line of the home. A wood engineered LVL spans the roof of the breakfast room on the 1st floor which supports load for the 2nd floor where there is a large master bathroom above that has a small toilet room, as well as the brick veneer for the exterior. Undoubtedly, the LVL also supports the brick veneer for the rear portion of the home that is above the 1st floor breakfast room.

    All the cracks are through mortar. The widest crack is about 3/8"wide coming off a 2nd floor window for the master bathroom, lower left corner, stair-stepping a couple feet out to the corner of the home. All the home is brick veneer. This stairstep crack is visible with the naked eye looking up from the ground. There are skinnier cracks running along the mortar joint from the top right corner of this same window, hard to see with naked eye, that runs horizontal. Another is coming off the next window further to the center of the rear of the home for the same master bathroom – top left-corner – off a small window for the toilet room of the master bathroom.

    I made an initial report to the builder. Called a friend who is a AMB, CDT, CGP, LEED AP BD+C (building scientist) to come look at the cracks. The building scientist said that the cracks are not of major nor catastrophic concern. He said that the wood that this brick veneer sits upon above the breakfast room, likely dried and shrunk a tiny amount over one year. A rough estimate of roughly 4,000 pounds of brick veneer above the breakfast room below, and the tiniest shrinkage caused some cracking in the very brittle mortar. The building scientist has contacts with structural engineers. Had one come out with the goal being that this PE would write a letter to keep on file for when the home is eventually sold one day. This PE came out. The PE believes there is one small section of missing blocking on the exterior wall of the crawl space that may have caused the cracking. This PE did not feel as if the cracking would continue nor would be catastrophic or cause any serious concern. He is going to write a letter to recommend this one small area of blocking be added in the crawl space to ensure that no additional cracking occurs, but, that if this small area in the crawl is not blocked, it is still not likely that the cracking will continue according to this PE.

    That's not all.

    The first PE who did the framing and crawl space inspection 15 months prior just recently called me back. He was out of the country doing assignment work with his engineering firm. To make a long story less long, this PE, when told of the cracking, and shared pictures, also came back out to see for himself. This PE disagreed that some missing blocking was the cause. He stipulated that if missing blocking was the concern there would be bowed floors, cracked interior walls, sticking windows, sagging crown molding, or something going on the interior of the home. None of this is happening. The inside of the home remains in pristine condition. There is no evidence of anything adverse happening on the interior of the home. This PE stipulates that the LVL that spans the breakfast room may have deflected slightly causing the brick veneer above to crack. He suggested get the load calculations for that LVL from the builder, or if he can't, get the framing plans to see what type of LVL was used to do the calculation himself. He said once this is done, he can write a letter one of two ways: one, if the LVL was sized properly, it may have deflected a tiny amount in the middle, causing the cracking in the 2nd floor brick veneer above but basically not to worry about it and use some Mor-Flexx flexible mortar to shore up the cracks. Or, if the LVL calculates as undersized, suggest additional improvements. In either case, this PE also believes there won't be some sort of catastrophic nor serious failure.

    So what to do? :)

    While all three professionals that have looked at the cracking all agree that nothing serious nor catastrophic will occur. All three have variances of opinion as to what the cause is, making it potentially more challenging to discuss with the builder. My builder tends to like to have conclusive evidence before taking action that requires more work or more money than something simple.

    Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Aug 7, 2018 #2
  3. Aug 7, 2018 #3

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    Our warrantees a set for different times. As this is moistly cosmetic, you need to get that fixed with in the year..
    I would make sure the builder and or his insurance company gets notified in writing with pictures and copies of reports you have,. Here we would send that double registered so he signs for it and you get a copy back of that signature.
    Usually it is an engineer that decides how big a beam should be and he can be held responsible for his mistakes for 30 years.
    Beam sag should show up as a sag in the ceiling below. Pulling a string from side to side 1" below the ceiling on both sides, then you can measure that inch in the middle .
    The other questions would be was there a steel ledger there to hold up the brick and how was it attached to the house.
    Was the brick on the original plan or was that added after his engineers inspection on the framing.
    Are there any weep holes just above the roof flashing?
     
  4. Aug 7, 2018 #4

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

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    Nealtw: thanks for your reply. Yes, the structural part of our warranty does not expire for 10 years. Only certain things such as switches I believe expire after 1 year, but the 1 year point is when many homeowners get a second re-inspection on new construction.... So did you mean you sent your reports Certified Mail with Return Signature?

    I previously emailed pictures (sames ones above) and the full inspector's report to the builder; they have a special email address for warranty concerns, to our neighborhood builder rep (guy we see on the ground who works for the builder and calls all the trades), and the rep's boss. i.e. Three employees for the builder all were emailed.
    The builder's employee monitoring the warranty email address replied that they got the pics and the full inspector's report and replied by email as such and that they saved for the file on our house. Our neighborhood builder rep replied by email he wanted to see pics of cracks. We sent those to him by email as well but the neighborhood rep himself has not responded yet.

    ..... More developments....

    I found four historical photos of the area pre-drywall. These pics are below. I was a photo Nazi pre-drywall and just kept hitting the trigger even if there was no problem in early 2017 when the home was being framed. :)
    The second PE I mentioned (who did the framing inspection) also measured across the width of the breakfast room floor to ceiling to measure potential LVL-sag. There really isn't any. Right at about 10' 1/4" on one side where the green boxes are in the pic, and right at about 10' 0" in the middle of the breakfast room. Not much more than 1/4" difference in ceiling height.

    When I emailed these four photos to the second PE (framing inspection PE) there are not one LVL, but three triple LVL's - it served as a great reminder. He is going to study it further. But he wants me to hold off on contacting the builder about load calculations for the LVL. He thinks these triple LVLs are sufficient. He made a comment about the brick possibly not being laid properly for the area above (where the cracks in mortar are).... to your point Nealtw. The brick was added after this PE did his framing inspection. In fact, no brick veneer for the entire home had been laid at all when the PE did he framing inspection in early 2017.

    This breakfast room extended area was constantly assailed with rainfall during the construction phase. Even after the roof was added, this area (breakfast room) would still get wet, even to the point that the Advantech subfloor was beginning to discolor black in the breakfast room area (where the square table now sits). We understood that it is common for homes to get wet during the construction phase. But the breakfast room area was the last area to be dried in, it was not until we questioned the builder at that time about it – that he went ahead and had the flashing added (located about above where the PSL's sit and running parallel above the triple LVLs) that rainwater would stop collecting in this breakfast room area. This area was the last to be "weatherproofed" of the entire framed home during the pre-drywall construction phase.

    BTW, the green digital box is where the PE, after his framing inspection, suggested two or three extra 2X4 jacks be installed to fully ensure the LVL running perpendincular above the triple LVL's is fully supported. They were added.

    pic1.jpg pic2.jpg pic3.jpg pic4.jpg
     
  5. Aug 7, 2018 #5

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    When I asked about the brick being added later, were they in the plans when he prescribed the beam?
    The lintel is the only other question.
    upload_2018-8-7_9-44-1.jpeg
    Post4 picture one looks like the one plan called for the beam to be outside the wall and maybe changed by the floor engineer.
    If it had been out over that bunch of studs the beam would have been under the brick.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  6. Aug 8, 2018 #6

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

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    Thanks Nealtw for the new reply... I see what you mean... To answer your first question, the brick veneer was added later after the framing, and after the PE's framing inspection. However, the brick veneer was always in the plans. Our whole neighborhood calls for every home to have brick veneer - some areas of exterior have stone (front) or color lock Hardiplank where brick is not appropriate. That's never changed. All engineer and architect design plans "should" fully account for brick veneer.

    I am not aware of the floor engineer changing any plans. The two missing 2X4 jacks/studs that were added (where the large green box is in the pics above), were added at the suggestion of my PE who did the framing inspection. He asked them to be added so as to ensure that the end of the one LVL above that is hard to see (small green box in the photo above) - and running perpendicular to the triple LVL's that span the breakfast room - is fully supported at the end by the PSL. Without those 3 extra jacks being added, the last foot or so of that LVL would have had only about an inch or two of support on the end of the PSL below it.

    The triple LVL did not change in its function nor design just because the three jacks/studs were added, and the triple LVL is intended to support part of the master bathroom above it and hence brick veneer over the extended roof line.
     
  7. Aug 8, 2018 #7

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    The reason I mentioned the studs is what happens all the time. The designer draws the picture and draws in a point load like that. The site engineer decides how big the footings on the engineered footing plan.
    Then the construction engineered plan tells the framer how many studs or what ever to place there.
    Then the floor package comes with a set of plans from a different engineer and the framer just follows that set of plans to install the floor.
    What then got my attention, If the site engineer wrote what he wanted for the point load support, why did he have to ask for more studs to be added.

    The question I would like you to ask the experts is " If that beam had been moved out 3" would the weight of the brick come down on top of the beam instead of what ever they used to transfer that weight to the wall.
    The city has a copy of all these plans and someone there could help you figure that out. I think the designer had it right and the engineers moved it.
    I think that beam looking piece under the beam did belong there to carry the load from the roof and it wasn't enough to carry the roof and the beam loads.
     
  8. Aug 8, 2018 #8

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

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    Hi Nealtw thanks a bunch for helping out, and responding again. I really appreciate it.
    First... just to be sure... and to clear this up: when you say, ".... site engineer wrote what he wanted for the point load support, why did he have to ask for more studs to be added...."

    That's not the site engineer. That engineer you are calling the "site engineer" is MY engineer. I hired him to review the framing and crawl space structural members. He had a copy of the engineering plans in hand during these inspections in early 2017, temporarily provided by the builder. He would walk (or crawl) around with the plans and see where the framer did something not called for in the engineering plans that were stamped by an architect by the way. The only "required" items that my engineer found missing were typically missing king studs for windows and a missing structural wall bolt or two (in the garage), and a missing LVL hangar (as I recall from his report without pulling it).

    The three additional jack studs are not required. He thought it was just a good idea to have them added so that the LVL spanning perpendicular to the triple LVLs - and above (this one LVL is harder to see because it is higher in the pic) - he wanted to be sure the end of that LVL is fully supported at its end. This one LVL was barely "catching" load on the PSL below it (about an inch or two of the PSL).

    I am not sure what you mean by, "....if that beam had been moved out 3"..." - I presume by "that beam" you mean the triple LVL's, then, those triple LVL's are placed in the correct position according to the engineered plans reviewed by my engineer during the framing inspection. If those triple LVLs would have been moved out 3" then they would have been out of position according to the plans.

    Thanks
     
  9. Aug 8, 2018 #9

    oldognewtrick

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    Is there a steel lintel that the brick sits on or is the brick supported by the decking of the lower roof?
     
  10. Aug 8, 2018 #10

    sardismerc

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    I am not sure.... The windows all have steel lintels for the tops of the windows (including the windows that have the cracks emanating off of in the pics above), as far as the course of brick directly above the start of extended roof line for the 1st floor breakfast room I'd have to do some more asking.
     
  11. Aug 8, 2018 #11

    oldognewtrick

    oldognewtrick

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    I would ask that question of someone who should know.
     
  12. Aug 8, 2018 #12

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    And how is it attached to the studs.
     
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  13. Aug 9, 2018 #13

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

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    Yep, good point, and I know just who to ask.
     
  14. Aug 9, 2018 #14

    sardismerc

    sardismerc

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    Also, will try to find out if the brick mason used vertical expansion joints where brick veneer supported by foundation meets brick veneer supported by framing, and finished with a continuous flexible backer rod and compatible sealant. The attached brief article from a PE explains. My widest crack stairsteps from the closest side of the closest window to the right 2nd story rear corner of the home, precisely where brick veneer supported by foundation meets brick veneer supported by framing - Post 2, Second Picture above.
     

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