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Question DetailsAsked on 3/22/2015

Is bowing in 2nd floor exterior masonry wall normal/safe in older brick houses? Estimated repair cost?

Buying my first home in South Philly (corner row home built around 1915, 2 stories, brick exterior). Inspector said it's not bad enough to list as defect. He mentioned it's at about 3"...not bad enough for him to list as a defect (but that's also the max amount before he'd be able to list it as such). It is noticeable from outside if you're looking for it. He suggested getting a structural engineer to take a look. I'm waiting to hear back from one, but I can't stop thinking about the potential danger and resale impact...any input as to how common this is, if it's safe, and how much repairs tend to cost would be helpful, thanks!

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Voted Best Answer

Not normal, not good - the recommendation to have a Structural engineer look at it was good advice. Hopefully the inspector noted the bowing even if not flagged as a serious defect. Actually, that kind of bowing should have been flagged as a significant defect, assuming he felt (from sounding it) that it was coming loose rather than built out of plumb inthe first place.

If this is a solid brick ("structural brick") wall, then 3" of bowing is quite serious and is likely to involve several and perhaps quite a few thousands fof $ repairs. If this is a brick facade on a studwall or concrete wall construction, then it indicates the anchors holding it to the wall are coming loose - probably due to rust.

Not a critical issue in that case structurally, though a safety risk as when they let loose there is sometimes no noticeable warning (and sometimes thay gives LOTS of warning - tearing and ripping noises, snapping and popping, bricks breaking, brick dust and mortar falling, etc). With a 3 inch bow that is an awful lot sot expect to be able to tie back flush to the wall, so I would say it is unlikely that it can be fixed properly without taking down and rebuilding the detached area (potentially entire wall section, and any other walls in same condition which is likely if same age and construction) - which is likely to run in the ROUGH ballpark of $10-20/SF - if structural wall could run in the ballpark of up to double that depending on whether it is solid brick or reinfroced concrete with brick infill between concreete posts and beams. More likely brick veneer or structural brick if a 1915 row house - I would guess more likely the latter. Structural engineer should be able to give you a better idea - but this is NOT a minor aesthetic issue - it WILL need to be repaired, and depending on what the engineer says, could involve anything from a few thousand veneer repair to, at the other extreme, essentially a structural rebuild of the walls - so you DEFINITELY need to know the story BEFORE committing to the sale.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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