What I'm Seeing Now

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Can An All Brick House Leak Through The Walls?

Can an all brick house leak through the walls?

The answer, in short, is YES!

Water has to be controlled.  Around the roof, and house, water can be effectively controlled by gutters and downspouts.  If they are not situated properly, or if roof water is not drained properly from the roof to the gutters, back ups and overflows will occur.

A case in point.  Just pulling up to this house I predicted the disaster that was to follow.

For quite some time the gutter from the upper roof had been inundating and overflowing the gutter below because the downspout was missing an elbow and there had never been a kick-out flashing installed.

You can see various forms of staining on the brick near, beside and under the gutter.

That staining proceeds all the way to the ground.

The hardwood flooring in the corner of the room just inside this brick work is about 1' below that window sill.

Remember, wood is considered to be saturated at 28% moisture.  And when laid on the floor the moisture meter in that corner showed the needle jump to >30%.

Notice that the floor does not appear to be wet!

That would say many things - the walls, floor, sub floor, and walls below would similarly be wet.

And the walls below were demonstrative!

Would that AR had a Smell-O-Blog feature when posting!  The basement wall was ripe with mold and the moldy smell was overwhelming!

One thing leads to another.

Of course, on the inspection report I am not allowed to say the word "mold."  I have to get around that by using the words "evidence of microbial growth," because we had not done a "mold test."  Explain to me the purpose of doing a mold test when the walls look and smell like this?

As an aside at this point -- may I suggest you not waste money on a mold test, but go straight to getting rid of it when you see something like this!  The first thing to do during a mold test is to visually inspect for mold!

Mold is never the problem.  Mold is a symptom of the problem.  And the problem is water intrusion.

DO NOT try to get rid of the mold until the water problems are completely solved!

My recommendation:  often problems in a house are a simple set up of bad work done years before.  There were gutter problems all over this house, and moisture problems on every level.  You would think that homeowners would investigate what caused such a disaster!  I would recommend a home inspector!  We are an objective bunch, with no financial interest in the findings of an inspection!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 45 commentsJay Markanich • December 23 2016 11:51AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay Markanich those are frightening photos....especially when the "black staining" appears on walls...

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 2 years ago

And if you lick the walls, Barbara, and they taste like chicken, it's sure bet that you have mold!

Kidding, of course.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

I hope no one was still living in that house. Blech. And I could smell it without a "smell-o-meter!"

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty 914-419-0270 (NY), kat@thehousekat.com, (MT) 406-270-3667, more information to be provided shortly) over 2 years ago

Good morning Jay. With all this visible evidence of moisture intrusion and presence of mold in addition to odor, what were the buyer's thinking? Then again, what were the seller's thinking? Enjoy the hoildays!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 2 years ago

Great post.  There is no substitution for a great home inspector who identifies and explains the inspection findings.  The smell must have been overwhelming!  

Posted by Shirley Coomer, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az (Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living) over 2 years ago

Nobody was there, Kat.  And I don't know for how long.  But these problems have been there for a long, long time.

Wayne - the buyer is a kick butt fixer upper who relishes such projects!  And he has a lot to do.  Apparently he got the house for a song and fixed up it would be a great place.

But he is in for a long, hard road.

He understands all that.

I have known him for years, so I am aware of how energetic he is about this stuff.  And it would take someone like him to do this.

Here is a photo of the rear of the same house, with the same problems!  Look at the damaged gutter, and subsequent leaking.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Shirley - the entire basement looked like that!  And very smelly.

There were other problems as well!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Water causes more damage than fire at times in my opinion.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) over 2 years ago

Jay I am always surprised by homeowners who seem oblivious to what is happening in and around their homes.

Posted by Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543, Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line (Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400) over 2 years ago

I haven't seen one like that in quite a while, nice mess!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 2 years ago

Yes, water (and snow) does a lot of damage, especially over time.  And, brick is pretty porous.  You're right - fix the problem first, then repair (or in this case replace).

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 2 years ago

Why aren't you allowed to use the word mold?  Inspectors in my area are particularly fond of the word.  They'll often say "Wall shows the appearance of mold ... buyer should have the wall inspected by a Mold professional to confirm."

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Jameson Sotheby's International Realty) over 2 years ago

Does mold always smell?  Unfortunately, I lost my sense of smell a few years ago, but before I did, I could detect a musky smell in crawl spaces, etc., but if there was mold on a window sill or not actively growing, I couldn't smell it.  

Posted by Jim Paulson, Owner,Broker (Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) www.Progressive-Realty.info) over 2 years ago

Oh wow! What a shame that house is at this point.

Posted by April Swenson, CRS and Managing Broker - Ocean Shores Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Ocean Shores Brokers) over 2 years ago

Excellent post Jay.  You always write great posts.  

"Mold is never the problem.  Mold is a symptom of the problem.  And the problem is water intrusion."... Exactly!

Posted by Carol Williams, Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager (Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals.) over 2 years ago

Harry - water damages far, far, far more homes than fire!  You are correct!

N&T - or maybe they don't know what to do about it.  But you are right, so many people live with things as they are happening and don't seem to address them.

Fred - the whole house was ripe, but the basement, entirely covered with mold, was reeeaaally ripe!

All bricks are porous, Debbie, as you say, especially concrete block.  Masonry block walls HAVE to be sealed from the outside against intrusion.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Alan - they are using the magic words - "appearance," "evidence," "possible,", etc.  Yes, we can use the word mold but we cannot say there IS mold without producing a mold test.  I get around the word entirely by using "evidence of microbial growth" and so forth.  Then, as you say, my report says, "obviously the presence of mold(s) and their identities can only be determined by a mold test, which needs to be conducted by a certified mold specialist certified by the ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)."

My insurance company wants me to say that.

That is what mold looks like in a thermal image.  See the little flecks?  That is thick mold in moist areas!

I don't know Jim.  But to me aspergillus and penicillus smell the most.  There are zillions of zillions of molds, and probably all have some scent to somebody.

April - a project of love for sure.  And I was born in April!

Thank you Carol.  That is very kind to say.  I do try!

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Jay, thanks for the post. Very interesting stuff

Posted by Ron Aguilar, Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995 (Continental Mortgage) over 2 years ago

Being a home inspector in a market where the inventory is aging must be a hoot!  I reminds me when I worked in Boston, MA and we had homes that could have been 150 years old or more.  Never a dull moment during inspection.

If you will allow me to use the spirit of the season to say, "yes, Virginia brick walls can (and do) leak" .

Posted by Brian Rugg, Sun City TX Real Estate - Georgetown, TX Real Est (Rugg Realty LLC Sun City Texas 512-966-3200) over 2 years ago

The most important words here ... get rid of the problem first.  Cleaning up mold is like pain medicine that masks the real appendicitis issue!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 2 years ago

Information is everything, Ron.  That's why I come to AR - mostly to learn.

Brian - I love doing inspections on historic homes.  I have seen pre Rev War houses with additions put on pre Civil War.  My favorite inspection was Monticello.  You've seen it on the nickel.  And Virginia brick is not special!  All brick will leak!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Not a bad analogy Gary.  One thing contributes to the other, so the first is eliminated before the second can be.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

I've shown many a home that had suspicious discoloration on the walls, particularly in the basement. Most times my buyers just pass since they don't want to deal with those issues.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 2 years ago

Congratulations on your feature recognition.

Thanks, Jay, for sharing your home inspection experience.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 2 years ago

Jay do you know a good inspector in baltimore. I have a small apartment building there And when We get a really bad rain - the hurricane that turns into a tropical storm type of rain by the time it hits Baltimore - really bad rain storms - the second floor unit gets rain  coming into the apartment on the side wall (to the outside)  I can't figure out where it is coming coming from since it isn't not the top floor. I'm thinking it needs repointing?  I wouldn't like to have someone independent  look at the whole building before I call someone with something to sell - people want to sell me a 10k roof etc - I'm so suspicious of roofers

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) over 2 years ago

That is very common Richard.  But again, mysterious discoloration is indicative of other moisture issues that may not be known about by the seller.

Thanks Roy.  We try, we really try.

Lise - I had that exact circumstance on a 5 story condo in DC.  The exterior wall of all the units on one side got water every time it rained, with each floor from top to bottom getting increasingly more water intrusion.  The bottom unit would literally flood.  Pulling up to the unit and seeing a bare masonry block wall on that side I had the answer before even going in.  More and more water traveled down INSIDE the blocks, entering the building at whatever point it could.  The thermal images I came up with were frightening.

Block walls MUST be sealed against weather, and when exposed to the windy side sealed very, very well.  By sealing I mean an exterior grade primer (perhaps two coats) and then a good final coat or two.  Spraying it helps to force it all into the brick well.  If there is a parapet on the roof above it may not be finished properly.  I'd have to see the whole thing.

How many units are affected?  My thermal camera can show exactly where the moisture is entering, but a quick view of the outside might show the problem.  If the wall in question is painted, it might not be painted well.  Once you know where the water is intruding looking outdoors might reveal more.

MD has a special license requirement for home inspectors (I am licensed in VA) but no requirement regarding thermal imaging.  I don't know anyone over there, but I would go over there for you.  A century ago I worked for a company in the tall trade center building when they were just beginning to finish the inner harbor area!

Merry Christmas to all!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Water is a strange things, it will find its way to strangest places!!!

Water has to be controlled.  Around the roof, and house, water can be effectively controlled by gutters and downspouts.  If they are not situated properly, or if roof water is not drained properly from the roof to the gutters, back ups and overflows will occur.

Posted by Sham Reddy CRS, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) over 2 years ago

Thanks for opening our eyes to the importance of looking.

Yes, many homeowners seem to never look at the condition of their homes.

Often, they ignore a problem to the point that is becomes an expensive fix.

Posted by John Wiley, Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA (Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty) over 2 years ago

There is a lot going on besides four walls coming togehter. Good post Jay

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 2 years ago

I can tell from that photo of the brick with the branches coming out that this is a beautiful house from the outside!!  Such a shame that it's is such a poor condition. I hope it can be salvaged.

Posted by Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR, Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes) over 2 years ago

Sham - water finds its way to anywhere that gives it access.

John - a regular inspection of one's home would help eliminate so many issues!  Keep a list of things you are looking for in advance of the inspection.  I have  a Fall/Winter blog posted in September this year.  Click here.

A house is a huge system of interacting parts, Richie.  There is always a lot going on.

I loved the house Mary.  It was custom built in the 70s and has a lot of very nice features.  The location is private and out of the way.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Dear Jay,

So glad, we do not have a smell-o-meter. I started carrying a mask for when I need to enter a home like this. Amazing how a couple $100 could alleviate this whole issue. Many people live inside their houses without ever walking around the outside to see stuff like this. To a trained eye like yours, you can tell by just driving up.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) over 2 years ago

It's interesting Dorte.  The house is surrounded by trees and the gutters were clogged and hanging down on 3 of the 4 sides of the house.  And they were leaking as well!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

It is hard for me to believe that a seller would not see and take care of this.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 2 years ago

The house is vacant and has been for some time, Joe.  And I don't know for how long.  But the selling agent is surely aware - you can't walk into the house without knowing there is mold.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

As always Joe interesting stuff. Problem seems pretty easy to fix if you took the time to look.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg IL Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 2 years ago

Lyn - I told the buyer that the first thing to do was to completely redo the gutters and downspouts.  I recommended the bigger, covered gutters, of course.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

And to think, a small investment into correcting the gutter issues could have saved the thousands of dollars.  What a waste!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) over 2 years ago

What you see here is the tip of the iceberg, Stephen.  This place was a mess.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Jay Markanich some mold is so easily detectable, there is no need to spend money on mold test!

And yes, there is no reason to believe that brick homes cannot leak!

Everything is possible....lol!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 2 years ago

Brick is very porous Praful and water can wick through them if they are saturated, like on this house, apparently for a long time!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Excellent post and reasons for always getting a home inspector by a professional in every real estate purchase!  Very well done.  

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) over 2 years ago

Thank you Jan.  And I agree!

Happy New Year to you as well!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

It is always so sad to see homes beaten down by time, bad luck or neglect. I'm grateful that an inspection is a part of the sales process: it saves so much trouble for buyers and sellers.

Posted by Lauren Williams, CPO, Professional Organizer: Puget Sound homes (Casual Uncluttering LLC) over 2 years ago

This buyer is going into this purchase with eyes wide open, Lauren.  What you see here is the tip of the iceberg of problems!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

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