A mystery for brick experts:
I've got a 100+ year old row home in Philadelphia. The exterior is
brick. I've recently noticed that 'piles' of red brick dust are
collecting in the basement along the front and back walls of the house.
Does anyone have a suggestion for a list of problems that I need to
rule out to figure out what is happening?
Here is some potentially useful information:
The front and back exteriors have been repointed in the last 5 years.
'Star' wall-supports were installed at that time.
The front exterior wall shows a slight 'barreling' (bowing accross the
house as well as down the house).
The basement walls are stone and have been reparged in the last 6
Any ideas are appreciated!
Thanks for your response! I'm affraid the repointing was done prior to
our buying the house - I can't speak to the quality of the work.
Although the exterior bricks and mortar look great. The bricks arent
flaking and aren't easy to gouge. How do you suppose inferior pointing
would result in this dust?
The 'star' supports were installed at the time of the repointing to
stabalize the bowing on the front wall. They are essentially big
flanges that are bolted to rods that are run along and are anchored to
the floor joists on the second floor. There are two of them. These
are used on a lot of the older row homes in the area. If anyone knows
what these are technically called it might help.
One concern (from me - a non expert) is that the wall is shifting and
this shifting is resulting in wear on the bricks and causing the dust.
Joseph Meehan wrote:
Piles....like here and there or along the entire stretch of the wall?
Are they neat little piles like someone poured sand in one place?
Are they the same color as the brick or are they lighter? possiably
What changes have occured on the exerior of the house or land in these
area if any?
There are essentially two piles, one on the front wall and one on the
back. The one in the front is more substantial and does look like
someone poored sand from one spot on the wall. I don't know if they
are in localized piles because the problem is localized or if that the
only place where there is a gap in the interior of the wall that allows
the dust to enter the basement.
As for the color and the material of the dust I did the following:
Affraid that this might be termite saw dust, that just picked up red
dust from falling down a brick wall I took a handful and mixed it with
water and let it settle in a glass. I figured that if there was
sawdust from wood it would float and the ceramic would sink when it
settled. I was left with nothing floating and a settement on the
bottom of the glass, leading me to think it's all ceramic.
With that said the color could be a little lighter than the brick.
What do you have in mind?
The only changes to the exterior that I know of are the anchors through
the front wall that I've described above. As for the area: this is an
interesting question. Theres been no seismic activity in philly
however there is a good amount of construction. There is a property
katty-corner to mine on which a construction team has been digging the
foundation for a new building. Less than a month ago the city tore up
the street infront of the place and laid down new maccadam.
It's possible that these things have caused an undue amount of
vibration and created the bricks to loose a bit of material. Perhaps
I'll vaccum the piles up and keep an I on this being a chronic problem.
I appreciate your thoughts!
Old post, but google brought me to it when I was searching my issue. Since we
moved into our house 4 years ago, I've noticed this in the front of my basement:
3 "neat little" piles of brick that come back over ~6 months after I vacuum them
away. Actually two are brick colored, and one is sand or sawdust colored. They
are about equidistant along the front wall. It's an old rowhouse house (~100
years) that was massively renovated about 12 years ago and extended backward
significantly. Front half is brick under stucco, back half is wood frame under
stucco. The dust piles are only along the front facade, and only in the
basement. Attached is a photo of one of the piles; you can see dust along the
concrete wall there (which covers the front foundation below grade); the dust is
coming from above. Any thoughts on whether this is something I should be
concerned about, or other things to look for, would be appreciated. The basement
is always pretty dry since I installed a dehumidifier a few years ago.
On Friday, January 5, 2018 at 3:44:06 PM UTC-5, gkryhewy wrote:
I don't see any neat little piles. I see something distributed around
a bit. WE aren't there, I would think you could figure out if it's wood
or brick with some simple inspection or testing. When it's wet, what happens?
Does it burn? Smell like burning wood? If it's wood, I'd suspect insects.
It can be a combination, or just 1 of 3 things.
No wall flexing, and it's just brick dust left over from drilling the
The wall is flexing, and friction with the rod is causing brick dust
from the original drilling to be pushed out.
The wall is flexing and friction with the rod is causing new abrasion
and brick dust to be formed.
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