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White Bricks


Mark P
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I'm told this house was built in 1847. I'm doing the inspection tomorrow and did a driveby today. What do you think of the white bricks on the front left? The pattern is very odd am I'm scratching my head trying to understand what has occured? Any Thoughts? Looks like something similar on the back too. I think it is paint on the left side, but maybe not.

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Is that coloring in the brick or is that a layer of frost on the face of the brick? A house that old won't have much for insulation in the walls and moisture migrating out of the house is liable to condense on the backside of that brickwork and saturate it, no? Is that the end with the prevailing winds and sunlight or is the other end? Does it have a basement or crawlspace under that end along with balloon framing?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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The house may be that old, but I doubt the masonry is that old. It's difficult to tell from your photos, but that appears to be a veneer and they weren't doing brick "veneer" back then. It was solid masonry or nothing. The white bricks in the right hand side would suggest that it's most likely used (re-claimed) brick, as brick weren't coming out of kilns with a white flash.

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Well Mike those are good questions and a great hypothesis. The house faces south and it was before noon when I drove by, so it could be frost, but I really can't say. I did not even focus on the discoluration until I was looking at the pictures. I'm told there are two cellars and I have no idea about the framing. I'll post more tomorrow after I do the inspection.

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Well Mike those are good questions and a great hypothesis. The house faces south and it was before noon when I drove by, so it could be frost, but I really can't say. I did not even focus on the discoloration until I was looking at the pictures. I'm told there are two cellars and I have no idea about the framing. I'll post more tomorrow after I do the inspection.

If there are not header courses to tie wythes of masonry together, it's not original work. Although, I must say that often old homes here will have a veneer front (still over solid masonry) without headers, but the corners will be inter-locked into the side walls in a quoined corner fashion. And, if the outer walls are wood framing, the masonry is not original. It was pretty common to white-wash brick back then.

I wish I could get up close, because I could tell you for sure what's what. But, beyond what I've shared, Bill Kibbel is probably the guy that can offer some good insight regarding what is consistent with history.

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Thank you Michael, that is impressive information. So how do bricks end up with a with color?

Here is another picture.

The basic colors in brick come from the clay used and minerals added, like iron, etc. Newer brick often have an aggregate face applied just before it goes into the kiln - kinda like shake-n-bake, but no shake. It's all ceramic science.

Way back then, they really weren't typically as into a wide range of color in the bricks. Most of the color range reflected just where the bricks were in the kiln and how well fired they were. the softer lighter colored (more porous) bricks were used in the interior wythes, because they really weren't suitable for the exterior. And, those soft bricks also received nails kinda like wood does.

It's actually humorous that when masons re-claimed bricks and used them as veneer, they didn't do what the old wise colonial masons did - not use the soft bricks outside. That poor decision led to a lot of deteriorating bricks on homes built in the 70's and early 80's.

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Thank you Michael, that is impressive information. So how do bricks end up with a with color?

Here is another picture.

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OK, here's my suspicion: That is an added brick veneer. Why?

1. The chimneys are on the outer walls, but don't appear to be flush with the outer brick work.

2. The white flashed brick on the right half of the home aren't consistent with old bricks.

3. There definitely aren't header courses.

As far as the white walls, boy... I really HATE to even think this, but it really appears to be the case: Sometimes brick masons used a salt based anti-freeze (accelerator) in the winter time to work much closer to freezing temps. That crap will leech out forever and can really look HORRIBLE just like that does. If that's the case, a professional can carefully remove it, with muriatic acid and a power washer, but it will come right back in a few seasons. The patterns of white could indicate some past moisture intrusion that was not addressed for a very long period of time and caused that efflorescence.

Again, I wish I could get right up on it, because it would be a lot easier to really tell what's happening. But, I'm betting on anti-freeze and moisture past moisture intrusion.

Please let me know what you learn, as I'd like to study this one myself. Take good close up photos of the white portions so it's easier to identify.

PS. I even find myself wondering if the original house wasn't the front door and the two left windows - termed as a "half house", and the right portion was a later addition. So many possibilities.

You've got your work cut out for you on this one.

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I'm thinkin' it's just a lime-wash or paint that they started to remove. If they did it with sand-blasting or pressure sprayer, the glazed surface of the bricks is compromised.

Mark, when your up close, it will become very obvious if the white is applied or leeching out. I hope Bill's right, because if it's efflorescence, there's virtually no lasting remedy.

Do let us know what you learn. My interest is peaked.

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If it's frost or salts, I've never seen or heard of anything like it on old bricks. yes, I think it's original brick.

"OK, here's my suspicion: That is an added brick veneer. Why?"

1. "The chimneys are on the outer walls, but don't appear to be flush with the outer brick work".

I think they line up with the walls perfectly. Look at the width of the overhang at the gable end.

2. "The white flashed brick on the right half of the home aren't consistent with old bricks".

Why? How can you tell?

3. "There definitely aren't header courses".

It's certainly hard to tell from that small photo, but I think I'm seeing courses that contain headers. It's not very common, but it looks like Flemish stretcher bond (different from Flemish bond).

Mark, If you have the original, larger sized pick, you can send it to whk3(at)entermail.net.

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If it's frost or salts, I've never seen or heard of anything like it on old bricks. yes, I think it's original brick.

"OK, here's my suspicion: That is an added brick veneer. Why?"

1. "The chimneys are on the outer walls, but don't appear to be flush with the outer brick work".

I think they line up with the walls perfectly. Look at the width of the overhang at the gable end.

The left profile does seem to, but I question the right profile.

2. "The white flashed brick on the right half of the home aren't consistent with old bricks".

Why? How can you tell?

Hi Bill! I have never seen white flashed brick on an old historic building. Have you? It would be a first for me. I suppose they could be power washing off the paint or lime wash and leaving some white? It is rather stark where the white starts and stops, so you may be right - they're in the process of removing paint or lime wash. As Bill states, if they're sandblasting, the surface is compromised and the brick is going to be a lot more porous than it used to be.

3. "They're definitely aren't header courses".

It's certainly hard to tell from that small photo, but I think I'm seeing courses that contain headers. It's not very common, but it looks like Flemish stretcher bond (different from Flemish bond).

You may be right. It is VERY difficult to tell tell on the original photo, but I now that I lifted the photo to my desktop and did a bit of contrast and brightness adjustment, I think I may see a header course as well about a foot below the upper windows.

And, come to think of it, I seriously doubt a wrought iron or steel cantilevered balcony support would be hanging on brick veneer. So, it probably is solid masonry. It appears I might have jumped the gun.

Mark, If you have the original, larger sized pick, you can send it to whk3(at)entermail.net.

And, me as well, Mark at mgbinspect(at)gmail.com. As I wrote, my interest is peaked, and I look forward to learning what you discover when you actually inspect it.

I've never had a problem with being wrong, and I may very well be. That's how we learn, and an ego tends to be a hindrance to learning. [:-graduat

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The color looks very similar to the painted house next door.

Not the pure white of frost or snow.

There appear to be white bricks in the righthand chimney, same bricks.

There are brick arches above the windows on the ends.

I don't have a clue, just making casual observations.

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The color looks very similar to the painted house next door.

Not the pure white of frost or snow.

There appear to be white bricks in the righthand chimney, same bricks.

There are brick arches above the windows on that end.

I don't have a clue, just making casual observations.

If I saw that here, it would be a duplex, one guy likes white, the other guy likes spotted brick.

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I have been following this with interest.

Since I am older than dirt, I often qualify as an expert about clay!

I have no huge issues with the entire discussion, but I think it will end up being a structure issue and not so much about the brick.

I think the "white" is applied and partially removed. Can't tell for sure unless we have better photos and/or Mark flys us out for a site consult. PS: Mark, don't forget a ticket for Katen.

I seem to remember white glazed bricks used for kitchens, bathrooms and fireplaces in the 1880's.

I know Mark and am confident he will figger this out quickly when he gets on the site.

Bill, remember the days of 35mm film, Polaroids and quick sketches? These guys can't appreciate how nice it is to point and click for a few hundred photos and not worry about the time or cost! Even in the early 1990's, our office costs for photos was several hundreds of dollars and often was more than a thousand dollars for large projects. ($1.00 per photo used)

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Thanks everyone, I'll be onsite in 2 hours. Sorry I'd fly you guys out, Les, but I think the airport is snowed in - what a shame.

I did zoom in and can confirm there are header courses about every 8th course to the left side of the door, I could not tell on the right side. I also zoomed in on the left side and can see the white is applied.

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Thanks for the pics, Mark!

Having reviewed them, Bill is right, as usual:

It is original work. There are header courses. The white appears to be surface applied later and removal was in progress. I'm pretty confident that during the removal process, they elected to leave an occasional brick white for affect. Typically the only colors would be the red range and the very dark bricks resulting from ironite in them.

Enjoy that inspection. I love old homes. Our whole downtown area is block after block of homes over 100 years old. It's great.

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I've never had a problem with being wrong, and I may very well be. That's how we learn, and an ego tends to be a hindrance to learning. [:-graduat

There's no right or wrong when evaluating a condition from a tiny image on the interwebs.

Mark's very clear larger pics in my email show that it is paint. Hopefully they used a chemical stripper although, it may have been painted for a reason: http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advic ... uses.shtml

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I seem to remember white glazed bricks used for kitchens, bathrooms and fireplaces in the 1880's.

There's a fair amount of ceramic tile here used in hearths and fireplace profiles in Richmond, but it is actually tile. It tends to be super tight joints, since they'd fall out otherwise due to the heat. The tiles are similar, in proportion, to brick, but are about maybe 2" x 6" - cute!

I can't say I've ever seen a true glazed brick, but it may just be the area. Richmond, being the capital of the confederacy, has a TON of homes build pre-Civil War, but they tend to lean heavily toward Greek Revival, Georgian, Federal (now that's ironic) and some Victorian - lots of brick.

The oldest known structure in Richmond was built in 1750.

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Well that was a fun inspection and I got some good answers. Yes everything white is paint; but why the strange pattern on the left side and why is there no white paint above the windows. When the answer came to me it hit me so hard I think I got a lump on my head. The seller was still there when I arrived and I asked what she could tell me about the house and if she knew why the paint on the front is the way it is, but she did not know anything about the white paint. She did know the original owner had an asparagus farm and the detached building behind the house was a summer kitchen. There was a fire in the 80’s or 90’s and almost everything was redone. We chatted for a few minutes and then I walked back outside with the customer and as we were standing there talking about the bricks when it suddenly struck me that it had been the house fire had caused the paint pattern. I can’t believe none of us saw it, because it seems so simple know that we know the cause. The fire must have been on the left side of the house and I can clearly visualize the flames roaring out all the windows on that side both front, back and left side. At some point someone started on the right side removing the paint from the bricks, leaving a few painted bricks here and there and then stopped at the front door. Maybe that is when the fire occured or maybe they ran out of money or motivation or interest and just never finished the job.

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