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Lintel Rusting Issues


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Hello All,

I am a homeowner hoping to get advice/opinions on how to proceed with the lintels and flashing on our new construction house.

In summer 2010, our house was bricked. Immediately we started seeing problems when the bricks under our windows had huge wet half moon shapes that took weeks to dry. Consulting an engineer revealed that no flashing had been installed anywhere as is required by the building code in New York. In late November 2010 the builder started removing courses of brick around the perimeter and under/over windows and doors to install a thin self sticking copper flashing with a scrim and applied a sprayed glue. They were also supposed to paint the lintels but did not use a good quality paint.

We noticed the lintels were rusting this spring when we contacted another engineer to assess other brick problems. We also discovered that despite being given building codes for installing flashing and diagrams, they had done it wrong. The flashing does not cover the edge of the lintels. Behind the wall the flashing goes up six inches and underneath the Tyvek. When the flashing is visible, it is sometimes raised up along the edge allowing water to get under the flashing. We are concerned about what might be happening behind the brick especially on the bottom of the lintels where there is no flashing to protect the steel. One lintels will definitely have to be removed as it is tilted and the rust is especially bad.

We've paid a lot of money to two engineers and gotten two differing opinions. One saying to remove all the lintels again and have them all flashed properly (lawsuit inevitable) and one saying to remove the ones where the flashing is not visible. We do hope to keep the house long term. I've attached pictures. (I recently painted the bottoms of the lintels but could not reach the edges.) Hope you all can offer some guidance.

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A painter was sent over by the builder who said that he would sand, prime and use an oil based paint. Then he could put a bead of cement caulk along the bottom edge of flashing where it is visible and where lifted. Thoughts?

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Nope. Caulking the flashing actually makes it worse; the flashing and lintel area should drain water, not hold it in with caulk.

The small bit of the lintel that's visible (and rusting) isn't all that critical. Painting it will make it prettier, but most of the lintel is still buried in the wall where it can still rust.

I'm not seeing end dams, and the flashing should hang out over the lintel a bit, or better yet, a stainless steel drip cap should have been installed. The cost of doing it right opposed to doing it the way this guy did is (literally) a few bucks.

I will allow as to how the conditions may not actually result in real problems for you. Compared to stuff I see all the time, it's not all that bad. But when people improvise and make up their own rules, the results are unpredictable. You could have problems in the walls that can't be seen.

Unfortunately, the guy that said to take it apart and do it over has it right. Doing it right is a linear process; it's hard or impossible to come back into an assembly and make incremental changes.

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A painter was sent over by the builder who said that he would sand, prime and use an oil based paint. Then he could put a bead of cement caulk along the bottom edge of flashing where it is visible and where lifted. Thoughts?

The builder is just trying to pacify you. That little bit of paint won't do anything significant.

I've very rarely seen flashing over lintels for brick veneer. My own house doesn't have it. It's required here too but the municipal inspectors don't inspect any kind of veneers.

My house is 30 years old and no problem has yet to result from the lack of flashing over the lintels but the answer to your question isn't quite so simple. You're in a different climate than I am for one thing. Also, when the consequences of a deficiency are examined, there's a need to step back and get a wider view of the entire installation. There might be other factors involved. All players need to be identified to get a decent assessment.

I'd be somewhat surprised if a significant issue ever results from that one omission.

Home inspectors will give differing opinions too. Like houses, they're all different.

Marc

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  • 1 month later...

Yeah, it isn't cut and dried. Some of the old buildings had amazingly high quality high chrome content steel; those babies are doing fine. Some didn't, and they're no longer with us.

It's about the steel, less about paint and age.

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Thank you all for your advice. It's greatly appreciated. Kurt you have a depth of knowledge that is rare. We actually have a 1936 brick house in NYC that has had a lintel rust and crack the mortar going up the wall from the corners of the windows. So we are sensitive to the issue.

On our new house we did have end dams put in during the brick removal for flashing/weep hole insertion. They aren't the best as they were made on site using the copper flashing. The joint was caulked.

enddam.jpg[/img]

This picture is of what originally alerted us to a problem and what can happen with porous brick that has no flashing or weep holes! Imagine having a house where all your windows looked like this for days after a rain! We occasionally still have a similar but much less noticeable pattern and far shorter drying out time.

wetbrick.jpg[/img]

The builder has agreed to take out four lintels to see what is happening behind the brick. One of which needs to be removed as it is tilted and rusting worse than the others. We are now searching for the right brick restoration contractor to do the work.

Thanks again for everyone's input.

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  • 2 months later...

Today we took out the worst visibly rusted lintel on our house and replaced it with a galvanized steel lintel with stainless flashing and other materials. I'm looking for opinions and advice on what we found.

The top of the lintel that was covered by flashing and the back of the lintel which was against the wall were clean. However, the bottom of the lintel that extended 1' on either side of the window and was not protected by flashing and was sitting in mortar had surface rusting. A picture is below. (Some of the rust could have bled through the inadequate paint, but areas along the edges look like fresh rust.) We talked to the engineer this afternoon. He was negative about the rust, saying the process is likely to continue over the years. He has not commented on the pictures we sent or given advice yet on what to do with the 40 remaining lintels.

I have come up with an idea short of removing or ignoring them all. It involves shoring up the lintel and then removing the two bricks that are underneath each end. Cleaning up the lintel and coating it with a cold-galvanized coating/zinc rich paint. Then replacing the brick.

I would appreciate your opinions on the signficance of the rust, my idea, and any other thoughts you might have.

TIA

lintelexposed.jpg

Darker silver area was painted after the lintel was in place.

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The rusted area will continue to degrade, eventually delaminate, expand, and "jack" the brick upward, causing cracks radiating outward from the upper corners. There's no timetable...it's several years, not months. It's glacier pace slow, but as powerful and inexorable as a glacier.

You're not going to see anything measurable for some number of years, but it isn't going away.

For a while, the rust patina may actually slow the process, but maybe not. Rust doesn't sleep.

If you go to the trouble of opening it up, don't rely on a paint; slip some flashing in there to isolate the steel from the masonry.

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What Kurt said. And your focus on the lintels is premature. What about the weep holes above the head flashing and what about the flashing below the brick sill?

Yeah, that article in Journal of Light Construction is just what you need. September issue. Check any major bookstore.

Marc

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  • 2 years later...

Thank you all for your advice. It's greatly appreciated. Kurt you have a depth of knowledge that is rare. We actually have a 1936 brick house in NYC that has had a lintel rust and crack the mortar going up the wall from the corners of the windows. So we are sensitive to the issue.

Did you ever get a cost estimate from Masons to fix it and did you have the lintels replaced?

We have a similar situation on a few of our major windows and want to invest in making sure the home will last the next 30 years.

One side is brick through wall (not facade) with expanded rusting lintels that need replacement. The other side has similarly bad lintels and is stone exterior. We are not sure if there is a sub wall or not. home was built in 1930.

Thank you

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If they do it right, it'll last another century, at least.

There's no set formula or number; depends on too many variables...height, access, size, how much decorative masonry has to be "touched" or outright replaced, sometimes windows tie into it, etc.

Start collecting bids then check back to tell us what average replacement costs are for Brooklyn.

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