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Hello all:

1) In the basement of older homes, 1930, 20 & older they used a red clay/brick style material for the walls. What is the correct name of this material and are there any web sites showing how it was made, pros & cons etc?

2) In the garage they had a crock (like a crock you might find for a sump) sunken into the floor with a grate over it. There were no plumbing lines run to it for drainage so I would assume that the runoff from cars (melting snow etc.)would just soak into the ground. Correct terminology for this (besides floor drain?)

Thanks in advance.

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Originally posted by Terence McCann

1) In the basement of older homes, 1930, 20 & older they used a red clay/brick style material for the walls. What is the correct name of this material and are there any web sites showing how it was made, pros & cons etc?

Terry,

I'm afraid I don't have any answers, but I wonder if it's the same stuff I saw last week. The house was built in 1927. The perimeter wall of the foundation was made out of these odd brick / tile things. Bigger than a standard brick, hollow, and the material appeared to resembled what clay tile roofs are made of. Not a one was broken or crumbling, but someone (exterminator?) had drilled holes all the way around, about every 6 - 8 inches. Weird.

Brian G.

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Terry,

If we're talking apples/apples here, what you describe may be vitreous clay blocks/tiles. When I was a kid my stepdad was still using the pipe style vitreous clay for sewer installs or repairs. Some of the pipe had rubber gaskets in a bell on one end. I think the foundation blocks and wall tiles are the same thing: the clay is fired once to set it, then refired with a glaze applied.

The crock sounds like a dry well, and under the dirt you may find gravel or even shards of the vitreous clay blocks/tile.

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Originally posted by Chad Fabry

I just talked to my Dad and he told me that they were hollow clay tile.

Most interesting Chad. I will Google as well, when I get a chance.

Terry, what kind of condition do you typically see these in?

Brian G.

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Bob:

Thanks for the reply. "Vitreous clay blocks/tiles". Will have to net search for more info but I have heard that before.

Brian:

The condition has been pretty good all in all. The normal staining from a home of this era but the material holds up pretty well.

It's always a challenge to look at a house that was built a while back (God knows I'm no expert but I really do have an appreciation for the craftsmanship).

Although I won't be around to see it, I would like to see how a 1900's built home stacks up with a 2000's built home 100 years gone.

On a side bar, I can't get out of these homes in less that three hours (or more). I did one today for a relo from KC. He couldn't be here for the inspection so I emailed the results and spent 45 minutes on the phone with him. 1st time home buyer and very nervous.

We had kicked this around before but anyone that is doing three inspections a day, complete with report, is either a super inspector, in which the house is telepathically communicating the defects, or their taking shortcuts.

I am T.O.A.S.T. after two a day (meaning burnt).

BTW, hit a new mile stone, 4 inspections this week. HooHah.

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Chad:

You'll do fine. You have the urge and the desire to make a mark.

It's no more complicated than knocking on doors, time and time again. You have to have a hide like a rhinoceros. Maybe means yes, no means not now. It's not easy to build a client base, which is good. It keeeps the also rans in check.

We might not like to admit it but we are salesmen/saleswomen for those gals out there.

If we don't sell we don't eat, plain and simple.

I'll bring the doughnuts.

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Originally posted by Terence McCann

We had kicked this around before but anyone that is doing three inspections a day, complete with report, is either a super inspector, in which the house is telepathically communicating the defects, or their taking shortcuts.

I did a house today being sold by one of the local TV weathermen, who was home. Halfway through he asked me for a card, and started telling me about the guy they hired when they bought the house. Now remember, this was before any HI laws were on the books here.

He didn't go up on the roof (easy to walk).

He didn't go in the attic.

He didn't take the cover off the main electrical panel or the subpanel.

He did the inspection, report, and walk-through in 1 1/2 hours, and left with a check.

The house is 2645 sq.ft., 4 bed 3 bath, with a mother-in-law apartment, a detached carport w/storage room, and a screened-in back porch.

This is the same guy I've considered filing a complaint against before. I've come behind him twice (post-law), and he is a friggin' joke. A bad joke. But he gets recommended....

Brian G.

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Terence wrote:

"In the basement of older homes, 1930, 20 & older they used a red clay/brick style material for the walls. What is the correct name of this material."

It is called "structural terra cotta" and was most commonly used between 1890 and 1930. It is unglazed and often vertically grooved to allow for plaster to be applied on interior surfaces and stucco to adhere on the exterior. The interior of basements are the only locations it is left exposed except for one Mediterranean revival home I inspected where it was left uncoated on the entire exterior. I'm guessing either the original owner liked the textured look of the grooves and stopped the builder from applying the stucco, or they ran out of funds.

It was manufactured by the same process as other terra cotta building materials except it was not glazed. I have never encountered a major structural failure and have only observed minor fractures, probably from handling.

...so I would assume that the runoff from cars would just soak into the ground. Correct terminology for this (besides floor drain?)

-Floor Drain.

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Originally posted by inspecthistoric

It is called "structural terra cotta" and was most commonly used between 1890 and 1930. It is unglazed and often vertically grooved to allow for plaster to be applied on interior surfaces and stucco to adhere on the exterior.

Thank you Brother Bill, next time I'll sound like I know what the heck I'm talking about. I would have been more interested at the time, but it was complex house with other, more pressing issues.

The entire exterior was stucco, by the way.


It was manufactured by the same process as other terra cotta building materials except it was not glazed. I have never encountered a major structural failure and have only observed minor fractures, probably from handling.

Must have been some pretty good stuff, what I saw had no visible cracks or anything.

Interesting material. [:-magnify]

Brian G.

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Thanks Bill,

The reason I figured my father would know is (besides having been alive while this stuff was being used)he owns an old canning factory that's built out of this material. The structural terra cotta used in his building is much larger than the stuff I've seen in houses..maybe 20 inches long 12 inches high and 12 inches deep. The exterior of these blocks are glazed and haven't been affected by a hundred years of weathering. The interior of the blocks are as Bill described: striated and unglazed.

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For reasons I've never understood, we call this stuff "telephone tile" in Chicago. It is structurally adequate if well drained. The only other comment I would have is that it does seep moisture like a sieve in wet soils.

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