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joe_cole5000 01-31-2010 11:45 AM

Unstable Structural Wall
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Hello all,
I have a 1960's home that once upon a time had a covered patio that was at some point enclosed, 4x4's about 7 feet apart with single pane fixed glass panels. The room bleeds engery and I took it upon myself to resolve this.....never volunteer! The old exterior wall is brick construction which had ferring stips and sheetrock covering. My plan was to gut the room and start again but when I removes the sheetrock it became clear that the wall itself is quiet unstable. It takes just a few pounds of preesure in certain areas to move large portions of the wall and as I said earlier it is a weight bearing wall. (I should note that the house is a slab foundation build on clay so there is constant foundation issues that have been address several times without lasting results) I mention this because I feel this is the cause of the wall instability.
My concerns are as flollows
I planned to put up metal lath and a stone veneer on the wall;

Question: Do I need to stabilize, reconstruct, rebuild this wall before I continue???
While it is difficult to see from the picture, there are areas just above the left margin of the opening that are completely useless in terms of structural support in fact I could reach up and with little difficulty remove several bricks. There coexists, in another are with a similar opening, areas on the ceiling that have dropped and cracked the ceiling sheetrock, I assume due to the lack of structural integrity.

daveb1 01-31-2010 01:46 PM

I think you need to do what ever is neccesary to stabilize rebuild or reconstruct this wall before these bricks fall out and injure someone.If this is a load bearing exterior wall that collapses could it cause a portion of your house to collapse? If it is load bearing and you can push it outwards is it really holding weight?If this exterior wall is not holding weight, what is?

Aggie67 01-31-2010 01:53 PM

Kind of hard to tell any details from the photos.

The first option - the free one - would be to call the town and see if an inspector could come over. This would work well if you have a good relationship with the building department and your permit is in order.

The second option is to call an engineer. But if you don't have a permit, I doubt a PE would touch it. In my state you can lose your license for knowingly performing work on an unpermitted job. (But you could also come clean with the town and call the engineer, and pull a permit for the repair.)

Third option is call an experienced contractor. But this is a DIY site, so I'm assuming you want to DIY it.

Worst case is you have to redo the masonry wall. But if you have clay soil, it will probably just crack again. (If you haven't already, do a Google search for the words clay, soil, foundation, subsidence.)

joe_cole5000 01-31-2010 04:20 PM

clay, soil, foundation, subsidence
Aggie, thanks for the response. I have lived in this house for 7 years now and I know the aware of the seasonal deformations of's a nightmare. It was my impression that the wall issue would have to resolve and I suppose I could have worded it better, and yes the pictures left alot to the imagination.
Do you think it would be reasonable to set up support walls on either side of this existing brick to support the ceiling and tear out the dammaged brick wall, to be replaced by a 2 x 4 consructed wall. The considerations here as I intended and you stated clearly, the foundation would crack the existing structed once again. Any thoughts on the subject would be helpful.
Joe in Dallas

Aggie67 01-31-2010 06:22 PM

Not having seen your property or the wall up close, I'm a little hesitant to give official engineering advice. I will say you have options:

If you want to spend money on solving the issue altogether, look into compaction grouting. I have a client as we speak that has engaged me in some engineering work for concrete pads for his oil terminal tanks (the big API tanks). The compaction grouting is complete, and we're looking at the as built capacity of the soil this week. Also look for some local outfits that do foundation stabilization. There was a guy two towns over from me that got it done after Hurricane Floyd, and it wasn't that bad (couple grand.

If solving the underlying problem isn't in the cards, then you'll have to investigate some options to mitigate the movement. A local geotech outfit can help you there. Spend a little bit of money to get a report done, and you may have a real interesting DIY project (if it's within your capability).

You're not the first person to have this problem. There's a whole industry out there focused on subsidence and foundation stabilization. I'd suggest you tap into some local sources. And in my opinion the best place to start is with a geotech company (one that's involved purely in investigations, not one trying to sell you their proprietary solutions).

Scuba_Dave 01-31-2010 06:26 PM

Is there another brick wall above this?
If not I think I'd be inclined to get rid of the brick & build a wood support wall

Do you have a bigger pic of the area ?

Daniel Holzman 01-31-2010 06:50 PM

Before you spend a dime repairing anything, you need to define the problem, determine the cause, and evaluate alternatives. I was unable to tell from your post what the problem is. Sounds like you have subsidence issues, brick stability issues, and permit issues. Each of these problems has different options to fix.

As for the brick, you first need to determine if the brick is a veneer (non-load bearing) or a structural supporting wall. It is not always obvious, so I suggest hiring a registered structural engineer to perform the evaluation. As for foundation repairs, I am with Aggie, you should not invest a dime in structural repairs until you have hired a local professional engineer to perform a study, which will likely involve drilling some test borings, to determine the cause and alternative repair techniques.

Your situation is far too complex to be getting realistic help from a DIY site.

joe_cole5000 01-31-2010 07:30 PM

I have a sinking feeling
Thanks guys for your input. Just for the record, I have had foudation "specialist" here in the past. "Repairs" have been done to the tune of about 35 pier, none of which had what I would consider "lasting affects".
But I think your right and as most tough problems evolve, back to the drawing board, or Dtructural Engineer in this case may be the logical first step. Again, I thank all the pro's out there for all you guidance.
Joe in Dallas

Ron6519 02-01-2010 08:33 AM

Is this a brick veneer wall? Is it 1 story tall? If yes is the answer to both questions, this is just a fascade and there would be very little weight on it.
If you go to the inside wall, you should be able to tell if there's a stud wall in place by removing the base molding and cutting a hole in the wall material behind it.
If this is indeed just a veneer wall it makes the job a lot less complicated. I would call in someone with the qualifications to properly diagnose the issue. After you get the answer, you'll be able to decide if this is something you're qualified to handle safely.

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