14 December, 2013


I have an old two-story house (approx. 90 years old). The whole building is brick. Under the front porch there are two windows that have a piece of iron above the windows. The brick walls of the porch right above the windows are arching a little bit, and the porch seems to slant toward the house. I have been told by two different masons/tuck-pointers that the shift in the brickwork was most likely just from the house settling, and not worth trying to fix unless I see some more movement. However, I was recently told by another mason/tuck-pointer that the iron above the porch window is expanding, and this is causing the shift in the brickwork above the window. He also advised that it would only get worse and I should have it replaced and the brickwork straightened out. I'm not sure who to believe. Both explanations seem valid, but what do I know? Has anyone else heard that the iron plate above a window (I think it's named the flashing, but I could be wrong) can rust and expand enough to cause a shift in the brickwork? PS I know it's hard to say anything with certainty, especially considering I don't have any pictures or anything, however any advice is appreciated. What I found out was – First off, that isn't flashing (it may have flashing, but that isn't flashing that's causing the problem). That is the support lintel for the opening in the masonry. Without pictures, I simply don't know the extent of the problem. How far off plumb is this thing? Is it waving at you? It's almost certainly from settling, but is it cracking out the mortar? Is the masonry unstable? Does it look in danger of collapse? Fixing the problem is a very expensive and time consuming proposition. You almost have to re-level the footers that the masonry sits on and then re-point the whole she-bang. Ugh. It can and has been done, but you have to ask yourself if this is the hill you want to die on. I'd say just leave it. Sure, it will eventually collapse, but you will probably be dead by then. In the mean time, have the porch mud jacked so that it slopes away from the house. That will solve a lot of problems and is relatively cheap compared to that other stuff that I don't even want to think about. Here's a tad more info:

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  1. Harpy Jackson December 13, 2013 at 12:25 am #
    Yes. . Both of these statements can be true. Usually the first place you'll see any settlement is around windows and doors, because this is the weakest spot in the brick. If the metal above the windows start to rust, It will twist and turn causing cracks in your mortar. If the metal isn't painted then i'd recommend painting it. When metal rusts it does twist, and the metal is stronger than the motar/brick causing cracks. The house being 90 years old is not uncommon for a little settlement. The best way to tell if you're still have active settlement is too look at the crack from top to bottom, and if the crack is equal in size from top to bottom, then more than likley the settlement has stopped. If the crack is wider at the bottom or top, then the settlement is still active, and you may want to keep it monitored for a while and see if it's getting worse.
  2. Dharmu Smith202 December 13, 2013 at 5:45 am #
    Metal very rarely if ever expands unless you heat it if I'm not mistaken and it would want to be fairly hot at that,another explanation would be the brickwork itself expanding over time as bricks are porous and can hold water/moisture and in cold weather this expands and can cause cracking. It's not flashing as flashing is lead,it sounds like you are describing the lintel over the window itself to hold the brickwork to actually form the window opening and prevent the bricks from collapsing,you could have the lintels replaced with more modern stainless steel ones if you want and straighten out the original brickwork,you could get any more opinions on this but I can't say for sure without seeing the problem,sorry.
  3. Dee Smith December 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm #
    The first two are somewhat correct. First off, the piece of iron is a lintel, or support angle. It's named different things in different parts of the country. It's just a piece of angle iron over a wall opening to act as a brick ledge in simple terms. The settling of the brickwork is more than likely the cause of this problem, I would almost bet that there is some minor cracking of the mortoar joints in some places, but nothing major. Where they are wrong, is that if the porch is flat, you're pouring all of this water back towards the house, which in the long run, can present problems of water penetrating the masonry over time. The expansion theory is somewhat true, but not the source of the problem. Sounds to me like he wants to take you for a ride. Everything expands and contracts with temperature change, however with your angle iron, it's not an issue that would create this problem because the angle iron will expand laterally along it's length and cause cracking in the running bonds of the brick, and shouldn't (in most cases) effect the bed joints (horizontal plane), he just wants to turn a simple job into a big one. As for the rust, generally when this happens, it's because someone has used a non galvanized piece of angle iron for a ledge/lintel. In a 90 y/o brick home, you would have a large amount of rust stains around the windows and doors if this were the case.