Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex


Attached are photos of a 1950’s duplex with a brick exterior wall. Upon inspection of the exterior, a star-step crack in the brick was seen that goes from the bottom of the brick to the very top to the flat roof line.

As seen in the pictures, the crack in the brick starts right where the poured concrete foundation ends. No cracks were found on the exterior of the poured concrete foundation along the ground line or on the interior of the foundation in the garage and basement. The crack goes from the bottom and stair-steps to the bottom of the first floor unit. Then the crack starts again at the top of the same window and stair-steps all the way up to the top of the brick wall where the flat roof is.

Link to pictures of brick wall:

Is this due to thermal expansion/contraction of the brick or are we dealing with major foundation issues underneath this duplex?

Photos are double brick construction and not veneer.
Cracking is minimal.
I would not be concerned.

I would need more photos to tell if it is double brick or not. The headers could just be a decorative pattern.

Regardless, whether it is veneer or double wythe Joe is exactly right. That crack is too small to be any concern especially if the structure is 60 years old.

1.) Those air conditioner cut outs are new? Air conditioners in the 1950’s may be expensive, but economic constraints arising from the depression and
They would not be in a 1950 building unless especially designed.
I suspect the cut outs would be rectangular.
Only window AC units to my knowledge but I have a lot to learn.
2.) The cut outs compromised the wall’s structural integrity.
They are to close to the other wall openings (the window openings)
That is one reason.
The repairs made to the masonry bedding head and butt jointing (pointing) are not the signs of a seasoned mason.
A restoration job is needed on masonry that is not cement based. If the building is 1950’s it is likey pozzolanic. 4 part masonry. 1 part hydrated lime , sand cement potash aggregates and must be kept that way.
If the pointing material is cement and 2 to 1 ratio it well give and uneven load to the outer surfaces of the veneer (bricks) during expansion and contraction periods. The concrete (pointing material) will expand greater than the masonry bedding. JMO

Now I would like a photo of the foundation below the crack.
A good clear photo plsae.
As much information and detail as you can give.
If there is a crack that leads to the vertical crack in the veneer (bricks) is it smaller at the bottom and wider at the top?
I would also like the exact age of the building please and your city or town.

Thank you.


Sorry Joe. Not meaning to ruffle any feathers.
If you have proff than please excuse me buddy.

I have seen many 1 wythe side-walls.
The façade is normally doubled. The side and rear walls are single to cut building cost.

1.) Please state if the walls are single or double wydte please Mr. Grossman.
One brick or 2 layers of brick on the wall in question.thick.
2.) Is there any other wall with openings like that beside the openings for the windows?

This cam be done at the window opening and using a measuring tape.
Double wythe wall will be 10 " wide minimum before framing timbers are used.
4" plus 4" and 2" void before the interior structure.
4" inches (minimum) of wood “studs.” and at lest 1: inch for drywall.
16" would be an average width.
The window opening should be an indicator.

One more note.** Window sills are wrong. This will add to the degrading structure.
Its minimum in damage but has started degrading.
Bull header layout are not laid right. IMO.
They must pass the opening 4" or 1/2 brick laid horizontally.
Being bull hearers they are prone to flex, expiation, and torsion just to name a few…

A window sill should be a solid mass. Concrete or stone are placed at the opening as they work up the wall or a void left, 4" each side.

In relation to the brick the 4" is half the size of the bricks length.
It is a stretcher bond. The pattern (bond) will be 1/2 1/4 etc.

By carrying the openings corners using a full piece window sill the 4 inches on each side act as a header for the downward forces of the brick.
The lintel length and the sill length should both match!! Both be 4" beyond the opening. That way they carry load evenly. They work together.
I wish I could explain myself better. Its been years.

Hi Robert,

I apologize for my elementary questions - I am a Mechanical Engineer by profession so I am very out of my element when it comes to structural/civil engineering topics (the only Civil Engineer course I took was in Construction Management for cost/scheduling)

  1. Should I measure from the exterior of the brick wall to edge of the interior wall? Is that the 16-inch measurement you are referring to?

  2. Can you rephrase the question? Are you referring to are there any other sections of the wall with this kind of crack? The answer to that would be no. If you are asking if there are any other wall openings besides the windows and A/C unit cutouts on this wall the answer is yes - to the left (not shown in the picture) there is another bottom window for unit #1 and top window for unit #2 which are windows for the bedrooms.

Regarding the bottom foundation section below the brick wall - There is no crack on the exterior of the foundation or on the interior of the foundation in the basement and garage. It is a poured concrete foundation. I don’t have any better pictures than what’s in that Picasa album but I will try to take some tomorrow after work.

Unfortunately I can’t do anything about how the window sills were made, or the placement of the A/C unit wall cut-outs, or how the window framing was done. I’m stuck with what it is currently. I wish people would think before they act, because I would NEVER have put those A/C cutouts in the brick wall. I would have just used window units until the time was right to replace the older forced air heating system with a new combined HVAC unit.

The duplex was built in 1950 and is 62 years old. It is located in Glenside, Pennsylvania

From your experience with brick, where would you say the origination of the crack came from? Is it a foundation problem or is it caused from the stress introduced from the window and A/C cutouts and that basement window?

Hi Joe,

Thank you for the quick reply.

Once I become the owner of the property, how do I address this problem from a repair standpoint? At the top of the brick wall it appears that larger pieces of the mortar have fallen out. Should all areas of the cracked mortar be chiseled out and re-pointed?

There are no cracks in the poured concrete foundation (the crack is only in the brick wall). With that said, where do you think the origination of the crack is located? Is it a foundation problem or was it caused from stress in/around the window, A/C cutouts, and the basement window?

Thank you for your transparency. Refreshing as hell. Bravo.
Mr. Grossman pleasure meeting you.

To many inspectors ware the title engineer. An illusion for marketing and steels the truth from clients.
They can not use any engineering practices. Our profession is visual none destructive.

An engineer is a ***professional practitioner ***of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical, social and economic problems.

The foundation and the opening (basement window) are the same Mr. Grossman.
The window itself has no relevance to with defect.
The opening should have a lintel to span the opening. a. Acting as a header for the window to allow it to operate smoothly. b. To continue the brick shelf.
The opening in any plain is its weakest point.

I see little evidence of uplift.
The characteristics of the defect are lateral by indication of the photos provided.

It is load that has been displaced by several factor.

SUSPECT: The smallest openings are new/er than the building age…
DEFECT: No lintel or sill on/in the opening. The openings ( large and small) are to close together and the individual that did the work reached well beyond his/her understand of Clay brick veneers.

SUSPECT: The straw that broke the camels back.
The small opening. IE for an AC units or a dorrway for your flying dog to enter the home.
You never know Mr. Grossman

The openings relationship on the wall plain. proximity.
How the opening were managed to equalize load in the plain. Lintel and sills.
1.) That is the straw that broke the camels back.
It lasted for years without that (pressure crack)
Its not serpentine in direction. It does not follow the masonry bedding, butt or head joints It has crack (broken) bricks through its mass.
The defect is lateral within <10" of centre (plumb) for </> 26’ feet.
Why the defect?
a.) the repairs.
a The openings are both to blame. The AC openings broke the law of engineering and architectural stability…
c.) The sills and header or lintel on the window openings are incorrect, there are none on the other opening.

Now I caution you. The information I have posted is an informed/educated guess.My Deductive Hypotheses of the photos and you verbiage about the defect.

Please excuse my long winded explanation everyone. I will learn to condense my subject matter.
I am trying my best to be a good INACHI member and team player.
Again. Thank you.


Well done Robert! I would check the foundation and If no visible cracks occur on the wall thus stopping with the brick, I would only be concerned about what Robert says and my info would not match Robert as this is his area of expertise.
However I would agree.

From this picture:

Double brick masonry construction and not veneer.

Most likely stress cracking from the building openings (windows, doors, AC, etc…).
Point and maintain areas of mortar loss.
As long as there is no displacement of the brick, again, I would not be concerned.

adjust your profile to indicate geographic location.
it helps…

Opinion Joe; It may be Flemish in pattern but that’s all.
I have demolish that pattern to reveal one wythe.

I have repair stretcher bond 4 wythe walls.
They were bonded with cut nails. Not lintel to speak of.
Framed interior.
I look for how the pattern or bond is closed and at window and door headers.

That being said.
Here is a bit more and even this is not set in stone…
Look at the bond, the corners. This is for none structural.

I stopped over the property at the end of the afternoon today to take some more pictures. I noticed the following, as shown in the new photos I updated to the below Picasa album link:

  1. foundation crack at the rear corner of the duplex

  2. rear wall crack above the garage leading to the 1st unit’s bedroom window sill

  3. left side wall crack emanating from the bottom of the 1st unit’s living room window sill (the same 1st floor window showed in the other pictures but this crack is on the right side of the window sill and the other pictures are on the left side of the window sill)

  4. left side wall crack emanating from the top and bottom of the 2nd unit bedroom window

I truly don’t understand how the home inspector missed this during the inspection - none of this is mentioned at all in the report, not even the foundation crack at the rear corner of the property.

I recognize that these pictures when viewed on the Picasa website may be difficult to see the crack. They are full resolution pictures, so if you Right Click / Save As and zoom in you will be able to see it in more detail.

Opps. Did the sellers agent refer him/her.:wink:

Now to be fare we all share blame.
We must ask questions before hiring home inspectors. The inspector should explain to the client what he provides in a written agreement. Hopefully guaranteed!

Title and substance are 2 different things from my experience in any given field/trade or profession.

I have a long practical building back ground that is ***cross trained. *** I also own a façade restoration repair business that is part time now.
That is way I calls em like I sees em.

A full explanation with low to high estimates and BOB’S your uncle mate you are getting what you need as opposed to what you get…

see if you know the good and the bad. Everything about the home you can make a informed decision on wat you are about to by.
Mr. Grossman.
Only you know the building having seen its entirety.

I will not comment any further. It will only make you question just one of the many systems, components and the structure.

As far as I am concerned the cracking belongs in the report. An inspectors job is to observe.

As for an explanation. it is up to the inspector. He must be without any conflict of interest when doing so. IE: Trying to sell you someone to repair any defects when you buy the home.
He/she should be able to provide you low to high estimates
If he/she can do so without “square footage and hourly costs” as only the narrative than you have a better product at the end. The report.

Mr. Hagarty maybe right if there is no bowing. Grind out the masonry that is in pour condition and point.

The funny thing is looks repaired already. It was not a very good job.
The AC opening: lintels and sill.
Windows need sills installed correctly.
The presure crack repaired AFTER all the masonry is repaired.

Hi Robert,

I just fixed the links - not sure why the link wasn’t working before

The building has undergone a pointing job.
It looks OK from what I see.

The pressure crack needs to be reviewed by a mason.

I would not lose sleep over it but RECOMMEND a licensed mason look at the AC cuts and the Windows sills.

If it was not in the report he/she should have at least pointed t out to you during the visual reporting.

All the best Mr. Grossman.

I did not mean to ruffle any feathers.

Mr. Grossman. I am creating a conflict of interest just reviewing what someone else inspected.

I do not have the right to do so.
Please do not read anything into this.
Hire a professional!!!

I should have bowed out and will now.
All the best.

I never use to comment on individuals looking for something that can not be explained without being there, that you know nothing about and that the individual that did the hiring is at odds to what was done.

All the best.

Sorry Joe and anyone else.
I will not be commenting on DIY or reports again.
Please remind me if I slip.

Thank you.

I want to thank everyone for their input into the cracked brick wall questions I’ve been asking about the duplex property I am purchasing.

The home inspector returned to the property and examined the brick wall and associated cracks and came to the following conclusions:

  1. Yes, the wall is double-brick construction, not brick veneer
  2. Cause of cracks is due to 2 factors. #1 - proximity of A/C cutout to Window cutouts, #2 - rusting window lintels that expanded
  3. Hairline cracks don’t need any attention, but monitor them each year to see if the crack gets larger from mortar crumbling (the crack is not growing though). If they appear to be getting larger, have those areas re-pointed
  4. For the larger cracks on the top of the left side of the duplex, he recommends getting them re-pointed - said this should run ~$400 for the larger crack section
  5. The corner crack in the top of the poured concrete does not pose a structural problem

His recommendation is to scrape off the exposed rust on the lintel and paint them. He said most if not all of the damage has already been done, but just to be safe to have the rust scraped off and repainted to stop the corrosion.

Sorry called away.

Sorry I get called away. My reflex is to drop everything. again sorry.

I am going to be blunt.

As to paint the lintels.
They are not painted you use red oxide to seal the ferrous and/or non ferrous metals would be a good narrative from a home inspector:-)

Sounds like the inspector listened to this thread.

The hair line cracks are loss of masonry to brick bond!
Shear load drives large amounts of weather into wall openings no matter how small.
What if its raining and windy?

I am a bit of a handy man with clay brick, stone repair, CMU’S and masonry.

All lintels expand and contract. All materials expand and contract at there own ratio.

As for the openings.
No solid one piece window sil, no lintel l and the openings proximity combined with other masonry deficiencies and defects are causing the degrading issues.

If the cracks are not growing then why did they nor stop at 1" inch?
If it was partially repaired why not do the rest.
And I can go on and on.

Please understand not many home inspectors can address masonry issues. There should learn there abilities. The rest LIMITATIONS.
I can. 2 decades on exterior have given me a little bit of experiences.

The question is; why where they not in the report?

All thing being equal Mr. Gorssman I do not like to comment on purchases but I did on this one and will finish hit off.

  1. all the cracks pointed with the (appropriative masonry.) look S like it has been repaired before. I can not tell the quality of the masonry but to tooling is a bit of an indicator to be. I will say no more.
  2. Install lintels on the openings without lintels.
  3. See if the rusted metal (lintel) is deflecting replace; if not grind of all rust; prime coat with red oxide then a protective coating with the proper exterior finish for ferrous metal.
  4. Install one piece window sills properly. 4" past the opening and hopefully in line with the lintel.
    5.) point out all cranks.

The foundation corner is no big issue.

If you wish I can help you through the process. I will leave you my email address.
Those are issues that can be addressed. Some are normal but the opening should have been called out. IMO.

My report would read:
SUSPECT: Observed masonry wall cracks… Serpentine and lateral cracking.
The lateral crack is vertical through the masonry and clay brick surface on the hight of the building. (east side) example only.

LIMITATION: Could not verify the brick wythe.

**RECOMMEND ** Licensed mason evaluate the wall condition.

estimate cosy. $7,000.00 dollars in my neck of the woods.

Home Inspectors do not like to despondent real estate agents. JMO
If they get called back because if a smart individual like yourself they cover there tracts.

Why was it not in the report if he know all the terminology to begin with???