Old brick rowhouse - ugly bricks, leaning?

Old 02-20-07, 10:06 AM
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Question Old brick rowhouse - ugly bricks, leaning?

There's an 1890s rowhouse that I am considering making an offer on. I'm almost 30 and this would be my first home. However, I've noticed some things that I don't like and want to know what I can do about them if anything.

1) There appears to be some separation between the bricks of one side of the house (which has circular, turret style windows) and the entrance. There's no seperation on the second floor. But on the second floor, there is some separation between this house and the one next to it. None on the first floor. So does this mean a part of the house is "leaning"? Is there any way to remedy this? It's in the middle of a city with buildings snuggled up on both sides, so maybe that would constrict the universe of possible remedies.

2) The bricks and mortar are just plain ugly. They are old mossy orange bricks (did they really ever have orange bricks, or are they painted?) and the mortar is black. I'm a complete newbie to this, having only rented apartments so far... is there a way to change the colors? I've heard it's not a good idea to paint 100 year-old bricks if they aren't already painted, but could I at least repoint the mortar to look white or light grey instead of black? Is it even possible to find the old soft lime-based mortar they would have used instead of the Portland cement that will kill the old bricks? And would I need actual mortar to change the color anyway? Maybe I could cover it with something that looks like mortar? Or would that be bad, trapping moisture in, etc.?

Sorry if these questions seem dumb... all of my questions probably will be until I learn more. Just looking into this stuff for the first time. Unfortunately my father never maintained his home at all, so I've never been around anyone with this type of knowledge.
Old 02-20-07, 12:47 PM
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Old brick rowhouse - ugly bricks, leaning?

First and foremost - You should never buy any property without an inspection, even if you think you know what you are doing. Some of the biggest mistakes were made by the people that felt they knew everything! An independent opinion is valuable, especially if you have made up your mind.

Your minimum is a pre-purchase home inspection from a certified home inspector. This is an inexpensive GENERAL inspection of the condition of the home and its systems.

Since your concerned with a potential structural problem, you should also have a structural engineer look at it from that standpoint. Your home inspector may also suggest this.

If are looking at a "row house", this is especially important because the the structural integrity of one unit can effect the adjacent units.

Brick can come in almost any color, depending on the local clays and the firing process. The mortar joints can also become stained depending on the local conditions and exposure. You can always re-create the old mortar since the materials are available.

Old 02-20-07, 05:35 PM
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Plan on spending double what you pay for an 1890's rowhouse, at least, to bring it up to current standards, unless this has already been done within the last 10 years or so, and ignoring the cosmetic upgrades you may want.

Almost anything is doable regarding brick and mortar, provided your checkbook has lots of zeros in it.

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