Above-grade masonry leak


Old 01-21-01, 01:05 PM
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Hello. New member here. Please be gentle.

So I've got an exterior brick wall with an above-grade leak of some kind; I'm assuming it's a gap-in-the-mortar problem which I'll have to get tuckpointed or sealed in the very near future.

The problem is that it's taking a while to dry out. It started as a spreading spot in the brick, starting (I think) about three to four feet above the grade line (concrete basement, brick unfinished wall above concrete). This was about 3 to 4 weeks ago after a big snow/freeze in the Chicago area. Though not as damp, it is still wet, and it smells very musty. I've also noted a white powdery film on the mortar lines between the brick, and on the brick as well. Mildew? Mold? After doing some unrelated work in the basement I had some heavy, deep coughing that went away within a few hours.

Any advice on how to dry out the brick (remember, still winter here) or if I should chemically treat/wash the affected area?

Thanks in advance. DJourg.

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Old 01-21-01, 09:20 PM
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Gentle as a sledge hammer is my middle name.

Tuckpointing, yes. The white powder is most likely efflorescence (chemical salts leaching from the mortar because of the dampness). Efflorescence can be brushed off with stiff dry fiber brush. It may reappear as long as the brickwork is damp. Keep brushing. Reserve chemical treatments for the worst case, then allow the mason to apply.

Certain types of mold and or mildew can grow on brickwork or extend to "in contact with" wood framing members. Again one of the main contributing causes is moisture. A food source, such as dirt or other organic material, is necessary also. To kill molds and mildew use bleach. If the choline smell is offensive use borax (spread or spray in a strong solution and leave in place).

Increased air flow in the basement will help to dry the brick somewhat and reduce the musty oder but that may be a tough prescription for freezing weather. Moisture from the ground will be wicked through the concrete and then to the mortar and brick. (Generally concrete is waterproof, but it is not vapor proof [unless modified to be so]. That's why the wicking occurs).
Old 01-25-01, 04:22 PM
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Thank you for your quick reply. I'll try what you suggested. Thanks again.
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