Water intrusion - brick wall

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Old 04-06-13, 01:58 PM
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Water intrusion - brick wall

Here's the story: Two story, brick facade house. West-facing wall has a problem with water when it rains. It is dripping (close to pouring at times) from the top of the window frame (not the window frame itself, the strip of drywall that runs across the top of the opening just inside the frame) on the first floor. It's mostly the middle window, but occasionally the others on the bottom.

The windows are vinyl replacement windows that were installed when we bought the house, so I don't know if this was a problem before or not. There seem to be some gaps or cracks in the mortar in various spots on the wall, mainly closer to the top. I assumed water was coming in here and leaking down.

Had one guy look at it, and suggested fixing those gaps and cracks. Another guy looked at it said he could fix a couple of the big ones, but the mortar is mostly fine. He thinks the problem is that there needs to be weep holes above the first floor windows. He says we can try that first and if it doesn't work, he'll need to tear out the bricks over the windows to get in there and fix whatever the problem is.

I also see that all of the lintels have been caulked where the brick meets the lintel.

Any thoughts? I really want to stop the water and then I need to fix up the water damage to the window frame and sill, but I'm not sure what to do.

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Old 04-06-13, 02:39 PM
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Anytime you have water coming in the top of a window it is almost ALWAYS due to poor/no weather resistive barrier (Tyvek or felt paper) and improper incorporation of the window into this WRB. In other words, water should not come in the top of the window even if there was no brick on the house.

Since this is occuring on the 1st floor windows, the problem can almost certainly be traced to the windows on the 2nd story. I would suspect poor sealant on the window perimeters, and especially at the brick sill. Because there is a 1" gap between the brick and the sheathing, the brick probably barely reaches the windows in some places... so a good bead of sealant is imperative.

Windows with nailing fins are often improperly installed with the top nailing fin on TOP of the WRB, and if water runs down the WRB, it goes right behind the nailing fin, and runs into the home pretty much just as you have described.

Removing brick is always a possibility (especially to see how extensive the rotting behind the brick is) but if the leak can be stopped with sealant, that would be the least expensive option.

As for the sealant, a polyurethane sealant that is either clear or is a hue that matches the color of the brick would be a good choice. Caulking must be done neatly or it makes a mess out of an otherwise clean looking home. NP1, Solar Seal, Vulkem, OSI Quad, Geocel Proflex, would all be examples of the sort of sealants I would recommend.
 
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Old 04-06-13, 10:13 PM
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I am concerned also that there isn't any resistive barrier. The second story windows seem sealed well. The bottom of the window where it meets the sill is grouted, not caulked. There is a tiny gap where the grout ,eels the window. I will seal that up. But I am concerned the larger problem is the potential lack of a resistive barrier.
 
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Old 04-06-13, 10:18 PM
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Yes, that is a problem. Not easy to add one either. Are you sure it was omitted? -or just worried it may have been?

If you caulk the bottom of the window, watch out that you don't block any weep holes from the window itself. They are sometimes right on the bottom of the vinyl window frame, which is really a stupid design.
 
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Old 04-09-13, 02:19 PM
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Your first post stated "lintels have been caulked where the brick meets the lintel"
This is your first problem and should be your first fix.

Water will get into a brick wall and it needs to be given a place to get out. This is true at the bottom of the wall where it meets the foundation as well as where ever it hits a horizontal opening like a window or door. A properly designed wall (residental is rarely properly designed) should include flashing that is placed on top of the steel lintel and either sealed at the top of the flashing inside the wall or tucked under the house wrap. (house wrap is not flashing). This flashing should extend out of the wall to create a drip (in other words you should be able to see it). there should be weep holes at 24-32"O.C. and you should be able to see those also. (there are a lot of options for weeps but no weeps is not a good option).

Back to your problem: when water does get into the wall it travels down the cavity until it hits something that stops it like a lintel. At this point the water attempts to escape the cavity. If you caulk the joint where the brick meets the lintel you create a dam at precisely the place you should be letting the water out.

Removing the caulk between the brick and the steel probably won't completely solve your problem because from the sounds of it the lintel was never properly flashed to begin with but it should still be the first thing you do.
 
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Old 04-09-13, 02:42 PM
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try this link for a decent representation of how brick veneer construction should be done over window lintels.
http://www.boralna.com/bricks/pdf/in...-practices.pdf
flashing is on page 11 or so.

Do your second floor windows have brick rowlock sills? People like how they look but they leak like crazy if you do not flash under them like the brochure shows.
 
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Old 04-09-13, 02:54 PM
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I would focus on removing the moss that has grown on the mortar lines of the second story windows. Once cleaned up, I suspect that you will find numerous places for water to enter and get behind the brick. The moss also provides a poor substrate with which to add caulking, therefore, what caulk that is there probably is not adhered to the brick.

Send us some picks of the top side of the exterior bricks on the window sills. You can do this from the inside while holding your hand out the window. I suspect that will provide the missing clue to sealing up the windows and locating the source of the leak.
 
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Old 04-10-13, 08:17 AM
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couldn't open pictures yesterday (computer issues at my end). Opened up fine today and sure enough you do have rowlock brick sills. I am not sure that what we are seeing on the mortar joints is moss so much as simple moisture.

That being said, I don't believe caulk is your solution. You will get water behind your brick. If you have brick rowlock sills you will get more water behind your brick. If the sills are not properly flashed then the correct fix is to remove the sills, add the flashing and reinstall the brick. Personally I would remove the brick, install flashing and install new cut stone sills to eliminate almost all of the joints. This might not give you the look you want but it will be easier to maintain and will last much longer. All of this will not completely eliminate your problem above the first floor windows but it will help.

The first thing to remember is brick is a sponge ( a very inefficient sponge but a sponge none the less). Sponges get wet and you need to let the water get back out of the wall or it will find a spot to get into your house.
 
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