Exterior bricks around window - how should this be fixed?

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Old 09-09-14, 04:36 PM
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Exterior bricks around window - how should this be fixed?

Apologies if this is a silly question, I know next to nothing when it comes to masonry, etc.

On one of the exterior windows in our townhouse, we noticed that the bricks above the window are raised, creating a fairly large gap there (see pics). The home inspector who inspected our house when we bought it a few months ago told us it just required to be "filled in," either with some mortar or some mortar filler.

My question to you: Does this seem like a bigger repair is required, or is it just a matter of filling in the gaps? It looks like the bricks have actually lifted off from around the window because you can see that the brick line is straight until it gets to the window, then in arches up.

Any help is appreciated, thanks!

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Old 09-09-14, 04:47 PM
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Yes, it looks to me like a bigger brick repair is required. Something weird is going on there... I don't see a steel lintel over the window, and it almost looks like it was removed and the bricks were jacked up in order to get the window to fit.

I would suspect a janky window installer did this.

So if you want to do it right, I'd say all the bricks above the window must be removed, the lintel installed, then bricks replaced. A good mason would be able to reuse your existing brick.

But if you are just trying to get by on the cheap, mortar it in, as your inspector said. It's not the right repair and it probably won't last. But he probably was trying to pull the wool over your eyes as far as the seriousness of this problem is concerned.
 
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Old 09-09-14, 05:13 PM
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Two possible scenarios I can consider:

1). A condition known as "rust jacking" which basically is rust formation on the lintel lifting the masonry above it. This condition would more typically be present on an older structure than yours appears to be. If you think it is not a reality I can assure you I have seen upwards of twenty tons of stonework being lifted by such a condition.

2). Perhaps several episodes of winter freeze with water getting back on the steel lintel and lifting the brickwork. Once the bricks are moved and the original bond broken it is not likely the bricks drop down to their original position since the fractured mortar wedges the masonry into new position.

If you do remove the brick, and it seems to me I do see a steel angle, the angle should, at the least be painted with a rust inhibiting coating. Ideally, it should be covered with a suitable flashing membrane that extends up the angle and extends out the front edge to properly carry water off the steel and over the edge of the window flashing.

With what I see in the pictures I am surprised you are not getting water to the inside of the structure.
 
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Old 09-10-14, 05:24 AM
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i like calvin's response,,, we don't use mortar, tho,,, sealants are, by far, superior to mortar in this location
 
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Old 09-10-14, 06:49 AM
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Frost jacking sounds like the best explanation.
 
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Old 09-10-14, 08:11 AM
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Upon looking at your pictures again I'm not sure it wasn't built this way. There is evidence of mortar between the lintel and the bottom of the brick in your second picture. A steel angle (lintel) is usually going to be 3/8" thick which is also roughly the thickness of a brick mortar joint. When the work was originally done the mason placed the lintel in and tried to "skinny" down the joint to make the upper brick courses line up but couldn't quite pull it off.

Are there other windows on the building in a similar application with a similar result?
 

Last edited by calvert; 09-10-14 at 09:41 AM.
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Old 09-10-14, 01:10 PM
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This is the only window in the entire house that is surrounded by bricks on the outside. The rest of the houses in this neighborhood are more or less identical, all built by the same builder, and I haven't noticed any others suffering from the same thing.
 
 

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