Help for a masonry newbie


Old 05-22-20, 04:19 PM
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Help for a masonry newbie

Hi, I am very new to this forum - so excuse my lack of experience! Since we all are being asked to stay at home, I thought I could perhaps try to do a very long-standing home improvement project. We have masonry stairs for the front of our house. They are badly deteriorated. The brick pointing is also soft. The developer who ‘fixed up’ the place before us just threw paint over everything. I have pictures to help illustrate the condition - and there underside of the stairs has a basement entrance, which is partially below grade.

The pointing is, I think, probably some type of Lyme mixture, it’s soft and super old. One contractor looked at this and recommended putting up wire mesh then stucco. But I wonder if I should first try to repoint and then cover with wire mesh and stucco. Or maybe I should be doing some other process.

I was unable to upload images, I think that would be very helpful to explain the situation. If I can figure it out I will do so,, I think this would help illustrate my situation. But for anyone familiar with Brooklyn brownstones, these are fairly common brownstone stairs out here.

Thanks in advance,


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Old 05-22-20, 04:24 PM
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The top of almost every forum has a sticky entitled Putting pictures in your post.
Old 05-23-20, 11:15 AM
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From he pictures it's a little hard to tell about the stairs. If your concern is the column then I think metal lath or woven wire lath and stucco is a good option. I can't tell if the column is so deteriorated that it is a structural risk. If it is then others will have support ideas. To lath this drive nails into the horizontal mortar joints. I always try galvanized roofing nails first. Sometimes the mortar is so soft they will go it or you can find a crack to drive them into. The reason for roofing nails is they have a larger head which catches the lath better. Other wise concrete nails and sometimes a washer to catch the wire. I suppose you could use concrete screws too but they are slower and more costly. We can tell you how to build a stucco corner or you can use corner bead but a built of cement plaster corner is probably better, Mix a scratch coat of 5 parts plaster or mason sand : 2 parts Portland cement : 1/2 -1 part hydrated lime. all measured by volume. Dry mix the material then add water and mix to a spreadable consistency. If you can get premixed stucco basecoat or mortar mix it is easier than measuring all the parts and buying two kinds of material. Spread on a coat to embed the lath and rough it up with a coarse broom or a plasterers scarifier or rake. Let that set a day or two or more then apply a second coat that you straighten and flatten and get nice and perfect. You can leave this coat or paint it or add a coat of colored stucco finish or whitewash it. And when you get ready we can tell you how to do this.
Old 05-23-20, 11:33 AM
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They are badly deteriorated.
So cant really tell from the pictures your there and need to investigate. Are you concerned about the structural integrity or just the appearance.

The mesh and stucco will do nothing to fix the column if the bricks and/or joints are failing!
Old 05-24-20, 07:16 AM
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More Images

Thank you for the advice, all greatly appreciated. I think I am getting used to the submission format - I have attempted to attach more pictures. These bricks all are part of a support for the main outdoor front entry landing. My concern is that they may need more than just a cosmetic treatment. When the developer who had the place before us went through it, I think taking the cosmetic approach was a common solution. We have had to phase in all types of small improvements over the past 5 years, as we have settled in. These entry stairs have always been a concern, but they also have been incredibly sturdy. The upper stairs themselves appear to have been done in brownstone material. And the developer just painted over them with exterior paint.

So because of that, I have been thinking of getting in a seasoned local professional to redo the entirety of the stairs. The initial quotes I received about a year or two ago put the work at around $6k, And it did not include anything like brick replacement or bolstering the structure, which is why I thought to look into things while I had the time.

If it's just wire mesh and stucco, I could do that myself. But if there is something more labor or expertise intensive then I am thinking I should have a proper contractor doing the work. When walking on these stairs everything feels incredibly stable - we have not had any concerns there - but a good friend always said 'You don't know what you don't know' - so don't want to assume all is fine when I am really not the expert...

Anyways, thank you all again for the advice, it's truly appreciated.

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