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Stair-step brick masonry cracks

If you are the owner of a historic DC home with a stair-step crack in the brickwork, be aware it should be a concern, but know that you are not alone. Masonry issues just like this are very common in old historic brick buildings, and these issues can be stabilized and repaired.



A closer picture of the masonry joints follows.


Stair step cracking like this happens because of two main root causes:

  1. Differential load path settlement

  2. Lateral deflection


(We will examine these two structural issues much closer in a forthcoming post on the IDS website.)


There are several options for repair, with different levels of extent. A few practical options follow:

  1. Stabilize the condition to deter further destabilization. This option is the lowest cost but can go a long way to mitigate continuing accelerated deterioration.

  2. Remove and rebuild a limited area of the masonry. This option is more extensive than option 1. but sometimes conditions are bad beyond the option of just simple stabilization. This option is basically a middle ground between options 1 and 3.

  3. Remove and rebuild sections of the building assembly. This type of repair is clearly more extensive and more costly but this type of option is a longer term type of solution.


Clients commonly ask us, "should stair step cracking like this be addressed?" The answer is YES, absolutely. We look at this type of issue and most types of repair work from the perspective that although there is a problem, there is no need to stress, there are options and solutions to address or at least stabilize the problem so it doesn't get worse at an increasing rate.


We believe it's important for clients to consider options which reflect the reality of the conditions. Life and building stewardship are not as simple as just doing everything to the fullest extent possible. That's not realistic and it's not practice. We recommend our clients and DC neighbors work with a contractor who can talk to them about options, options which can take account of timelines, priorities, and realities.


If you have questions and think IDS can help, feel free to send us a message and say hello. We may likely be able to help. Click here to follow a link to our contact page.