Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

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KeepTryin
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Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by KeepTryin » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:27 pm

Hello,

This topic is actually related to a previous topic I started regarding replacement of a section of sill plate and rim joist (re: viewtopic.php?t=5731#p27638).
In order to gain access to the rotted section, I needed to have the concrete landing/stoop removed. I hired a guy to do that work who, in the process of attempting to remove the stoop, badly cracked and displaced two of the cinder blocks at the top course of my foundation.
Yesterday, I was able to break up and remove the two damaged block and, at least temporarily, slide a couple of new blocks into place (this was not easy, since much of the stoop remains).
Anyway, I noticed a few things that I am questioning.
  • The top course seems to be an uncommon block size (actual 5 1/2" x 7 1/2" x 15 1/2"). It sits on a course of block that is 9 1/2" (deep) x 7 1/2" x 15 1/2". Is it particularly odd to have a shallower block as the top course? Could it be related to the fact that there was brick fascia on the house?
  • Toward the center of the house; where the front door is (the area I'm working), the sill plate appears to be proud of (hanging over) the block by around 1 1/2". That dimension decreases as we travel toward the ends of the house. Is that a big problem? It has probably been that way for many years. I can only imagine how expensive it would be to try to fix it. Can I safely "hold my nose" and carry on with it like that?
  • Possibly related to the sill plate overhang, viewing from indoors, there is some cracking of the mortar at the bottom of the top course of block. The crack is about 1/8" wide and stretches across all of the top course that I can see (much of the block is hidden behind a 2 x 4 sheet rocked wall). Is this something I should be alarmed about or, again, can I just "hold my nose", fill the crack, and carry on?
  • I only found one anchoring bolt fixing the top course to the sill plate. When I replace the sill plate, do you agree that I should add more anchoring bolts? The blocks are hollow, so, should I fill them with concrete and set my anchoring bolts into the concrete?
  • It has been very cold around here lately. Is it possible to do quality masonry/mortar work in cold weather?
  • Lastly, is it foolish of me to try to accomplish this on my own? I have near zero experience with masonry work, but, if the conditions I've described don't send up any danger flags, I think I'm up to the task.
Thanks in advance for any advice you can share.
Last edited by KeepTryin on Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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A. Spruce
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by A. Spruce » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:34 pm

Filling in a hole is never an easy thing, especially if the new materials are a different dimension than what was original. I'm not a masonry guy, so I have no idea what is "normal" and what is not, nor do I know what is available today that will work for you. I would recommend contacting a local masonry supply and see what block dimensions they have and if they know anything about the odd size you need. If all else fails, you can cut a couple blocks down to fit, but it would be nice if you didn't have to.

As for doing it yourself, I don't really see why not, it's not all that difficult to set two blocks within a wall that's already made for you. Simply duplicate the look of the rest of the wall and you'll be fine. What I can tell you is this, you'll set a mortar bed down to set the blocks in place, then backfill the end joints with a masonry version of a piping bag, trowel off the joint to match everything else, and you're good to go.
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KeepTryin
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by KeepTryin » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:03 pm

Thanks A.Spruce. I actually hit the "submit" button before I completed my post. I was still editing the post when you replied.
Do you have any other thoughts/comments on the concerns I added (the sill plate overhand and the crack at the top course of the foundation)?


BTW. I bought a 12 ton bottle jack and am following your advice with respect to taking the load off of the sill plate.


Thanks again.

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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:46 am

KeepTryin wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:27 pm

[*]Toward the center of the house; where the front door is (the area I'm working), the sill plate appears to be proud of (hanging over) the block by around 1 1/2". That dimension decreases as we travel toward the ends of the house. Is that a big problem? It has probably been that way for many years. I can only imagine how expensive it would be to try to fix it. Can I safely "hold my nose" and carry on with it like that?
[*]Possibly related to the sill plate overhang, viewing from indoors, there is some cracking of the mortar at the bottom of the top course of block. The crack is about 1/8" wide and stretches across all of the top course that I can see (much of the block is hidden behind a 2 x 4 sheet rocked wall). Is this something I should be alarmed about or, again, can I just "hold my nose", fill the crack, and carry on?
[*]I only found one anchoring bolt fixing the top course to the sill plate. When I replace the sill plate, do you agree that I should add more anchoring bolts? The blocks are hollow, so, should I fill them with concrete and set my anchoring bolts into the concrete?
[*]It has been very cold around here lately. Is it possible to do quality masonry/mortar work in cold weather?
[*]Lastly, is it foolish of me to try to accomplish this on my own? I have near zero experience with masonry work, but, if the conditions I've described don't send up any danger flags, I think I'm up to the task.
[/list]

Thanks in advance for any advice you can share.
1 - I wouldn't worry about the overhang, is it ideal, no, but it's likely going to take significant demolition to realign. As long as there are no other problems to speak of, leave it be.

2 - What does the crack look like from the outside? Put a straight edge on the block, is the top block pitched outward, if so, then there is significant movement within the structure that probably needs to be addressed. Yes, the overhanging plate could cause cracking of this nature, but I suspect that it has been slow movement over time that has slipped the plate and pushed the block outward. I don't really think that this is something that can be accurately diagnosed over the internet, I would recommend that you consult with a local general contractor.

3 - As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a masonry guy, I can't give you particulars of working with mortar in cold weather. My guess is that so long as there is no freezing temps that it will be fine to do the work now, otherwise, wait for warmer temps.

4 - As for this being a DIY project, it really depends on what's going on, which is why I recommend consulting with a local contractor. Do I think you can replace the two broken blocks yourself, absolutely, do you have the skills to take care of major structural issues with the foundation and/or house, probably not. If you hire the work, or at least some of it, you can shadow the contractor to learn what and why he's doing what he's doing, then you can take care of similar issues as you progress around the house.
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:47 am

KeepTryin wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:03 pm
BTW. I bought a 12 ton bottle jack and am following your advice with respect to taking the load off of the sill plate.
That should do the trick nicely. Good luck and keep us apprised of your progress. 8-)
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by Shannon » Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:31 am

I also am not a expert in masonry block work and really have almost zero experience with working with them but I would agree that changing a couple blocks should not be to difficult . The freezing temps are not ideal but if you can get a tarp up and keep the mortar warm for 4-5 days using a heat source behind the tarp you should be ok otherwise I would wait till warmer weather arrives.
I am somewhat surprised that the sill plate hangs over the wall toward the inside, I would have expected the opposite and suspected the block wall was being bowed inward from ground pressure?
I think consulting a masonry professional may be a good idea to look at the other issues you have and see what they say.
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by KeepTryin » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:55 pm

Thanks @Shannon and thanks again @A.Spruce
I'll get some professional eyes on the situation.

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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by Shannon » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:10 pm

KeepTryin wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:55 pm
Thanks @Shannon and thanks again @A.Spruce
I'll get some professional eyes on the situation.
You are welcome.
Pro eyes to see exactly what you have going on there is a good plan, it is sometimes hard for us to recommend exact fixes when we can not actually see everything a person is up against.
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by A. Spruce » Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:33 pm

Shannon wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:10 pm
KeepTryin wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:55 pm
Thanks @Shannon and thanks again @A.Spruce
I'll get some professional eyes on the situation.
You are welcome.
Pro eyes to see exactly what you have going on there is a good plan, it is sometimes hard for us to recommend exact fixes when we can not actually see everything a person is up against.
Ever play that game "telephone" as a child, where you have a line of kids and the first whispers something into the ear of the second, and the second passes that message to the third, and so on to the end of the line. By the time the message gets to the last person, it is no longer the same. That's kind of what it's like to give repair advice online. No matter how eloquent and detailed a description is, it is no match for actual eyes on the project. 8-)
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by KeepTryin » Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:37 pm

Since A.Spruce asked to be apprised, I thought I'd give an update.
After contacting two different masonry guys to come and look at the job and having neither one show up, I decided to take it on myself.

I replaced two blocks that were badly broken (the two blocks on the left in the picture with red crayon marks). That section of rim joist and sill plate were, of course, removed when I replaced the block, but still it was pretty difficult to work in such a tight space. And I had to keep running back and forth from the outside to the basement to see how the mortar joint was looking. I wasted a lot of mortar. In hind-site, I should have made some sort of form on the basement side to dam the mortar I was pushing through from the outside.

I didn't make the mortar bed thick enough to align the top of the new blocks with the existing block, so now I've got a space between the top of the new block and the sill plate (thus the shims you see in the picture). Any suggestions as to how to fill that gap? I'm thinking of somehow filling the gap with mortar (maybe with a cake decorator's style bag).

I had planned to use a sill gasket. I purchased some, but didn't end up using it. I thought I was doing a dry fit of the sill plate, but it was so difficult to get it into place that I didn't want to pull it out again. I'm now wondering if it would be worthwhile to try to shoot some caulk or sealant along the edge of the sill plate.

Getting the rim joist in place was no picnic either. As you can see in the picture, on the left side I had to slide the lumber in behind the Hardie plank. If I broke the fiber-cement plank, I'd end up having to replace a large section of siding (lap, blind nailed, so it's near impossible to replace a lower coarse without removing the course above).

Another thing that has been short-changed is that I was not able to bolt the plate to the block. I have a few sections of the blocks filled with concrete, but I haven't worked out how to drill through the sill plate and into the cement filled chamber in order to insert a threaded rod. I only have 7.25" to work in, so, accounting for the length of bit, I don't even think a right angle drill will give me enough room to drill a hole for the rod and epoxy. Any suggestions?
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After replacing block+sill plate+rim joist
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by A. Spruce » Sun Feb 18, 2018 10:04 pm

There are so many things to keep in mind and be aware of as you're doing projects such as this that it can be daunting to stay on top of everything. Kudos for taking on the challenge. While things may not have gone as smoothly as you'd hoped, I believe you have succeeded in making a suitable repair.

As for the gap at the top of the block, your thoughts of using a "piping bag" are accurate, there are masonry versions of the piping bag, though you could just as easily use a zip lock with the corner cut off or work mortar into the joint with a trowel.

All in all, good job. And, on behalf of myself and the rest of the HI Forum team, we thank you for updating your progress. We always like to see how our viewers projects turn out, and it also helps anyone else in your situation to see that not only are there answers to their questions, but people just like them who are tackling the same types of projects.

Again, kudos to you, and thanks for the update. 8-)
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by Shannon » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:09 am

I also think you did a good job and I'm not sure I would have done it any different myself. If you can get the mortar to fill that gap that is the way to go, if not a good quality exterior caulking will seal it up token out critters.
It will be very difficult to get any more anchor bolts in place as you have found. You could epoxy metal straps to the top two courses of block in the basement and then wrap it over the wood plate and nail in place if you are concerned but IMO you will be fine unless you are in an earthquake/high wind area. Even then if the house has sat this long with very few then you may be ok.
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Re: Masonry work needed. Do I dare tackle it?

Post by KeepTryin » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:35 pm

Thank you @A.Spruce and @Shannon. I appreciate your votes of confidence and the helpful information you've shared.

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