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Interior Bricks Turning to "Powder" in pre 1749 Property

Postby Oliver Sheen » Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:35 am

Hi Newbie to the forum here.

I live in a very old house (pre1749) and the original bricks on the open fireplace almost turn to dust at the touch. Are there any suggestions to stabilise these bricks and prevent or at least delay this happening. The main structure of the house seems sound (considering her age) and it is just these exposed bricks around the opening of the disused fireplace that are the problem.

Many thanks for any suggestions.
Oliver Sheen
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Postby Hugh Schkok » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:41 am

Yes the problem you have my friend is the coal. Over the eons of time this irrefutably beautiful house has been standing It has literally tons of fossil fuels burnt in it's grate. I'm very biased on homes that have stood the test of time but I will post an objective response.
Coal and fossil fuels contain in their build up Sulphur trioxide which has a chemical symbol of SO3 and rain water has the chemical symbol of H2O and hen they are mixed together they make H2SO4 which is sulphuric acid and used frequently to remove concrete splashes and build up and eats it like a starving bear. The composition of early bricks were simple ground clay plopped into a mould and stuck together wit lime cement when hardened. Today they have more additives and are compressed to resist many ailments earlier brick were vulnerable to.

Check first you legal requirement under the Listed Buildings Act as it is very likely this house falls into the category of and engage a Master brickie not any old Jack the Lad, he must be dripping with skill. He will possibly source the bricks to their modern equivalents and then set a discrete lintel above the damaged area. He will remove the damaged bricks and make some false works to hold up his new repair he will then stabilise the 'rot' and set the bricks in place. You will probably hold his card to your heart, pay him, snog him and send him on his jolly way. Jack the Lad, if he were given the task may bring down your entire chimney stack so caveat emptor.

Good luck and get back and tell how it went.
Hugh
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Postby Oliver Sheen » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:16 am

Dammit Hugh but that was a good reply!

Weirdly the house itself is not listed but the adjoining house is and therefore mine is subject to the strict guidelines of a grade 2. The worst crumbly bricks appear to be on the right outer face of the fireplace so unless a master brickie is unhappy with the ones above I'm hoping I'd get away without any additional lintel.

Clearly I need to speak to the council about this one. Thanks for your advice. As a sidebar a local fokelore has it that Edward and Wallace used to have their dirty weekends here. Bit of history to go with the crumbling bricks!
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Postby Hugh Schkok » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:17 am

Edward and Wallace? Sure it's not Wallace and Grommet? It maybe they were a little over energetic and as the saying goes 'Shook the rafters'. Now back to the real world. It sounds almost sure a chemical reaction and I see that sulphuric has ad a role to play here.
The fact the Old Lady is still standing stands testament to the quality of ancient builders as it is clear to see. Be gentle with her and she will be there for your grand children's children.

I see houses today that had replaced the dilapidated remains of previous development's built less than 20 years previously. Utter crap.

My house is Jacobean and I love it to bits. I have never found a home that would come close to matching my Duchess. She has had several changes done over time and thankfully in a very sympathetic manner using original material's and in many cases the same tools.
I have continued that ethos and never want it done any other way.

She has been around since the late 1600's and will be here for many more sunsets into the future.

Good luck with your problem and get back and let us know how you got on with the reparations.

Hugh
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