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Want to Save an Old Brick Building? Read This...Damp Proof Course - Protecting Brick from Destructive Moisture Damage

What is rising damp?

Rising damp affects the walls of old brick buildings at their bases up to about three feet above grade, especially older brick buildings with brick foundations. It occurs when moisture from the ground travels up through the brick walls by capillary action. This action means that groundwater is effectively sucked up through tiny tubes in the bricks, like a series of straws. This water contains salts that also travel up through the wall.

Around the affected wall, other porous building materials, such as plasterwork and timber, are in the floorboards and joists. These materials will also absorb the groundwater easily, and as a result, you may find evidence of wet rot in the timber.

Rising damp is generally first noticed by the damage it causes to a building's internal walls. Plaster and paint can deteriorate, and wallpaper tends to loosen. A visible stain often appears on the wall as a "tide mark" at the point where the groundwater has reached. You may also see salts blooming on the internal surface. This is often associated with rising damp and will lead to the debonding of paints and even plasterwork. Externally, mortar may crumble, and white salt stains may appear on the walls.

Very old bricks in the Memphis area, pre-1910, disintegrate and crumble. This is because, before 1910, much of the brick used in mid-South construction was not fully fired, i.e., not heated enough when manufactured, leaving the clay especially susceptible to destructive moisture damage.

How to treat and stop rising damp?

Until recently, stopping rising damp meant extensive reconstructive work, basically requiring replacing the bottom bricks and mortar in a wall in sections. Over the past twenty years, new European technology has made this repair much more feasible and economical. It uses injection methods that often do not require replacing existing bricks.

Injecting damp-proof courses (DPCs) into existing brick buildings is a practical solution for addressing specific moisture issues without extensive demolition or reconstruction.

At Ozer Engineering, our commitment to innovative solutions in structural preservation was recently showcased during the renovation of the historic Somerville Museum in Somerville, TN. Our team, led by Dmitry Ozeryansky, P.E., implemented a technology commonly used in Europe to address rising ground moisture issues plaguing the museum's archaic brick structure. This was accomplished by injecting Koster Crisin 76 low-viscosity synthetic resin.

Injecting damp-proof courses into existing brick buildings involves drilling holes into the brickwork, injecting DPC material into the holes, and sealing the injection points.

This method effectively creates a horizontal barrier against moisture wicking up from the ground, helping to protect the building from dampness and, even more importantly, for structural engineers, protecting the archaic brick and mortar from disintegration.

This can help significantly extend the service life of our oldest and most historically significant brick buildings.

Ozer Engineering is proud to bring this much needed technology to Memphis. If you are considering whether or not this treatment would be a good choice for your historic brick building, call us to discuss. 901-305-6450.

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