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Draft in brick house

November 11, 2018
last modified: November 11, 2018

I recently moved into a 1937 remodeled house in Washington DC. As it's gotten colder, I have noticed cold draft in my kitchen. It is most notable near the floor next to dishwasher, but can also be felt all along the floor near kitchen cupboards.

It's a brick house; examining the exterior wall closely, I found and plugged a few tiny holes in bricks. That reduced the draft but didn't eliminate it. Any suggestions about what else I can try?

Thanks so much in advance!

Comments (8)
  • Bruce in Northern Virginia

    Since its on an exterior wall and there are pipes for the plumbing fixtures, they may have left large holes below the framing when they installed and ran the pipes. They should have sprayed foam into them for sealing and fire blocking, but you never know. My walls are similar and they did not originally have any insulation in them. IIRC they had to add the insulation during the kitchen remodel. The pipes for my radiators on the 2nd floor also go up through the walls, so there are quite a few penetrations into the basement.

    Have you looked down in the basement to see if you can see the water pipes coming up into the kitchen?

    One additional reason you need to figure this out is that those pipes will also be exposed to cold air this winter, and they may freeze. In my house they were were originally right next to the radiator risers, so freezing was unlikely if heat was on in the house.


  • Raye Smith

    All brick houses have weep holes in a lower row of brick. Make sure you don't block those or you'll have water and mold issues.

  • Bruce in Northern Virginia

    I've seen weep holes in newer houses, but many of these old 1930's and 1940's houses do not have weep holes in the lower bricks. The construction is much different, but I don't know why they don't have weep holes. It seems that the design assumes that there will be no water penetration through the brick. I did not see any evidence of water infiltration when they opened the walls inside to re-frame for new windows.

    I also measured the walls in my 1940 brick house, and they are about 17-18" thick from the plaster face to the outside of the brick. It all adds up when you have thick plaster walls, old true measure wood for the studs and diagonal board sheathing, tar paper, and then a space between the paper and the brick.


  • Raye Smith

    That is odd, my house is nearly 200 years old and has weep holes. No studs here, all brick and they vary from one foot to six foot in thickness.

  • kashkakat

    I paid a few hundred dollars to have my old 100 yr house air sealed - well worth it! Effects were immediate and substantial. With blower door they can determine exactly where even tiniest air leaks to the outside and up into the attic were occurring. Have to consider attic air leaks too cos updraft effect will pull cold air in from outside and up through the house and then out the attic.

  • cooldyood

    Absolutely kashkakat! I had gotten a free blower door test done in my previous house (also a brick house in DC). I plugged most of the gaps myself, and the effects were indeed substantial.

    Are you in DC area? Do you mind sharing info about your air sealing company?

  • A Fox

    An old house that has had substantial brickwork done may have weep holes. For instance we now have weeps over our garage door lintels after rebuilding the entire top of that wall. But weeps were not installed prior to about 50 years ago. Part of that is that houses built before 1900 had solid masonry walls and masonry foundations. Weeps are typically utilized to direct water out of a wall when it hits a barrier such as metal flashing at a foundation or over an opening. Being of a much simpler construction most of these barriers didn't exist. It was really the invent of the brick veneer wall system that eventually led to the development of weep holes.

    It's not so much that historic builders didn't assume water penetration, that was well known and brick before 1920 was considerably softer. The 13-17" thick masonry walls were sized not only for structure, but at a depth that driving rain could not drive moisture all the way through. I think there was a learning curve that had to be figured out in the 20s-50s when the prevailing construction was switched to cavity walls and brick veneer and hence why a lot of buildings from that era need some brick work repairs down at window heads and floor lines when the steel lintels start failing.

  • Raye Smith

    Well my house is the exception then. Original brick construction with weep holes set in the Flemish bond pattern. The original brick is even discussed on the paper for the historical registry.

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