Brick Foundations and Why It Matters in the Bay Area

Image: Crumbling Brick Wall | Source:
Image: Bay Area, San Francisco, CA. | Source:

Brief History of Brick Used in Construction

Image: Edwardian homes: The Painted Ladies, San Francisco | Source:

Brick Foundation is a Red Flag

The Troubles of Identifying Brick Foundations

  • 25–30% of sales list the type of foundation at the property
  • Roughly 1% of sales list brick foundations or any combination of foundations that have brick. That is roughly less than 5 properties per neighborhood.

How do Sales of Homes with Brick Foundations Perform?

Your Options if You Want to Buy or Own a Property With a Brick Foundation

  • Concrete Capping — This process is exactly what the name suggests. Rather than replacing a brick foundation, concrete is poured over un-reinforced masonry (brick foundation) and bolting the layers together. This is not recommended as forces from earthquakes would still act on deteriorated brick.
  • Seismic Retrofitting — This process involves modifying the existing foundation to make it more resistant to ground shaking and soil failure normally caused by earthquakes. It includes expanding the existing foundation with concrete or adding materials like steel braces, bolts, or shear walls to a foundation to increase its capacity under a home. These types of improvements can start at $50K.
  • Replacement — Replacing a foundation is the most costly process, as it entails removing the brick foundation entirely and replacing it with reinforced concrete (reinforced meaning there is rebar inside the concrete). It can happen in either sections or be done holistically. Its costs can start at $150–200K.

Should I Buy a Brick Foundation Home?

1. Are You Getting a Big Discount?

2. Structural Engineer Assessment

  • The condition of the brick foundation
  • What work needs to be done to strengthen the foundation (if any)

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