One of our friends asks about a new home they are buying. It seems that the hookup for the washer and dryer are in the basement but they want to move the washer and dryer to the first floor of the home.
This might not be an extremely difficult task for a home owner to do but there are some other considerations. The home was built in about 1900 and it is brick. It seems there are a lot of people with these older houses that want to change them around. So, They are asking how can they punch a hole through the brick for the dryer vent and if this is something they need to hire a professional for.
My first thoughts are… why even go through this. If you are lucky to have a pantry off of your kitchen it can be used for its original purpose and for many other reasons without converting it into a laundry room and missing all that storage. They want to move the laundry to that area but then will they be storing what was there in the basement? That makes no sense and with people needing places for Internet and Cable Hookups with Wifi Routers and other devices you really need a utility room today.
How To cut a hole in an exterior Brick Wall
If you need to cut a hole in an exterior wall you need to understand how it is made. Depending on the age and location different methods are used to lay brick. Normally a foundation wall with a small ledge must be placed so that the brick can set on it. The interior part of the wall can then be wood framing or concrete block. However in some homes when brick was actually easier to come by than other materials they would build a block wall out of brick where there was an interior and exterior brick wall and a void may be in the center or maybe not.
So, you must inspect the wall and understand how you need to approach cutting through it for utility access. Every home could be different. It would mean taking careful measurements and maybe carefully drilling a test hole through a mortar joint.
If the hole you will be drilling is under 2 inches in width you can probably drill it with no problem if you support the interior with something like a steel pipe. If you are cutting a larger hole of 4 to 6 inches or maybe even a foot then you will definitely need to insert a lentil plate which is a thick piece of plate steel to act as a bridge over top of the hole you make so no cracking or wall failure will happen.
For best results many masons will chip out the mortar joint above where the hole will be first and install the lentil plate before the begin work on removing any brick or drilling holes.
Next to get through the wall you have a few choices. You could begin by removing whole brick if necessary and then coming back with a 4 inch grinder with a diamond blade to cut any half bricks. This works well for square openings. Normally you can deeply score the brick on the accessible sides and tap the waste chunk with a brick hammer.
For a round hole you can use a core bit BUT on a home this age you must be extremely careful because the brick is probably very soft and you risk cracking it in areas you don’t want damaged or chipping off chunks of the face near the hole. I would not use percussion on the bit at least at first. I have seen some homes with brick foundations that you could cut through with a screwdriver or at least a hole saw would have worked really well.
Once the hole is made I would suggest that you use epoxy to epoxy in a steel pipe which will also act as support for larger round holes.
Again a half inch hole through the mortar for a cable line is not going to be a problem just seal it with caulk but a larger hole either square or round can cause failure of the wall if not immediately then maybe many years later and a wall that has remained for 100+ years should be cared for delicately.
Once the hole is established you can attach your vent pipe as you see fit.
There are times when we need to retrofit our homes and the older the home often means the more difficult it is to retrofit. If your home was built before the 1960’s it could probably do with a complete electrical upgrade and a complete plumbing upgrade. The framing of the home and other features may be ok but prior to that time the materials used just were not up to today’s standards in any way. If you buy a home built after 1980 you can expect that some of the items may need replacing like a GFCI outlet or a Circuit Breaker Box but the wiring and plumbing should be standard and easily maintained.
These things are important to understand before you do any work on your home. In this home owner’s case they are likely to turn this project into something very expensive and the cost won’t be coming from the problem they think they have.
If it was my home or a friends I would suggest that they clean up the basement to a reasonable level and make it usable for laundry, storage and other uses before they ever consider this project. It will cost very little to skim their basement stone walls with concrete mortar to provide a nice appearance and install a drop ceiling if room allows it or paint the ceiling white to give a larger / higher feeling to the area.