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Question
Hi. My husband and I have been given a piece of property that has a old house on it. It WAS two single wide trailers, with a porch added, and bricked up. We're building a new house with pretty much nothing but the sweat off our brows and recycled materials. I've been researching the topic of natural building, and recycled building for a while. My question is: is it safe to gut this thing and start over with the skeleton of bricks? Aside from common sense building supports back up on the inside, are there other things we need to consider? what are your thoughts... thanks for your time!

Answer
Bonnie, I admire your intentions and ambitions.  If I understand what you are thinking, I hate to give you bad news.  Brick work like you describe is NOT freestanding, it is only standing because of the structure to which it is tied.

Typical brick veneer starts with a foundation of some type to carry the weight.  This is usually concrete about 1 foot wide or more, often below ground level. As the bricks are laid, they are tied to the wall behind them every few feet with brick ties set in the mortar and well fastened to the structure.

If the bricks are in good condition and the mortar is the correct consistency, they can often be reclaimed by chipping the mortar off.  If the mortar had too much Portland in the mix, they can be very difficult to clean.  I don't see a good way to cut the existing ties loose to remove the existing walls, and I really don't see much way to do a reasonable installation of new walls with sheathing and water/damp proofing and securing the ties to the new walls.  

I know this is not what you wanted to hear.  I wish you good luck on your venture and I hope this has helped you understand a bit of the building process.

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Dan Griffin

Expertise

I can answer almost all questions related to the total construction process. My expertise is in commercial construction, though I can field most any residential question. I have hands on experience in concrete, heavy equipment, masonry, all phases of carpentry, interior finishes, and I am fairly strong in mechanical and electrical.

Experience

I have over 20 years experience as a commercial carpenter and commercial construction superintendent. I have another 20 years experience in facility management for a major school district.

Organizations
My favorite hobby for he past 12 years has been singing bass in a The OkChorale men's barbershop chorus and the Mature Moments quartet.

Education/Credentials
I hold a Bachelor's degree in English and Math. I have completed many continuing education hours in the building trades. I hold a Master Carpenter card from the AGC, Associated General Contractors.

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