Most of you probably slept right through it (the quake), Yes – we usually do.

Most of you probably slept right through it (the quake), Yes – we usually do.

That’s right, we usually do, or other wise not notice because we’re driving or otherwise in motion. Yeah, I’m talking about last night’s earthquake.

 I’m usually one of those who ‘miss’ it but last night was the exception. I experienced a 10 second pulse of shaking that left no doubt as to what it was.

Some people heard a bang and some experienced just shaking. If you or your property is on rocky ground or bedrock you’d have heard the bang more. If your house sits on clay you’d have been shaken longer and heard less noise. Those on higher floors do sometimes feel more motion, depending on the type of structure.

 As a Montreal home and property inspector I have to tell you that whether or not you noticed it, your house surely did. You may have some wall or basement cracks appear, existing cracks open and close, or there may be no noticeable effects at all.

 I often get asked if basement cracks are structural and what the cause might be. Same thing for wall cracks in 1950s built homes.

Last night we experienced a rare occurrence (thankfully) that does cause this type of cracking.

 If you have a crack in concrete or masonry that has opened more than a pencil thickness, or has one side moved (in-out, up-down) compared to the other side then you should have it evaluated by a professional like me.

 1950s built homes with plaster-gypsum lath walls are rigid and inflexible. They crack easily. Hairline cracking is common.

 But if your walls are joint taped gyproc (i.e. drywall) and you have a new crack after last nights quake then that is more significant because this system already allows some movement.

Call or email me if you have any doubt or concerns.


Robert Butler 514 914 1249,


N.B.   The quake occurred in the fault line (system) that is responsible for the straight north south axis of the Richelieu River.  Most major rivers have such fault lines associated with them.


Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

The Twisted Fix To Real Victorian Smokers………………………Answer To Mimi’s Question.

The Twisted Fix To Real Victorian Smokers………………………Answer To Mimi’s Question.


Victorian homes had multi-faceted high steep pitched roofs.

The Problem: This created downdraft problems for many of the chimneys. They would release smoke into the house and make house keeping cleaning a real chore.

One solution for this was to extend the height of the chimneys and this meant tall thin, usually freestanding, chimneys from the roof up to heights near to, if not exceeding the ridge of the roof.

This worked mostly, but the right (or wrong) weather conditions would cool these chimneys and cause thermal inversions and make them sometimes hard to light and also drafty. In some of these old homes most of the significant rooms had a fireplace.

Additionally they were subject to weather damage and were dangerous or more difficult to build (read costly). Being thinner (in general) they cooled more easily so they had condensation problems, which manifested itself as creosote buildup (increased risk of chimney fires) and more maintenance repairs.

The Fix: So architects and builders tried to incorporate the chimneys in the body of the roof as much as possible. The optimum plan allowed a chimney to rise to near the ridge and emerge with only the last few feet exposed to the elements. 

This worked very well, kept the chimney from excessive cooling, maintenance was relatively low and there were minimal draft problems. Great, but not all floor plans would allow this with straight chimneys. 

The Twist: Then the ‘offset flue’ construction of chimneys came about as a way to get the chimney to exit the roof as close to the optimal location as could be achieved. This was achieved by stepping off the successive layers of brick by small increments per layer.

Some referred to this a corbelling and structurally it is closer to cantilevering but here the weight of the masonry above counterbalances the overhang. As any toddler who’s played with blocks can tell you, there are limits as to how far you can go.

The physical realities limit how far the offsets can move the chimney and extended offsets also re-introduced draft problems as well. Fire regulations also limited the number of turns, lengths of runs and combinations of flues in a given chimney body.

So architects and the masonry trade soon learned to work within a well defined set of rules for successful application of this technique.

Look for gradual turns and smaller lateral displacements in proportion to the height rise.

If you have concerns consult with a specialist. ( A chimney sweep, a master mason, or a WETT certified technician. WETT = Wood Energy Transfer Technology.)





This article was written by Robert Butler to answer a comment question from a previous article. ;

  Mimi’s QuestionI have a question.  I specialize in Victorian homes.  Many times in the attic the brick chimney stack is a little twisted between the attic floor and the exit at the roof line.  Any idea why they did that?  The first few times I thought it was the same drunken mason, but it is too consistent, and I have always wondered why.







Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

E D , Erectile Dysfunction……………………………An OMG File.

E D , Erectile Dysfunction……………………………An OMG File.

chimney photo

Not what you were expecting?  Well neither was I.

I was inspecting the roof with the black shingles, sighting down the soffit for gutter slope when I did a double take on this chimney. O.M. G. indeed.

It took a few moments to realize how this got to be that way. It’s obvious that maintenance repointing has been done.

And it’s equally obvious that it was a DIY mason, likely the home owner. And this erectile dysfunction came about as the homeowner DIY mason has a well developed respect for heights (read fear of heights).

Either that or a ladder that only gave him access to the roof. This curve took some time to develop from multiple repointing repairs over time. The more easily accessible from the roof side got better attention and joints were kept filled (maybe overfilled), while those on the harder to teach out side got less repair and compressed.

On the other direction (90 degree view) there is no curvature evident. From this I can deduce that the mason was right handed. He could reach the sides facing us and facing away with his right hand, and of course the side to the left from our view point.

But the right side would have been hard to reach with his right hand, because he would be too close to the open roof edge on his distaff side. Anybody nervous or hyper aware of the height would rather use their left had and stand more securly in from the roof edge. The left handed work would be less dexterous and repairs maybe less frequent than otherwise.

A clear case of bias wouldn’t you think.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post