Most greystone buildings in Chicago were probably built between 1890 and 1915. Most bungalows were probably being built in the 1920s. Together, these two major sources of basic Chicago-style housings are each at the 100-year-plus level. Thus, maintenance is not optional, but obligatory.
I know what deterioration can do to a building. Last year before I had my house tuckpointed, on the south side of the building, the bricks started to crumble and the damage section was about 3 feet wide. My guess is that my neighbor’s house, which has a flatter roof, had splattered water against my bricks during major rainstorms. But no matter the source of the damage, it cannot be ignored. My tuckpointer removed a lot of the bricks with the white fluorescent coating, and installed brand new brick. I also saw where the front face bricks were being pulled away from the common brick of the side. The gap was about an inch wide, but it was also where no gap should be. Again he filled in that space and I must admit, my house was warmer this past winter because there was less space for cold air to get through.
So hearing reports that the front porch of a greystone building located in the 3400 block of West Jackson Boulevard had collapsed was absolutely horrific news. But it also points to the fact that when maintenance is required on a building, delaying it can have devastating results.
Now that spring is here, every homeowner should go out and walk the entire circumference of their property. The purpose is to visually inspect and access what damage winter has done, if any. One of the most important areas to take note of is where the gutters downspouts are located. Many of them had water freeze on the outside of them. And the pressure from that frozen water could have damaged some of the brick. It’s also a good idea to take pictures. Pictures can allow for a closer inspection for heights and places that are out of reach.
It’s also a good idea to keep a journal of what repairs one has done to the house. Using modern technology, that journal can be a set of pictures of the work. Pictures can have both dates and times on them.
I know finding good contractors is always a concern. But there are groups online that are excellent for getting recommendations from others. I know there’s a bungalow group on Facebook. I hope there would be one for greystone buildings as well. Networking with others is a good way to find contractors, especially when you see people having work done on their houses.
The last thing anybody in their right mind would want to do is ask the city to inspect their property because the city would have to document that inspection. And if you have violations, it would go on record.
But no matter what, delaying repairs that are immediately needed can have devastating results like what happened on Jackson Boulevard.