Back in August there was a good discussion on whether or not to paint brick houses.
My recently (and expensively) learned advice is – if your house is painted, you really have to check the paint. Even if it looks alright, it only takes a minor flaw to cause trouble – in this case, water seepage through the brick resulting in a damp basement.
My house was painted before I bought it, probably about 10 years ago. The paint still looked good – no flaking, crumbling etc. There was no indication of dampness in the basement apt. No damp feel, no smell, no mold, no damp or warped floor or baseboards etc. But when the tenants moved and took down a large mirror we found a faint discoloration on the wall – 2 vertical stripes the width of the insulation.
I tore out the wall and found the insulation slightly damp and 4 studs showing water stains on the side that touches the exterior brick wall. After 2 contractors spent a good hour examining every possibility, we climbed out on the roof and saw that there were just enough wear in the paint high up by the roof line that a heavy rain was causing water to “slip” in between the paint and the brick wall. Then the paint at the bottom of the wall had been acting like an envelope, trapping the water and letting it seep through the mortar.
Lucky we found it in time to avoid real damage – but big lesson learned about painted brick! Again – the flaws in the paint at the top of the wall were only visible from the roof and even then seemed very insignificant.”