Problems With Brick Veneer
Many homeowners love the look of a brick home but before buying or building one you should be aware of all the most common problems with brick veneer.
When you look at a brick home built in the last few decades, chances are what your seeing is brick veneer. Brick homes have been a standard in the building industry for years. In the past, brick was used as a structural material, but not any more. Modern homes use real brick or thin brick as a siding material. It’s a beautiful, rich look that’s hard to achieve with any other siding material. Nothing looks quite like a majestic brick home. And no other siding material is as maintenance free, long lasting and durable. However there are some common problems with brick veneer that you need to know about.
In this article we’ll answer all your most frequently asked questions about brick veneer including a bunch of useful info you may not even know to ask. So is brick the right product for your home’s exterior?
Brick Installation Problems
Brick veneer isn’t like other types of siding. When your using real brick veneer, each individual brick is stacked by hand, row after row, all with matching joint spacing. You could be looking at thousands of individual bricks on multiple sides of the house stacked two or even three stories tall. Not to mention all the detail work, corners and around windows and doors. Each row has to be perfectly level with matching joints or the whole job will look terrible. And this is on top of the foundation requirements and water mitigation concerns.
If your using thin brick veneer you’ll have different requirements but it’s no less a complicated job. Each brick must be stuck on the walls perfectly with matching spacing or again, the whole job will look really bad. And with thin brick you’ve got all sorts of water issues to avoid which will go over later in more detail.
By far the most common problems with brick veneer are caused by improper installation. It’s a technical job that requires a skilled bricklayer, not just a regular mason or DIY pro.
And worse than just a bad looking job is water damage. The number one cause of damage to a wood framed home is water. And since brick veneer is a masonry product it absorbs water like a sponge. That soaked brick sits right up against your wood house so if you don’t have a good water mitigation design you’ll eventually have rot, mold and mildew eating into your house.
There’s a common problem all over the country right now with this exact problem behind masonry siding like brick veneer, stone and especially stucco due to poor moisture protection.
Beautiful home with real brick veneer.
No Air Gap
Air flow behind a brick veneer wall is essential for dealing with moisture. Water is by far he number one cause of damage to both a wood framed home and a masonry wall. That why it’s so important to have a strategy for dealing with it. The air flow behind brick veneer accomplishes two main things.
- Air flow helps dry moisture soaked into the brick. The face side of the brick has plenty of air to help dry it out but the back doesn’t. That’s why we include a gap so air can flow on both sides of the brick which drys it evenly.
- Moisture soaked into the brick will drain out both sides, the face side and the back side which faces the house. You don’t want water draining into the house so with this design it drains into the gap so no water can touch the house.
If you make sure to include an air gap you can avoid one of the top problems with brick veneer which is water.
There are very different ways we include an air gap into the brick veneer design. Below we’ll detail both.
Real Brick Veneer
Brick veneer is not a good water barrier. Brick is a natural, porous material that absorbs water like a sponge. Moisture can pass right through a brick wall, especially with heavy wind driven rain beating against the bricks.
With real brick veneer including a one inch air gap between the brick and the exterior wall of the house is easy. You just stack the bricks an inch away from the house and leave a 1″ space. It’s important to leave some open holes that go right through the wall at the top and bottom of the brick veneer. These small holes allow for fresh air circulation. If you don’t have the holes air won’t be able to circulate properly which means your bricks won’t dry as well.
At the very bottom of the wall a plastic or metal flashing collects water as it runs down the brick and drains out through small weep holes. Weep holes should be spaced at approximately 32″ or every fourth brick. Also include weep holes and flashing above all your doors and windows to protect them from water.
You also need a vapor barrier attached to the sheathing of the home. If any water should get through the gap and onto the home it’ll be stopped by the vapor barrier. Typically this is a house wrap like Tyvek or Zip. Also make sure to flash around windows, doors and any other areas that need it.
Thin Brick Veneer
It’s extremely important to include moisture protection into your thin brick veneer design. A good vapor barrier between the brick and wood is essential. Unlike with real brick veneer you can’t stack the bricks with a 1″ gap because thin brick gets glued directly onto the wall. So in this case we use a material called a dimple mat. It’s a plastic material with a dimpled face that provides some space between the thin brick veneer and wall so air can flow.
The dimple mat gets nailed into the wood studs. Then the brick veneer is installed onto the mat. The dimple mat provides the same air gap as a real brick wall.
You should still staple a vapor barrier onto your sheathing before installing the dimple mat. Any water that penetrates the mat will be stopped by the vapor barrier.
It’s important when you use a dimple mat that you also include inlet and outlet holes to promote proper airflow. Cover the holes with a product that’s fibrous so air can flow through but thick enough that insects can’t. It works just like a roof’s ridge vent.
Thin Brick Veneer Is A Reservoir Cladding
Thin brick veneer is considered a reservoir cladding. It basically act as a sponge that’s right up against your house. In heavy rain thin bricks absorb a lot of water and all that moisture has to drain somewhere. If you don’t install proper drainage then you’ll end up with water damage because some of it can eventually drain into the house. This is a chronic problem that’s happening all over the United States with stucco that wasn’t installed properly and doesn’t have an air gap.
When a soaked thin brick veneer starts to dry, some of the water drains out the face and some out the back towards the house. It’s the water that’s draining toward the house that you have to deal with.
The reason air gaps are so important is that air flow on both sides of the material dries the brick quicker. That’s why it’s essential you install a dimple mat behind your thin brick with an inlet and outlet so air can freely flow.
The vapor barrier is another super important part of the install. Any water that still manages to get behind the thin brick veneer and dimple mat will hit the vapor barrier and drain down the wall and out the bottom.
Proper flashing is also an important element. Any water that hits the flashing will be kicked out and not allowed to pool.
All these water mitigation methods should all be used whenever you install a thin brick product against a wood framed wall.
Custom home with red brick veneer.
No Expansion Joints
This is another example of poor installation being one of the leading problems with brick homes.
Real brick walls have some amount of expansion during the first few years a wall is built. They’re also subject to some short term expansion and contraction due to exposure from the elements. Most bricks are designed so that an annual temperature differential of 100° F will allow for an expansion of approximately 5/8-inch in a 100′ long wall. To allow for this natural expansion and contraction you need expansion joints. They help prevent cracks and eventual water damage.
Keep in mind that expansion joints are for very long walls. Not all brick homes will need an expansion joint. A brick home with short wall spans probably won’t need them. Even large homes typically have architectural details that break up the walls into smaller sections which eliminates the need for expansion joints. However, if you have a home or building with long span brick walls then you should probably include them.
Expansion joints should be filled with a closed cell backer rod and then sealed with an approved sealant. Under no circumstances should expansion joints be filled with mortar or wood.
Expansion joints located near window or door openings can cause structural problems so it’s important to position them correctly.
An expansion joint is often referred to as a control joint. These same joists are included in most large scale masonry projects even if they’re on the ground. For example, concrete patios have control joints cut into them. Without these joints concrete can easily crack. The same is true with brick homes.
Brick walls are such a stiff way of building that any movement at all can create cracks in the brick or mortar joints.
No Brick Wall Ties
This is another one of the common problems with brick veneer and not thin brick.
Brick wall ties have been used since the 1800s. The ties used today are made of corrugated galvanized steel strips approximately 6-9/16 x 7/8″. One end of the tie is nailed through the sheathing into a stud, and the other end goes into the mortar joint.
Brick wall ties perform a few primary functions:
- Brick ties provide a connection between the home and brick
- They transfer some of the lateral loads which strengthens the wall
- In some cases they permit some in plane movement to allow for some differential movement
- They help prevent differential movement
You can’t see the brick ties once the wall is done, but you can tell if they were installed incorrectly or left out when you inspect the veneer. If a brick veneer wall moves even a little when you push on it or you see cracks in strange places it’s a sign of, missing, or failed ties.
You can repair a wall with missing ties with a product such as Simpson Heli-Tie.
When you inspect a new brick veneer wall, look for proper spacing, fastening and alignment of the ties. Brick ties have to be installed properly if you want them to perform well over time.
Red brick veneer with an improperly sloped flat window sill.
Improperly Sloped Window Sills
Pretty much every brick home has window sills, which is why this is such a common problem. If the sill isn’t pitched down and away from the house then water can collect or drain towards the house. Since water damage is such a huge problem for brick homes it’s very important to pitch your sills properly.
All your windows sills must be sloped slightly downward for proper drainage away from the window. This is true no matter what siding material you use but especially brick. Since bricks are such a porous material, if water doesn’t drain out immediately it can pool and absorb into the brick. From there moisture can pass right through the bricks and into the wall.
Window sills look nice but their primary function is to channel water away from the house and to cap the brick wall below the windows. We recommend around a 15-degree slope for all your window sills. It doesn’t take much slope, just make sure they’re not level or back pitched.
properly sloped window sills aren’t just about rain water. If you live in a cold climate, snow can pile up on the sill and freeze. In a really cold winter you could have frozen snow and ice packed on the sill for a months. As snow and ice melts you need that pitch to force water away from the house.
If your sills aren’t pitched right then water can seep into the house or against the sheathing. This can cause major house damage in the long run.
Using Improper Brick Mortar
Using the wrong type of mortar is a common issue with real brick and thin brick veneer. A lot of masons and contractors don’t even know there are different types of mortars for all sorts of applications let alone knowing which type to use and when. That’s why it’s so important to hire a professional brick layer whenever you work with brick.
Common mortar types for brick veneer include Types N, S, and M.
- Type N is almost exclusively used for above grade real brick walls unless another type is specified by the designer. We use type N for installing the bricks and filling joints.
- Type S is stronger and stickier than N which makes it better for thin brick. We use type N for filling thin brick joints.
- Type M is used for below grade work, such as for retaining walls.
Using the wrong mortar type is the most common cause of joint failure.
So why does mortar type matter. When mortar fails it causes cracks and cracks lead to water issues and structural wall failure. Water can seep into the cracks and get behind the brick and possibly even to the house. The most common type of damage to masonry and wood framed home is water so it’s imperative that you do everything possible to keep water out.
Bad Brick Joints
Brick joints are another one of the most common problems with brick homes. There can be thousands of joints on an all brick home and any one of them can cause a potential problem in the future. Each joint has to be filled with mortar during and after installation and then tooled into the correct shape. So there are two main issues here.
- If enough mortar isn’t used when your building the walls or if you use the wrong type then joints can be weakened or compromised.
- Improper filling of the brick joints after the bricks are installed can create voids which can eventually crack. They typically crack because the fill is too thin which means it’s weak. A joint should be completely filled solid without voids.
- Properly tooling the brick joint is also important not only for looks but also to help prevent water infiltration.
There are a few types of tools used to shape brick veneer joints. The three most common are the V-joint, concave, and weather joints. These three types provide the most weather resistance and are the ones we recommend and use on all of our brick jobs.
Bad brick joints are pretty easy to spot when your inspecting a brick home. Look for uneven joints. If the brick was done by a pro then all the joints will look uniform. You won’t be able to see voids during a home inspection but if all the tooling was done correctly it’s a safe bet they filled the gaps correctly too.
Another way to spot joint issues are cracks. If you see cracking then there’s a good chance you have voids too.
Bad joints are a sure fire way to spot an unprofessional installation.
Poor brick repointing that doesn’t match the other brick joints.
Brick Veneer Mortar May Eventually Need Repointing
While bricks are an extremely durable building material, the mortar used inside the joints, which is referred to as pointing, can become an issue.
Pointing isn’t as durable as the brick and can wear out over time due to the elements, especially when installed improperly. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to hire a professional brick layer for all your brick work and not just a regular mason. Laying brick is a specialty.
Repointing may eventually be needed. This involves gouging out the old damaged mortar and installing new. It’s a time consuming process and time is money. The major issue with repointing your brick is matching colors. The new mortar color will be hard to match with the old so if you don’t repoint the entire home you’ll see the new mortar. To help with this make sure you use the same type and color mortar as the old stuff. This way when the new mortar starts to age it’ll blend in with the old.
A mason can repoint bricks by removing a portion of old mortar and refilling the joints with new material. Repointing should be done by a qualified mason and can cost $2 to $5 per square foot.
Flashing Problems With Brick Veneer
Flashing problems with brick veneer are one of the most common issues we find with both real and thin brick walls. It can cause major water damage to the home if installed improperly or not at all. Flashing protects a home from water in ways and areas that a vapor barrier don’t Water protection is a combined effort and flashing plays a major role.
Flashing is a thin waterproof material that keeps water from getting into places it doesn’t belong. It provides an additional layer of protection around areas most prone to water penetration like windows and doors. This is in addition to other protective elements like a vapor barrier, membranes, sealant tapes and caulk. Proper flashing behind brick veneer is critical. Flashing isn’t expensive or hard to install but for some reason it’s commonly overlooked. This is mainly due to ignorance of what a big impact flashing has on preventing water damage.
Flashing a home is a gray area when it comes to brick veneer. Typically a siding company installs the wall flashing and vapor barrier but in this case your siding will be installed by a brick layer or mason. As a builder it’s our job to make sure they know where and how we want all the flashing installed.
All your flashing should be done prior to installing any brick.
Flashing that’s properly installed will last as long as the brick veneer.
We use a good quality metal or plastic flashing behind all of our brick veneer.
The top brick veneer flashing issues we encounter are:
Missing, poor quality or improperly installed flashing used on brick homes is a big problem and leads to all sorts of water issues. There are a variety of causes so we thought we’d list the most common.
- Improper installation. If the flashing is good quality and in the right place but isn’t installed correctly then it won’t stop water like it should. Make sure you double check all the window, door, vent, deck and chimney flashing because these are the most common problem areas. Proper flashing details and bends are critical to prevent moisture intrusion.
- Missing flashing. This is unfortunately more common than you might think. Especially around the knee walls and at roof and side wall junctions. Check the kick out flashing at the base of your brick walls because it’s an important part of diverting water away from the house.
- Lack of end damns. Installing end damns on your flashing is an important part of the system too so don’t overlook it. The lack of end dams in all horizontal flashing can cause water seepage into the walls.
- Poor quality. Bad flashing is another problem we find. Assuming you do everything right, if your flashing deteriorates in 5-10 years then it won’t do much to stop water from damaging your house.
Most builders have seen water stains on framing in attics next to chimneys and around windows, doors and vents. Bad or missing flashing is almost always the cause. It’s easily preventable when your building a new home but expensive to do later so make sure to do it right the first time.
Cracked brick veneer joints due to a failed metal lintel.
Bad Lintel Installation
Bad lintels are among the most common problems with brick homes.
Lintels are L-shaped steel supports or concrete beams that sit on top of openings in a brick wall. Bricks are stacked on top of the lintel so they need to be very strong. Think of lintels as a support beam for bricks. Lintels are sized according to the span and amount of weight that sits on top of them.
- A complete lack of lintels. Bricks can not span an opening by themselves without something to support them.
- Undersized lintels. If a lintel is too small or too weak to support the weight of the brick stacked on top then they could eventually fail.
- Improperly supported lintels. If the lintels aren’t supported well enough to hold the weight they support then they may fail.
- The lack of proper lintel painting. This only applies to metal lintels. Metal has to be properly protected or it’ll eventually rust and fail.
Lintels are required above even the smallest openings in brick walls. Small windows, pet doors, vents, foundation doors, etc. all require a lintel.
How To Spot Bad Lintels
The effects of an undersized lintel is easy to spot. When a lintel fails to support the brick above it you’ll get cracked bricks and sagging walls. For brick walls to stay strong they need a solid foundation to sit on and lintels are a big part of the system.
Lintels should be supported at least 4 inches on each side or the lintel can fail. Even if the lintel itself is the right size it still needs to be properly supported at both ends. If the supports holding up the lintel fail then the lintel will fail and so will all the bricks above it.
Metal lintels come from the factory with a red primer that prevents corrosion during shipping and installation. However this coating is not intended to withstand the elements once the lintel is installed. Without additional coating the lintel will rust and fail. We paint our lintels with a special metal paint before installing them and then again once they’re installed. The second coat is too make sure any dings or scratches that happen during installation are sealed.
- When you buy a brick home make sure your not missing any lintels and inspect them all carefully for damage, cracks, sagging or rust.
- If your building a new brick home make sure all your lintels are are the correct size and are all well supported at least 4″ on each side.
Luckily lintels aren’t that hard to fix if they get damaged but make sure to deal with any damage you find right away. Once the bricks on top of the lintel start cracking and sagging a small problem can quickly become a major issue. Especially once water starts seeping into those cracks.
Spalling damage and Efflorescence on brick veneer.
Brick Veneer Spalling
Another one of the common problems with brick homes is called spalling.
Although spalling is a common problem with brick homes, the good news is that it’s preventable. Brick spalling is the exfoliation or flaking of the outer surface of the brick. There are a few causes of spalling that we’ll list below:
- Water absorption and exposure to freeze thaw cycles
- Using the wrong mortar type
- Sandblasting your brick
- Improper cleaning techniques or cleaners
- Deterioration of the brick wall’s anchoring system
- Using poor quality brick
Minor spalling is mostly a cosmetic issue however excess amounts can cause structural problems with the wall.
Removal and replacement of the damaged bricks is the only way we know of that fixes the problem. It’s not that hard to remove some bricks and cement in new ones. The issue with replacing bricks is matching them. Finding bricks that match your old one’s perfectly isn’t easy and in some cases it’s impossible. And you’ll have the same problem when you replace the mortar.
If you can’t find matching bricks and mortar or the spalling is excessive you may have to replace all of the brick.
All bricks are porous and absorb water but cheap bricks are excessive. Because they’re not as dense as more expensive bricks water soaks into them faster and in greater amounts. When you buy or build a brick home make sure your bricks are good quality. Bricks can last for centuries if they’re made correctly while poor quality brick can fail in a decade or two.
Brick Veneer Efflorescence
Efflorescence is a white, powdery deposit of salt left on the brick’s surface after water evaporates. It’s a common a problem that’s effected brick veneer for years. And it can occur in both a real and thin brick walls.
In order for efflorescence to occur, there needs to be moisture that dissolves and transports salt onto the brick’s surface. When you use a really dense brick there’s less chance of efflorescence because water runs off the brick’s surface before it has a chance to absorb and then dissolve. It’s more of a problem with cheaper brick veneer that’s more porous.
When salt water in the brick evaporates it leaves the salt behind. When humidity is low, water can evaporate before reaching the surface leaving salt deposits beneath the surface where it’s unseen. However when humidity is high, any water evaporation will be much slower which creates a higher chance for efflorescence to form.
Efflorescence tends to increase after a very wet winter and decreases in the spring. By summer it generally will disappear altogether. Unfortunately, this cycle can recur for years.
Salts are carried to the surface of the brick by moisture and capillary action. The amount of salt deposited varies depending on climate, humidity and how porous the brick veneer is.
Brick veneer efflorescence has been around for a long time and academics have been studying the issue. The studies all seem to agree that efflorescence originates from more than one source, and may be made up of more than one compound.
The good news is simple cleaning is usually sufficient to deal with the salt and you can all but avoid it by using good quality bricks.
Poorly Painted Brick Veneer
Another one of the common problems with brick veneer is a bad paint job. And these issues can apply to both real and thin brick veneer.
Exterior brick veneer walls can be painted. However the type of paint you use is critical. If the paint doesn’t have the proper permeability rating (ability to breathe), it will trap moisture inside the bricks. As we’ve already discussed a number of times throughout this article, water is the leading cause of problems with brick veneer. The last thing you want to do is seal in moisture, especially if there isn’t a good vapor barrier and air gap behind the brick. If the moisture can’t drain out of the brick’s face then it’ll have no choice but to drain towards the house.
Another common issue with sealed in moisture is bubbling. Any moisture locked inside the brick veneer will try to get out which can cause bubbling all over the paint’s surface.
Keep in mind that brick veneer is generally a low maintenance siding material however when you paint it that changes. Anything painted will eventually need to be re-painted to preserve the look.
Poor brick veneer repair job done with bricks that don’t match.
Bad Brick Veneer Repair Jobs
It’s just as important to hire a professional to repair your brick as it is when you install it. Poor brick repairs are some of the most common problems with brick veneer that we find. Let’s look at repair issues with real brick vs brick veneer separately.
Real Brick Repair Issues
Repairing real brick veneer takes just as much skill as laying it new. That’s probably why most brick repairs we see are poorly done. From tuck pointing to replacing broken bricks, the lack of craftsmanship is apparent.
When done incorrectly, tuck-pointed mortar joints can result in water penetration at the poorly repaired joints.
Larger areas requiring brick replacement should include through wall reinforcement of the veneer using a product like Simpson’s Heli-Tie.
Aside from the structural repair issues there are also cosmetic ones. Every effort should be made to match the replaced brick and mortar to the old. If you don’t use matching brick and mortar then the new work will stand out like a sore thumb. Finding a matching brick is a little easier but mixing the perfect mortar color takes skill.
Make sure to also tool your mortar joints in the exact same way as the old joints.
Problems With Thin Brick Veneer Repair
Thin brick veneer is a little easier to replace than real brick. This is mainly due to how easy it is to pull a thin brick off and glue in a new one. Since the bricks aren’t structurally stacked on top of one another you won’t damage the surrounding bricks when you pull a thin brick out. Even if you have to replace dozens of bricks it doesn’t effect the surrounding bricks.
The main issue with bad brick veneer repairs are due to the mortar. It’s easy enough to order some replacement bricks as long as they make them but mixing the perfect shade of mortar takes skill. The mortar should match the old as close as possible and be tooled in the same way or the repaired areas will stand out.
What do you do it you can’t order matching thin bricks? You make them. Thin bricks are cut from real, solid bricks, so if you can’t find a matching thin brick then find a matching solid brick and cut it to size. If you can’t find anything that matches then you have a decision to make. Either use some mismatching bricks or replace them all.
If you decide to use mismatching brick then we recommend removing a bunch of good bricks and then weaving the new bricks periodically into the design rather than using them all in one place. If you include some different bricks here and there all over the wall it’ll look like you intended to use two different bricks as part of your veneer design.
Improperly Cleaned Bricks
Both real and thin brick veneer is an extremely low maintenance siding. However some cleaning should periodically be done. When it’s time to clean your bricks you should only do it with cleaning materials that are safe to use on bricks. Damaged caused to brick due to improper cleaning methods is another one of the most common problems with brick veneer.
The most common we see are with power washers and the use of acid washes. If performed improperly, both methods can result in the weakening or complete removal of the hardened outer surface created by the original firing. The consequences can be soft bricks that can’t withstanding moisture penetration which can result in spalling.
Pressure washers turned up to high can also cause damage to brittle or cracked brick and mortar. Generally we recommend cleaning brick with a pressure no more than a standard garden hose. If the pressure is too high to put your hand in then it’s too much for the brick.
If your scrubbing your brick with a brush use a soft or medium bristle and don’t use too much pressure. You could damage brittle or cracked areas.
How To Keep Your Brick Veneer Clean
While brick homes are low maintenance and last for generations, regular cleanings are important if you want them looking their best.
No matter what shade, style or size brick you’ve got, if the bricks and mortar are dirty or have green mold growing all over them, then eventually you’ll have to clean them.
Brick and mortar both suffer from some of the same issues when it comes to cleaning. They’re both porous and prone to collecting dirt which leads to issues with mold growth. Especially on the sides of the house that don’t get much sun. Below, we’ll give you some links to our favorite cleaning products. Even though brick and mortar are both considered maintenance free they still require cleaning every now and then.
Brick And Mortar Cleaning Tips
- Clean your brick siding by spraying its surface with a regular garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle. A pressure washer isn’t recommended unless you turn the power way down. High water pressure can damage older brick and mortar joints. If the water pressure is uncomfortable to put your hand into then it’s set too high.
- Remove efflorescence, chalk like stains that develop on brick exposed to high levels of moisture and humidity, with full strength white vinegar. Spray the stains, wait 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse with plain water from the hose.
- Use a good quality brick and mortar cleaner. They do a great job of cleaning the bricks and are easy to use. Just be sure to read the directions carefully.
- Scrubbing hard to clean areas of the brick is important and easy to do. Make sure to use a a brush with soft bristles as hard scrubbing can damage brittle brick or mortar. Scrub gently.
Our Top Brick And Mortar Cleaning Products
A really good pressure washer cleaner that works great for both brick and mortar.
If you don’t have a power washer this is the next best thing. All you need is a hose.
A stronger cleaner that works well on brick and comes with a splay nozzle. Does not require pressure.
A good cleaning brush with long extension handle will come in handy for cleaning hard to reach areas.
Brick Work Is Expensive Due To High Labor Costs
Although the bricks themselves are fairly cheap it’s still an expensive material to work with because of the high labor costs involved. A high cost is one of the more common problems with brick veneer. Because brick veneer is expensive to build and repair, many people try to save money by skimping on skilled labor, good quality bricks or the proper water barriers.
Brick veneer is generally more expensive than other home siding products, such as vinyl siding, fiber cement, stucco, metal or wood. Especially as you install the bricks higher on the house. Scaffolding needs to be built and ways of delivering the bricks and mortar to those high heights needs to be worked out. Not to mention hiring skilled brick layers. It’s a lot harder to do than just nailing lengths of vinyl siding to the wall.
When it comes to building brick homes, use only top quality bricks. You can buy less expensive bricks that are more porous but they’re not as good for exterior use. Extremely porous bricks can eventually lead to water penetrations and cracking when water gets inside the bricks and freezes. A good quality, dense brick is what you should use for the exterior of a home. If your buying a home with brick make sure you inspect the brick to make sure it’s of good quality.
Even if the brick is old, a good quality old brick will last longer than a poor quality new one.
Brick Veneer Has Color Limitations
One of the common problems with brick veneer are the color limitations.
Bricks do come in a variety of colors but choices are limited when compared to siding or stucco. Especially when compared with wood or fiber cement siding that’s painted as these types have thousands of color options. A brick’s color depends on it’s composition and the temperature at which they were made. Once a brick’s been created the color is baked in and can never be changed unless you paint them.
Because bricks come from a mix of clay and shale, your color options are limited. Some color is added into the mix during production but generally speaking most of your choices will be an earthy shade of red, brown, white or gray.
A shifting foundation can cause cracked bricks.
Brick Veneer Foundation Issues
This is an issue that effects both real and thin brick veneer.
Because brick veneer is so solid, any movement in the foundation causes cracks throughout the brick. This is why it’s crucial to build a brick home on a super stable foundation. On most homes this isn’t a problem, but in some areas with bad, sandy or shifting soil, it can be an issue.
Brick homes are not designed to withstand shifts very well. That’s not to say that shifting home or settling foundation is a good thing for any type of siding, you just won’t see it as much or possibly at all. Vinyl siding is designed to have some flex to it so generally you don’t even notice if the foundation moves other than cracks in the foundation itself. Wood is also by nature a flexible material however other stiff siding types like fiber cement, metal or stucco will have similar cracking issues like brick.
Ensure that your home’s foundation is on solid ground. In older homes and those with foundation issues, settling and movement can crack brick and mortar joints. Reduce the risk of foundation movement by installing gutters and downspouts that direct water away which prevents pooling around the foundation. Water is the number one cause of foundation damage we see and it’s generally an easy thing to prevent.
Remodeling Is More Difficult With Brick
If you want to remodel a brick home at some point then it can be more difficult than it is with other types of siding. This is mainly due to how hard it’ll be to match the brick and mortar. The last thing you want with an addition is for it to look tacked on to the house. They should appear totally natural as if they were always there from the start. Brick is a natural material made from a mixture of shale and clay with some color added. It’ll be hard to find a brick that matches exactly unless they were all made from the same batch.
Another issue will be blending the new brick perfectly into the old. You’ll most likely have to cut some of the old brick and weave the new into the old. A good brick layer can do it but it’s harder and more time consuming than installing some siding.
Yet another issue is due to the mortar. Matching brick is hard enough but don’t forget you’ll also have to match the mortar.
Keep in mind that all this is a challenge but it’s not impossible. We weave old brick into new all the time. Just be prepared to do some additional work which costs time and money.
Summary: Common Problems With Brick Veneer?
Brick veneer is a beautiful look that’s maintenance free, extremely durable, lasts decades longer than any other form of siding and is proven to increase home value, if it’s done in the right way. But But both real and thin brick veneer have benefits and drawbacks.
Generally speaking, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful brick veneer, but you should be informed on all the most common problems so you can avoid them.
If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time.