Brick is a very popular type of exterior finish for homes these days. Not only does brick look good, but when installed properly it can last over a hundred years with very little maintenance. Unfortunately, some builders don’t pay close attention to the details when installing common brick veneer which can cause major issues that may not show up for years. Here are some of the more common problems that occur with brick veneer that can easily be avoided with some attention to detail.
Common Brick Veneer Problems in Homes
- Space Between Brick and House – A space is required between the brick and the surface of the house framing. This allows any water that gets behind the brick to drain down the drainage plane of the house. It’s a common problem for masons to carelessly drop excess mortar down into this space while laying the brick. Inspections performed while the brick is installed should check to make sure the one inch space is kept clear.
- Weep Holes – As this water trapped between the house sheathing and the brick gets down toward the bottom of the exterior wall, it needs a place to escape to the exterior. Weep holes are small holes intentionally left at the bottom of the brick wall to allow the moisture to escape from behind the wall. If the weep holes are left off or get blocked with soil or mulch, water can be trapped and make its way back into the home, damaging critical framing components.
- Wall Ties – The brick on the face of a home is stacked on top of a foundation and as noted above, a space is left between the house framing and the brick. This leaves the brick without any lateral support. Brick ties are galvanized strips that are nailed to the sheathing of the house on one end and embedded into the mortar joints of the brick wall on the other end. These wall ties spaced regularly along the wall, provide critical lateral support to the brick wall. Without the proper number of wall ties, the brick can become unstable and start to move, crack and possibly fall. Check with your local building department to see what the local code is for spacing of brick wall ties.
- Horizontal Surfaces – Because brick is porous, it’s important to allow water to quickly run off of the surface. Standing water will eventually make its way through…and this is not a good thing. So all horizontal surfaces of brick, including window ledges, need to be pitched away from the home to allow the rainwater to flow off. Flat or back-pitched brick surfaces can allow water to enter the home.
- Mortar Types – Mortar is the glue that holds the brick veneer wall together. It is critical to use the right type of mortar for new home construction. The three major types of mortar are type N, M, and S. Type N is usually used above grade for brick veneer on the facade of a home.
- Flashing – Flashing is used whenever two dissimilar materials come together. An example would be where brick is located above windows or doors or when brick is located on the bottom half of a wall and siding is above. The main purpose of flashing is to prevent rainwater from getting back behind the brick. One common problem with flashing when installed is the lack of end dams. Flashing above a window that does not have dams at the ends of the flashing will allow water to flow down the sides and into the home.
- Washing – Although brick is a tough material that can last for many decades with little maintenance, it’s important to avoid damaging it when cleaning. Back in the old days masons used a solution of muriatic acid to clean excess mortar that got onto the brick face during installation. This practice is rarely used any more as it can damage the integrity of many modern brick types. Not to mention that damage the acid can cause to other materials on the home (think concrete, siding, wood trim…etc.) It’s also important to be careful when using power washers of any kind. A stream that is too intense can breakdown the surface of the brick veneer.
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