Brick homes are one of the most common and attractive types of homes in Canada. They offer charming curb appeal and come in many different patterns, colours and styles. Today, many newer-style homes use stone veneers as an accent. Masonry is the brick or stonework on your home. Thanks to Canadian weather, your masonry is exposed to elements that can lead to damage over time.
It’s always a good idea to pay attention to the brick and stonework on your house so you can look for signs of damage and act early. If not, your damaged masonry eventually leads to costly repairs down the road. Here is some relevant information about bricklaying and the most common warning signs your masonry may need replacing.
Brick Laying 101
Historically, brick houses were built using several layers or “wythes” of brick walls stacked back to back. However, because this was costly, this method of house building changed over time. Today, brick homes use a brick veneer wall which acts more as a decorative element. However, when brick is installed, it still has structural elements that must be installed by an experienced mason.
The single wythe brick or stone installation is placed on top of the house’s foundation which is called the brick ledge. It is then separated from the wood structure with an air gap and holes that are purposefully left so water can “weep”, making its way down the wall and out above the grade to avoid water damage.
This is the most important element of brick wall installation as water damage is costly and can affect your home’s structure over time. Brick can be laid in many different configurations to create very distinct patterns. This pattern is called the bond. In general, brick tends to be laid in what’s called a running bond. Bricks are staggered vertically so they are not stacked one on top of the other directly, in order to enhance the wall’s strength. However, many modern designs use a stack bond, with bricks perfectly aligned. This is not as common because it actually makes the wall weaker.
Inspect the brick on your house and see if there are any areas that look like the wall is caving in or sticking out compared to the rest of the wall. If moisture gets in behind the brick, it becomes “bowed”. When moisture gets into concrete it leads to warping that forces the brick outwards. When the wood or plaster that the brick is protecting gets wet it softens and causes the bricks to sink. The only fix here is to have a mason remove the bricks, look at the damage below, and repair the area to remove moisture and protect your outer wall.
Cracks At The Corners
If you have vertical cracks in the corner of your house near the foundation it could be due to your house expanding naturally. This is not concerning if they look like they are about +/- 30 degrees from the foundation of the house. However, these cracks can let water leak in which can lead to the bulging brick mentioned above. So when you see cracks that seem troublesome, it’s always best to consult with a masonry expert to assess the situation and make recommendations that will avoid damage to your inner wall.
Bricks Are Compacted
Compacted brick is any brick that is cracked, bowed or misshapen. When bricks compact, they allow holes to form, which in turn leads to leaks going through to your inner wall. However, it just takes one compacted brick to start a domino effect across the wall. The compression causes pressure issues to adjacent bricks, so the entire wall’s integrity starts to fail. The sooner you spot the compacted bricks, the easier the replacement and repair. It’s always easier to replace a brick or two than contend with an entire wall of bricks, or worse damage caused to the inner wall.
Spalling refers to bricks that look like they are chipping. This can occur at the shelf angle which is installed behind rows of bricks. This is serious because the shelf angle helps carry the weight of the bricks and the ground. If something compromises the shelf angle, everything above it is in trouble because the chipping occurs when the shelf angle is corroding.
It starts to lose strength, so the weight starts to damage the bricks and mortar. Having a masonry expert take a look as soon as possible is a must in this situation. They will replace the bricks before further damage can occur. However, if you wait too long the shelf angle will also have to be replaced. This process gets very costly.
Brick discolouration, especially white staining, is called efflorescence. The white on the bricks means there is soluble salt coming out of the concrete and brick. It is caused by constant exposure to the elements, and in the best case scenario, it can be removed with a good pressure washing. However, when left too long, it takes special chemicals to remove the white.
Mortar deterioration affects the buffer and sealant used between the bricks. When it is damaged, the mortar slowly begins to disintegrate and becomes loose and falls out. Eventually, the bricks also loosen and can become damaged and warp. All of these issues mean you need to replace the mortar and/or bricks depending on the extent of the damage.
As mentioned, it’s all about spotting damage early so you can avoid damage caused to the inner wall when water and moisture get in behind the brick. The mortar can be reinforced using techniques such as tuckpointing. An expert mason can easily chip out the old mortar and replace it with new mortar to reseal everything and keep the wall intact. Tuckpointing also helps maintain the original look of your brickwork, which is especially important if your home is historical. If you wait too long, the whole wall might need rebuilding.
As you can see, spotting masonry damage early is the best way to avoid costly repairs down the road. Get in touch with us and request a quote today.