Brick houses built since the early 1970’s are generally brick veneer over wood framing (or steel). A brick veneer wall does not carry the load of the structure; the house is holding up the brick. With brick veneer walls we are only using one wythe of brick.
The brick veneer is constructed from the foundation up and is attached to the wall studs with corrosion-resistant metal ties embedded in mortar or grout and extending into the veneer a minimum of 1½ inches, with not less than 5/8 inch mortar or grout cover to outside face. These ties are crimped accordion style, to allow them to expand and contract with the wooden frame and keep them from cracking the brick veneer.
An air space of about 1 inch is left behind the brick veneer to allow water passing through the brick to run down the wall. This water exits through the bottom row of brick through weep holes which are openings which have a maximum spacing of 33” on center. Weep holes also allow the pressure to balance with the masonry walls. Weep holes shall not be less than 3/16 inch in diameter. Weep holes shall be located immediately above the flashing. Weep holes are located along the top of the foundation and can also be located above doors and windows.
An approved corrosion-resistant flashing shall be applied shingle fashion in a manner to prevent entry into the wall cavity or penetration of water to the building’s structural framing components. The flashing also runs beneath the brick and up the wall to prevent this water from reaching the foundation.
A home inspector can easily identify the signs of problems in brick veneer. Weep holes can become blocked and not allow water to exit from behind the bricks, leading to deterioration of the brick and mortar. Additionally, brick ties can be improperly installed or loosened over time, and the veneer can separate from the wall. Separation or detachment from the wall is the most important thing to inspect for with brick veneer. Looking along window and door openings, you might see the lean of detached veneer, meaning more brick shows at the top than at the bottom. A detaching veneer may have a decided bow to it or can show signs of cracking as it pulls loose and separates from the house.
As with solid brick walls, the home inspector should examine the wall for cracking in the brick and deterioration of brick and mortar. Examine weep holes in the lower course of bricks in the veneer to be sure they are open as water behind the wall cannot escape if weep holes are blocked. Often times there is brick veneer on only a portion of the house, so be sure to check areas where the veneer meets other surfaces.
Kristin is the Marketing Director at AHIT. She has authored content for numerous real estate brands, and managed corporate communications for a public real estate company. She is passionate about the home inspection and real estate industries, and loves digging into research to provide insights that empower home inspectors and real estate agents in their businesses.