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Brick wall frost damage (C) Daniel FriedmanBrick wall damage & repair
Bulged, Cracked, Loose, Spalled Structural Brick Building Wall Diagnosis & Repair

  • BRICK STRUCTURAL WALLS LOOSE, BULGED - CONTENTS: How to Identify Brick Veneer Walls versus Structural Brick Walls. Types of damage to brick structures; how damaged brick structures are repaired. Definition of brick bond courses; examples of water & frost damage to brick walls; rust damage to brick walls at steel lintels or reinforcement; masonry & brownstone lintel damage; brick tuckpointing.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the difference between a brick veneer wall & a structural brick wall & the significance of this difference when understanding cracks in brick buildings
  • REFERENCES
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Brick wall damage assessment & repair:

This article explains types of damage to structural brick walls. We explain how to recognize, diagnose, & evaluate movement and cracks in brick walls and how to recognize brick wall bowing or bulging and cracking failures. Our page top photo shows water and frost damage to a building in Poughkeepsie, NY.

The author's hand and fingers are "measuring" the air space between brick wythes. In this case bulging of the outer brick wythes have opened up the air space beyond its original design. The wall, or portions of it are un-stable and at serious risk of collapse.

Types of foundation cracks, crack patterns, differences in the meaning of cracks in different foundation materials, site conditions, building history, and other evidence of building movement and damage are described to assist in recognizing foundation defects and to help the inspector separate cosmetic or low-risk conditions from those likely to be important and potentially costly to repair.



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How to Identify Structural Brick Walls vs Veneer Walls

Flemish Bond courses in brick wall Hudson NY (C) Daniel FriedmanArticle Series Contents

[Click to enlarge any image]

Brick Wall Types: Structural vs Veneer

Structural brick wall damage and interior view (C) Daniel Friedman Steel tie rod reinforcement for structural brick wall (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

Definition of structural brick walls

A "structural brick wall" is one that contributes to the support of the structure. Its multiple brick wythes give width and strength to the wall and are usually separated by an air space of about an inch to form a thicker, more dry wall.

The wythes are tied or joined together at intervals by bond courses of brick laid across the wythes to connect them, or by steel fasteners or wire mesh or other means. The wythes of brick are separated by an air space both for wall width dimensioning and for drainage (brick masonry cavity walls).

A structural brick wall is built to actually support the building floors and roof. At a minimum a structural brick wall is comprised of at least two wythes of brick bonded together by bricks placed crosswise in the wall or by metal fasteners.

The wythes of brick are separated by an air space both for wall width dimensioning and for drainage (brick masonry cavity walls). We illustrate the properties of structural brick walls below at Structural Brick Wall Construction Details.

Our photo (left) shows a water-damaged structural wall that was supporting an exterior porch. Thanks to an opening in this brick wall where bricks have fallen out due to water damage, you can see the air space between the wythes of brick. A bond course is also visible at the top course of bricks in the photo.

This is a two-wythe structural brick wall that was supporting the porch.

A "structural brick wall" is one that contributes to the support of the structure. Its multiple brick wythes give width and strength to the wall and are usually separated by an air space of about an inch to form a thicker, more dry wall. The wythes are tied or joined together at intervals by bond courses of brick laid across the wythes to connect them, or by steel fasteners or wire mesh or other means. Some structural masonry walls may be faced with brick (a brick veneer) that actually covers masonry block, stone, or even structural clay products.

Referring to our photo above once again, other porch designs more often support the porch floor with piers or columns even if a brick wall was built to enclose the under-porch space. In those structures the brick wall may not be itself, contributing to the support of the structure and hence, not "structural".

Definition of wythe or brick wythe

  1. Each continuous vertical section of masonry one unit in thickness
  2. The thickness of masonry separating flues in a chimney - Masonry Design Manual

If you look at a brick masonry wall, one brick thickness of the wall is one wythe. A brick veneer wall constructed using full-dimension bricks will be one brick wythe in thickness (of the veneer). The total wall thickness will include the veneer wythe plus the thickness of the wall structure itself.

Definition of brick (or other masonry) veneer walls

Brick wall weep holes below grade (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesA true veneer wall of brick or stone is not a supporting structure. Rather it's a brick (or stone) "skin" or brick facing that is secured to the building (anchored brick veneer on wood frame construction) to give the appearance of a brick or stone building.

Definition of brick veneer:

A brick veneer is a single wythe of masonry for facing purposes, not considered as contributing to the structural value of the wall or surface.

See Masonry Design Manual in the REFERENCES section of this article.

Sketches of brick veneer walls (above) and structural brick walls (below) are courtesy of Toronto Home Inspection & Education Firm Carson Dunlop Associates.

We illustrate the construction properties of brick veneer walls
at BRICK VENEER WALL CONSTRUCTION

Some structural masonry walls may be faced with brick (a brick veneer) that actually covers masonry block, stone, or even structural clay products. In this case the masonry building wall is structural but is faced with a brick, stone, or other veneer.

Structural Brick Wall Construction Details

Bond Courses Identify Structural Brick Walls - often

Bond courses tie together the multiple wythes of bricks that form a structural brick wall.

You can spot a bond course by noticing the "ends" of bricks rather than the longer "stretcher" courses of brick. Those ends show (usually) that bricks were placed in the wall across the wythes of brick that comprise a structural brick wall.

Photos of running bond courses and Flemish bond courses in structural brick walls:

In our photo of a structural brick wall in a pre-1900 building in Hudson, NY (at left) you can see the horizontal running-bond courses - those "ends of bricks" seen in every fifth brick course. A Flemish bond brick wall pattern is shown in our photograph of a building on the Vassar College Campus (below-right).

Running Bond courses in brick wall Hudson NY (C) Daniel Friedman Flemish Bond courses in brick wall Hudson NY (C) Daniel Friedman

Watch out: some structural brick walls may not show bond courses - the wythes of brick may have been tied together using steel wire or other fasteners.

Fake Bond Courses - Faux-Bonds for Appearance

Our photos (Below) show two very different cases: at left we see what looks like it might be a structural brick wall - to the left of the chimney where we see "bond courses" in the brickwork.

But wait! What's going on to the right of the chimney - there are no bond courses. Actually the wall at right was a brick veneer structure.

Bricks were applied over a concrete block building wall. The owner-builder, a mason himself, used "faux" bond courses in the some of the walls of his home - for aesthetic reasons.

By contrast, the brick walls in our collapsing brick structure (below right) included bond courses but could not tolerate a foundation collapse below nor frost damage from roof leaks from above.

At BRICK FOUNDATIONS & WALLS we describe the collapse of the structural brick walled building show below.

Photograph of - collapsing brick structure  © Daniel Friedman Fake bond courses in a brick veneer wall (C) Daniel Friedman

Bulges: Understanding Bulged or Bowed Structural Brick Walls: Collapse Hazards

Loose bulged brick veneer (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesOur sketch (below left), courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, shows what happens when a brick structural wall becomes bulged. This is an extremely dangerous condition threatening sudden and catastrophic building collapse.

 

At BRICK FOUNDATION & WALL DEFECTS where we list types of brick wall and foundation defects, we illustrate cases of structural brick wall or foundation collapse. As we point out in that article,

Watch out: Any movement in a structural brick wall which risks having broken the bond courses in the wall, and any movement in a brick veneer wall which has broken or loosened the connections between the veneer to the underlying structure are potentially dangerous and risk collapsing masonry!

Also see FOUNDATION CRACK DICTIONARY which discusses in detail the process of evaluating foundation cracks and signs of foundation damage by examining the crack size, shape, pattern, and location.

Brick Wall Damage by Water & Frost Damage to Brick Walls: Cracks, Effloresence, Spalling

Brick structural or veneer wall damage from frost or water includes not just cracking and bulging but also spalling, effloresence, and staining.
See BRICK WALL FROST & WATER CRACKS, EFFLORESENCE, SPALLING for details.

Brick wall frost damage (C) Daniel Friedman

Lintels: Water, Frost, & Rust Damage at Steel Lintels over Windows or Doors in Brick Walls

See MASONRY FACADE / WALL, LINTEL & BROWNSTONE DAMAGE for a discussion of both steel and brownstone lintel damage.

Methods of Repair of Brick Walls on Buildings

We moved this discussion. Please
see BRICK WALL REPAIR METHODS

Repair of Brick Veneer Walls

Details about brick veneer wall repairs are
at BRICK VENEER WALL REPAIR METHODS

Re-Pointing or Tuckpointing Brick Walls

Moved: for repair of deteriorated brick wall mortar joints
see TUCKPOINTING BRICK & RE-POINTING

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Continue reading at BRICK WALL THERMAL EXPANSION CRACKS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see BRICK VENEER WALL LOOSE, BULGED for non-structural masonry veneer wall damage

Or see FOUNDATION CRACK DICTIONARY for evaluating foundation cracks and signs of foundation damage by examining the crack size, shape, pattern, and location.

Or see this

Article Series Contents

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