Brick veneer may be the building material of choice these days, but do you know the signs of failing brickwork? Read on to find out…
Ask the Inspector, Brisbane Building and Pest Inspections, Building Inspection Tips

Brick Veneer Houses in Brisbane: Here’s all the RED Flags to Look for at Open House

If you’re on the hunt for your next home in Brisbane, chances are you’ll come across brick veneer on your travels. As the name suggests, brick veneer is not a structural element of the building. So while aesthetically pleasing, it does not actually support the roof and wall structures. This isn’t to say that brick veneer homes can’t be problematic. There are signs to look out for before you buy. Brick veneer homes are quicker and cheaper to build, so it’s no wonder they’re so commonly available. The untrained eye won’t always be able to spot a brick veneer home, so it’s always best to have a trained professional perform a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection to highlight any issues before committing to a purchase.

How is Brick Veneer Attached

Quite simply, brick veneer is an outer layer – a skin, if you will – surrounding the supporting structure of a home with a small gap (2-3cm) between the layers for airflow and moisture dissipation. It is thermally efficient and cost-efficient, so is a sensible choice for builders and homeowners on a budget. 

It is secured to the structural frame using metal wall ties followed by a water-resistant barrier. Some homes will also include additional insulation in the wall framing for additional thermal efficiency. High-quality damp course will be installed at the base of the wall to stop rising damp and weep holes will be added to allow for air to circulate and moisture to leave the building effectively.

Are Brick Veneer Cracks a sign of serious issues?

As is typical with any home over time, movement and settling of the building may cause some minor cracks to appear in brick veneer. When it comes to your home, there’s no such thing as overly cautious, so bringing in a trained eye to identify if a crack is serious or not is an excellent idea. Serious cracks can have serious consequences. 

Your building inspector will be looking at:

  • The state of the plasterboard opposite to the external cracks (do they mirror each other?)
  • The alignment of the doors and windows
  • Any separation between the ceiling, floors, and walls

If any major flaws are identified, a structural engineer should be your next logical call.

How do you fix cracks in brick veneer?

If the cracks have been identified as cosmetic, you may wish to call in a specialist, or possibly even attempt to repair them yourself. Leaving cracks as they are can be unsightly and could invite further deterioration, so a proactive approach is best.

To repair superficial cracks:

  1. Remove the old mortar using a raking bar or chisel and hammer (being mindful not to penetrate the air cavity too deeply – 1.5-2cms only!). 
  2. Spray your wall with water to ensure the existing wall doesn’t suck up all the moisture from the new mortar. This would result in the same place cracking all over again. 
  3. Once your mortar is mixed and colour matched, take a brick jointer and push the mortar into the joints – make sure you don’t leave any gaps or air pockets.
  4. Use a wet pointer to flatten the mortar.

If this process is beyond your skillset, strongly consider engaging an experienced builder to assist you. After all, the longevity and wellbeing of your house are at stake.

More significant cracking, of a structural nature may require significant costly repairs such as underpinning. 

Don’t leave it to chance. Know the flaws and potential hazards of the home of your dreams so life doesn’t turn into an expensive nightmare. Failing brick veneer is just one of hundreds of potential hazards and experienced building inspector will be looking for. Contact Action Property Inspections today to arrange a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection so you’ll have peace of mind and the confidence to make the right decision on your next purchase.

Andrew Mackintosh

About Andrew Mackintosh

Andrew Mackintosh has been answering home inspection questions in the greater Brisbane area since 1995. He has personally carried out over 20,000 building inspections and is a licensed builder and licensed building inspector, Member of Queensland Master Builders Association & Institute of Building Consultants. Being the business owner and the inspector, Andrew is passionate about providing clients with excellent customer service, value for money, honest, unbiased, thorough inspection and reporting in a professional and timely manner to allow clients to make informed decisions when purchasing property.

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