Original post: August 27, 2019. Revised by Kelly Kater June 11, 2020
You’re looking at the outside of your beautiful brick home when you notice the veneer is cracking. Understandably, you start to worry about what this means. The bricks on your wall are cracked: isn’t that a sign of foundation problems?
We’re going to review bricks and brick veneers, foundation cracks, and most importantly- what else you need to look for in addition to those cracking bricks. Acculevel is a family-owned and operated company founded by Andy Beery founded in 1996. We have helped thousands of homeowners restore stability to their settling foundations and we want to help you do the same.
Let’s start with what a brick is, and the various reasons it might crack.
About The Bricks in Your Home
Bricks are made of hard, baked clay, tightly compressed for strength. Despite that compression, bricks don’t take impact very well and they’re certainly not flexible. What this means is when your house settles, bricks are more likely to crack than remain solid.
A small amount of settling is nothing to worry about- all houses settle to a certain degree. The freeze-and-thaw cycles and the differences in soil moisture content we experience here in the Midwest don’t help the situation, either. Bricks can crack in very wet or dry conditions.
If you’re concerned about cracks in your brickwork or masonry, inspect them for cracking, flaking, and other changes. Small problems with exterior bricks can usually be prevented with good drainage practices. Make sure the grading around your foundation is good, that gutters are clear of obstruction, and your downspouts are draining away from the home. This preventative maintenance protects your foundation as a whole.
Understand Your Foundation
Before we begin, please be confident in the makeup of your foundation structure. Most homes built since the 1950s have concrete foundations, with only a brick veneer or facade applied to the outside.
But if you happen to have an older home, one with a true brick foundation, you may need to work with a masonry company if you’re seeing cracks. Masons are skilled tradesmen who specialize in brick, stone, and mortar construction. Repair methods used by most foundation companies are designed for concrete materials, typically not brick.
Different Types of Cracks in Brick
If your chimney bricks are cracking, this is something that requires evaluation by a professional. A chimney is one of the heaviest pieces of a home. If you see cracks or gaps where the chimney meets your home, or notice it leaning, this is a clear indication of foundation concerns. If you’d like more information about this, we have an article specifically about helical piers and chimney repair.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate appointment. The chimney is leaning away from the house; the gap is worse at the top.
If you have stair-step cracks between the bricks, we recommend that you check the inside of your home in that area. Do you see any cracks in the drywall? Are the doors and windows beginning to stick (not opening/closing smoothly)? If the answers to those questions are yes, those are additional signs of a settling foundation. We discuss the repair methods and costs for that in another article.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate appointment. This crack is a sign of settling foundation issues.
A good contractor can diagnose a settling foundation for you. In this short video, our Sales & Marketing Director explains how a laser level is used for this purpose.
Long horizontal cracks can indicate a different type of foundation problem. They’re an indication that hydrostatic pressure is weakening your wall. Checking this could be more unpleasant, as it requires that you go into your crawl space (or basement) to look at the interior foundation walls. If you see long horizontal cracks or stair-step cracks on the inside of the walls, you need to consult a professional at once. This needs to be repaired as soon as humanly possible.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate. These cracks are clear signs of a basement wall beginning to bow.
How to Repair Cracked Bricks or Masonry
In the previous section, I have provided links to the different repair methods needed for the foundation issues we reviewed.
If the cracks you see in the brick do not fall into any of those earlier categories, you may simply need the bricks themselves repaired. For this, you should consult a bricklayer or masonry company.
If you need help hiring a contractor, we offer a free downloadable guide of questions to ask.
When was the last time your home had a check-up? We have a Foundation Checklist that will guide you through an inspection of your home, here. This checklist is free to the public, and is modeled after the 21 Point Inspection plan we offer our customers at $500 for 5 years.
Does Your Home Need Repairs?
Do you have cracks in your foundation that need prompt attention? If so, you should find an experienced foundation company, and make an appointment. Before you sign a contract for any service, we urge you to always verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
If you live in Indiana or the surrounding states, contact Acculevel. If you have noticed any problems and would like an evaluation, you can request a free estimate. An experienced project manager will examine the areas of concern and recommend the best course of action for you, to keep your home strong and healthy for years to come.
Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.