Eclectic Homes

Know Your House: Anatomy of a Brick Veneer Wall

Brick is more or less the earliest building material. Little, modular, easily produced from local materials, durable and requiring low maintenance, brick was a favored way to build for decades.

Brick was used traditionally as a structural material. By creating walls and piers of brick, architects and builders were able to build large and tiny buildings, from the humble home to the cavernous Colosseum.

Burns and Beyerl Architects

But brick has always been a labor-intensive construction substance. As the price of labor increased, brick became more and more a substance reserved for higher-end houses. And as brick structure became more expensive, we started to use brick less as construction and much more as skin.

The result has been the maturation of the brick veneer wall and the remedy of brick and a two-dimensional, decorative component. This is reasonable from a cost standpoint — but a brick veneer can harken back to its own past as a structural material.

Bud Dietrich

Anatomy of a Brick Veneer Wall

The brick is a single wythe (coating) deep. This is unlike older, structural brick walls, which had multiple wythes for advantage. The brick wall sits beneath the base wall and is separated from the timber frame structure via an air space of one inch. The atmosphere permits any water that penetrates the brick to fall and weep through weep holes in the lowest path of brick above grade.

In a sense a brick veneer wall behaves like a rain screen. Brick is porous, and chances are that water could find its way through cracks in mortar joints and elsewhere. As most of us know, if water could get in, it will. So having a way to eliminate this water is quite important.

Now that we understand the basics of a brick veneer wall, let’s look at the various patterns of brick coursing we can have. A training course is a flat layer of bricks.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Running bond has become the most typical type of brick coursing people see. It’s basically courses of brick, one atop the other, staggered so that the vertical mortar joints don’t line up. This is a conventional brick pattern, with staggered joints that provided stability and strength to a wall.

Ordinarily, each the bricks will be the exact same texture, size and colour in a running bond pattern. There are variations for this:
A one-on-one bond, occasionally called a stretcher raking bond, has the perpendicular joint set away in the center of the bricks above and below.A header bond has the exact same general pattern as a running bond but using the brick header (short side) in lieu of brick stretcher (long side) as the exposed surface.

Bud Dietrich

Stack bond is the most contemporary brick pattern as it is the pattern that treats the brick more as a display than as a wall. Within this pattern, vertical and horizontal joints are aligned. Doing this makes a pattern that, while visually lighter than the traditional running bond, is a bit poorer.

Bud Dietrich

Frequent bond is a brick pattern that quite closely aligns with how a conventional, load-bearing brick wall could look. A conventional brick wall consists of several wythes (layers) of brick, one supporting the other. Every few paths, the bricks will be set perpendicular to the wall. This course tied together the wythes and gave the wall structural equilibrium.

The outcome is that the brick finishes, or headers, are exposed for opinion. The amount of courses of stretchers (the long side of a brick) between every header course would ascertain if the pattern is a digital bond, Scottish bond, English bond or some other style. Additionally, while the header course is headers in this illustration, it can be a combination of headers and stretchers to create a stretcher bond pattern.

A fine design element of a common bond pattern is your ability to change the brick colour or texture or both in the header program. This is definitely something to play around with to get the design just how you desire.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

A Flemish Cross bond is a brick pattern that introduces a regular pattern of diamonds, crosses or diagonals into the general brick wall. This can be a very fun way to design with brick. In fact, one of the happiest buildings I have ever seen is that the Doges Palace in Venice, with its own pink brick at a diagonal pattern.

Whether introduced in a different colour or set forward of the general brick wall to create shadows, whether in a big scale pattern or quite finely placed, patterns like this introduce a little whimsy and style to what might otherwise be just a large, dull wall of brick.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

We typically see flush mortar joints, but there are many different techniques to see to the way bricks are joined through mortar. In this illustration, the joints are raked — that is, set back in the face of the brick. You can take this a bit farther using a stripped joint, which is similar to a raked joint, but the mortar is “stripped” even farther back in the brick faces.

Some types of mortar joints comprise struck (mortar is angled at the top to base), weathered (mortar is angled from bottom to top) and concave (mortar is curved). Each has its own distinctive visual affect. In fact, Frank Lloyd Wright used raked (on the flat joints) and flush (on the vertical joints) to achieve his trademark focus on the flat line.

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