cracks in bricks

Old 01-11-07, 08:06 AM
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cracks in bricks

My home is only a few months old and has a concrete brick veneer, with as many as four vertical cracks on a side. Two cracks are where the veneer and block was punched through for water and sewer lines. The builder, two structural engineers, and two people from the concrete brick manufacturer agree that it's a cosmetic concern and not structural one. They did comment that the mortar must be stronger than the bricks, so when the veneer shrank the cracks didn't follow the mortar, but ran straight down.

They've suggested caulking the cracks with "brick caulk" using a close color match; and caulking where the mortar has cracked or seperated from the brick using an off-white outdoor (waterproof & flexible) caulk.

The builder and the brick manufacturer say that they can't locate the colored caulk for the concrete bricks. Can you identify a product and manufacturer that we can contact? Would you suggest a different repair route?

We'd like to get the repairs done before ice can damage the veneer more.
Old 01-11-07, 10:31 AM
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I hesitate to disagree with those gentlemen, but I do. First, the veneer brick will not shrink enough to cause cracking in a house that is a few months old. The mortar may, but not the concrete brick. Generally, if I see a crack following the mortar joint, I look to shrinkage issues. When I see cracks breaking units, I look to the foundation. I can further assure you that the mortar is not stronger than the brick, unless it is a particularly poorly made concrete brick.

What I would do is make sure that the cracks are "dead", that is not increasing in size. If they are stable, and were caused by shrinkage, you could repair them with mortar. If they are moving, use a product like Sonneborne, "NP1" to caulk them. In any case, I would not accept cracked units on a house that new. I would demand that the units be replaced and the cracks be repaired with mortar.
Old 01-11-07, 10:42 AM
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Make sure the cracking has stopped before trying to decide what to do.

Your builder should make this good for you, it should be his responsibility, to repair this, not just caulk it and go on, your house is brand new and should not have these cracks so soon after construction, if it is cracked because of expansion and contraction, then the builder should have had the mason, install control joints or expansion joints to take care of situations like this.

The mortar has only set for two months, the brick have been fired in a kiln, so you make the call as to which is harder, in any case, the control joints would have taken care of this, I would if I were you look to see if the footer has settled causing the cracks, do this by checking the floor and or concrete walls or blocks to see if the cracks are there too.

You know that the boring did not cause this alone, because of the cracks in other places, measure the cracks then fill with clear caulk to stop the elements, and keep track of the measurements to see if they are expanding.

Keep us posted. As far as the caulking colors,ask your local building supplier to ask there suppliers of this, if there suppliers can not get the different colored caulks, then they probaly do not exist.
Old 01-11-07, 01:38 PM
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cracks in bricks

Polar -

The "meeting" you had may have just been done to appease you if it was organized by the builder.

The builder was there.
Two structural engineers that probably do work for the builder were there. The concrete brick supplier that sells to the builder was there.
The mason that did the work was not there.

I have no idea why a structural engineer was there for a non-structural problem. The only thing they agreed on was that it was not a structural problem.

Most of what you read from the other posts is accurate.

The brick are concrete brick, which really do not expand, and not clay, which has a long term expansion. The properties of the brick and the block are very close to each other so differential shrinkage would not be a factor. The builder is responsible for proper detailing and placement of control joints. Often, they are omitted because of cost reasons.

The concrete brick you used was cured in a plant and probably had 99%+ of the shrinkage taken place before it was laid. During the period shortly after it was laid, it did not have suffient bond strength to cause a brick to crack as it cured and shrank.

It seems probable that some of the cracks could have come when the builder "punched" holes in the veneer. It is not a proper way to make a hole, so the builder is totally responsible for damages and repairs.

I would not be concerned with the durability of the veneer system if it is from a supplier with a good history of performance. The area of concern I would have is possible moisture in the walls. Obviously the cracks must be caulked by the builder. The excuse of not being able to find caulk is rediculous!

If you have any water that gets past the brick, it should be able to drain away and not cause rot or mold. A properly built brick wall will have weeps (3/8" wide gaps in the mortar) at the bottom. Behind the brick there should be flashing under the primary moisture barrier. The flashing directs the moisture out of the gap between the brick and the moisture barrier. There should also be vents near the top of the brick veneer that vent the gap and allow it to remain dry.


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