Top Tips for Weaving a Veneer Brick Wall
Brick has a timeless appearance and requires little maintenance, making it a popular material for a variety of applications. Once a structural component, brick nowadays is more commonly used as a veneer, with concrete blocks, poured concrete, or wood laying under it.
In this discussion, the bricks are full size (4 x 8 x 2-1/4 in.) and should not be confused with thin brick systems, such as EZ-Wall.
Vene veneer walls rest atop masonry sills; behind the veneer is an air space that allows moisture to vent. To keep this air space open during mortar application, drainage netting is installed behind the brick to ensure that mortar squeeze-out does not block the cavity.
Plastic, honeycomb-like ‘weep hole’ inserts, which are established at regular intervals between bricks in the first course, permit water to drain out. Galvanized steel wall ties are used to secure the veneer brick to the concrete or framing element that it’s covering.
Laying brick efficiently takes a bit of practice. Here are a few tips:
• Run the point of a mason’s trowel along your mortar beds to create a V-shaped trough. This will help keep the next course of brick from sliding.
• Use mason’s twine as a guide for setting brick height. Set each brick in mortar so that it almost touches the twine, or string line.
• As you lay each brick, use the trowel to slice off any excess mortar that squeezes out of the joint. Use the excess to “butter” the end of the brick you’ve just set.
• Use the end of the trowel’s wood handle to tap bricks into position.
• When you reach a wall tie, spread mortar under it and above it to ensure a secure attachment.
• Do not allow vertical joints to align. Cut bricks as necessary to maintain a pleasing pattern.
• Point, or shape, mortar joints after the mortar has set slightly. Add mortar with the pointing tool if necessary.
• If mortar begins to dry as you work, especially when the weather is warm, add water to loosen it. Dry mortar is difficult to work with.
There are many valuable sources to consult when working with brick. A good one is Masonry Complete by Cody Macfie (Taunton Press, 2012), which has great photos, recipes for mixing mortar, and good tips on cutting brick. On its website, the Brick Industry Association (BIA) has free technical notes that show various brick construction details.
For more on masonry, consider:
Bob Vila Radio: Brick Repairs
Restoring Antique Brickwork (VIDEO)
Repurposing Bricks to Make a Walkway