While the exterior of a house might look like it is built with bricks, the weight-withstanding structure could be bricks, wood or steel. Houses with wood and steel as structural support but look like a brick house are decorated by brick veneer.
Houses with bricks as structural support are called solid brick houses. Also referred to as double-brick and solid masonry houses, solid brick houses feature two layers of bricks, or a concrete inner layer and a brick outer layer. Both layers form the structural support of the house that loose bricks may lead to structural failures.
Brick veneer houses, on the other hand, use wood or steel as the key structural component. The bricks, often thinner than those used in solid brick houses, are built around the exterior wall of the wood or steel frame. Loose or cracked bricks are less of a structural concern but an aesthetic one.
Building a brick veneer house
The start of any construction project begins with a solid foundation. A flat concrete base is often recommended for brick houses. Structural engineers should be involved at this stage to determine the depth of the concrete base according to the soil structure. The concrete foundation will dry out in a few weeks but brick walls can be laid after about a week (weather permitting).
Once the concrete is ready, the inner structural frame, either wood or metal, can be established. Additional bricks can be laid about a foot away from the frame to define the area of the house and be secured with mortar. The thickness of the mortar should be consistent for a flat layer of bricks but also avoiding cracks due to contraction and expansion. Sufficient spaces should also be kept for windows and doors. For ceilings, concrete can be poured on a wooden frame that is further supported by metal posts.
When the structure of the house is complete, windows and doors can be installed along with water pipes and cables. For additional aesthetics, concrete render and plasters can be laid to cover the exposing water pipes and cables.
Differentiating solid brick houses vs brick veneer houses
Despite both having a brick outer layer, there are ways to differentiate between solid brick houses and brick veneer houses. First one is looking for the header bricks. These bricks are the bridge between the outer and inner bricklayers. Header bricks might look smaller on the outside but it is because only the short ends of the bricks are visible. A header brick row is usually found in every six rows but it may vary. Some modern solid brick houses use metal ties to keep the two layers of bricks together, leading to missing header bricks.
Another way to differentiate solid brick houses and brick veneer houses is through the window surrounds. Additional bricks are placed around windows in solid brick houses to reinforce the structure. These additional bricks are easier to spot inside the house.
Benefits of brick veneer houses
Brick veneer houses have multiple benefits over solid brick houses. One of such is affordability. Brick veneer houses are simpler in construction with one layer of bricklaying and reduced structural concerns. Easier construction also leads to quicker construction time and lower construction costs.
The lower cost of brick veneer houses is also contributed by the less complicated foundation required to support the house as solid brick houses are generally heavier and require a more substantial foundation to withstand the weight of the building.
As brick veneer houses do not need header bricks to link the external and internal structure, the additional space between the two layers allows the placement of insulation. The additional insulation, unlike polystyrene used for solid brick houses, offers better isolation from atmospheric temperature to reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs.
Brick veneer houses also feature similar benefits as solid brick houses, notably their durability and fireproofing capabilities. Both brick homeowners can benefit from low maintenance and no paint or stain on the outer wall as well.
BuildMart Australia sells a range of brick slips and wall cladding for your renovation project or your next home. Get a quote today by calling 03 9560 7601.