Cracks in Brick Veneer - Replace Siding on Whole House??

23 Replies

Hi BP, I need your help on scoping this out while I am under contract.

The house appears to be in great shape other than the brick veneer siding dropping off, which appears to have started at the back corner of the house.

The brick is a veneer and not structural. There is very minor tuckpointing to do in the basement (block).

The falling brick has affected the siding's fit with two windows and one door. But there are no signs of water intrusion into the house. It's not recently painted either.

GC who walked it obviously recommends replacing the whole house siding at a cost of $13,000. But I want to get your unbiased opinions, do I need to remove this? Can I just leave it and tuck point it / seal it up for now?

Get a mason to do repairs to the brick siding? Or, have a vinyl siding company replace just the back corner of siding?

PS, the house is built in 1966, is in Indianapolis, and the basement and crawl spaces look good and dry, no issues at all down there.

@Sean McCluskey

Is it a rental? If so repoint that stuff and collect your rent.

Fractures through brick (as opposed to along mortar lines) is typically a red flag for stability, but as it is a veneer, that isn’t as big a deal.

Make sure the veneer is plumb. If it is out of plumb the tie anchors may have broken and you risk having of the veneer falling forward off of the building (... learned that one the hard way).

The amount of gap in your first picture seems very large by my standards.

Overall, if it was a flip, I would be afraid it would scare off buyers and would go larger on the repair. If it was a rental just patch it and keep an eye out for future movement (and make that CapEx reserve a couple % higher each month).

@David Lee Hall, III Thanks for the comment!!

It is going to be a buy and hold rental, going in all cash and getting a refi after placing the tenants (BRRRR).

No one has said that it is bowing out off of the house, and I've had a full inspection and also the construction manager from my PM did a deep dive on the house.

I have been waffling on a range of repair in between tuck point it and replace later, up to replacing just the bad part where it's falling down off the house with a transition to fiber-cement board or vinyl like this (using a flashing in between the two areas).

Does anyone have experience moving from all brick to a combo of vinyl, flashing, and brick? Or hardie board and brick? 

I know people build this in horizontally all the time, for style, so I would think that it is possible.

@Sean McCluskey Hello! I would just fill it in. Its a long term buy and hold right? Dont redo the entire siding yet. give yourself time to think and save your money. This is an easy fix and will look fine for a rental. Good luck and keep us posted.

@Dylan Vargas Thanks for the comment Dylan!

Yes, it is going to be a long term buy and hold, for sure. The rest of the house is in really solid shape and it will cash flow. The amount of cash left in the deal really depends on what I do with this repair / patch / replacement, and then, how the appraisal comes in.

That brings me to my question - have you had any experience with leaving something like this patched, and how did it seem to affect your appraisal? 

@David Lee Hall, III , I would be interested to hear if you have had feedback on an appraisal, on the house you mentioned the brick later falling forward off the building?

@Sean McCluskey You are welcome. Fix this patch and it will not affect your appraisal unless it looks worse than the picture is showing. I would save your money for a roof or other costly repairs if needed. Even save the 13k and paint the dang thing one color and maybe an accent wall.  Just my two cents. 

@Sean McCluskey

The appraisers (there were two) did not notice it. Reviewing pictures I took (I will often take 50-75 "before" pictures) you could definitely see a lean at the top of the wall from a specific angle. Remember though, appraisers aren't really there to determine structural deficiencies. 15 minutes of pictures/walk-through does not equal a 3-5 hour inspection (this was an off-market deal as-is with a HML).

@Sean McCluskey

I’m a structural forensic engineer and those are big cracks in multiple places. That’s significant movement that I would imagine would effect other parts of the house such as the basement. It looks like They’ve been repaired before and continued to move. The basement may be dry right now but that does not mean it has always been. I would dig into the house and seller more to find what other damage there has been.

Also, I wouldnt switch to siding. That seems like a bigger cost than what it’s worth.

Originally posted by @Keaton M. :

@Sean McCluskey

I’m a structural forensic engineer and those are big cracks in multiple places. That’s significant movement that I would imagine would effect other parts of the house such as the basement. It looks like They’ve been repaired before and continued to move. The basement may be dry right now but that does not mean it has always been. I would dig into the house and seller more to find what other damage there has been.

Also, I wouldnt switch to siding. That seems like a bigger cost than what it’s worth.

 yeah, when i saw that first picture, my mouth dropped lol I'm really surprised there are no apparent structural issues inside/basement. i guess getting $13k for the siding is more lucrative than fixing structural issues.

@Keaton M. , so cool to be able to get feedback who does this type of engineering work! I had a full inspection on the house. There has definitely been settling but the inspector didn't raise issues with the foundation's integrity. 

You said you wouldn't switch to siding - would you remove and reapply the brick then? Or is there a method to jack this upwards and reattach?

Unfortunately I'm not going to get any info out of the seller, its an as-is estate sale...

When you say "brick veneer" do you mean thin brick (like tile) glued on a substrate, or full thickness brick that is non-structural, but laid & mortared in front of the (cement block?) structure? My first thought when I look at the pics is WHY is the brick cracking in those particular places? Are the windows settling and putting downward pressure on the bricks?

I am of the same opinion as others though; if it's not structural, repoint & carry on. A bit of thinned paint to make the color match the older morter. Maybe use construction adhesive to glue the bricks closest to the crack directly to the wall. If it looks like the windows are causing pressure possibly remove the mortar directly under the window sill & replace with a flexible caulk, Maybe plant hedge, climbing roses, clemantis, Ivy or Virginia Creeper or use flower window boxes & shutters to camoflauge the issue entirely LOL! I've also seen the brick removed directly under the window & replaced with shingle, but that looks a bit wierd.

Cracks in masonry is common. However, what you have there, and the extent of it would have me concerned. The fact that there's large sections pulling apart from each other means that whatever they're setting on has moved. Veneer brick like this usually sits on a foundation ledge made for it. I'd be looking there. ie, not so much as the brick, but what it is/was resting on. The amount of separation is not insignificant and replacing "the siding" may not be a remedy for what's going on there. In other words, I'm not convinced you don't have foundation issues.

@Sean McCluskey

If there is no other distress, apart from the cracks, I would just get someone to repoint the mortar. It’s just aesthetic at that point. It would probably crack again but still cheaper than tearing it out to add siding.

@Deanna Opgenort Thanks. The brick is full-sized brick, all laid horizontally as a veneer cavity wall.

There are other small settlement cracks in different areas outside the house as well.

From googling, my best guess is that the house has settled due to shrink and swell issues in clay soil and it impacted the brick negatively due to there being no expansion joints.

So now I am trying to figure out, do I go through with the purchase or not?

@Lee Bell I agree, it would be hard to hide.

Inside the house, mMy construction manager says his electronic level tape measure only found a 1mm or less slope on the one floor where he felt anything.

@John Teachout thank you, this is a good point about what was the brick sitting on. I will go back and look at the photos and videos that I have to see if I can tell.

My assumption on this is switching back and forth from subsidence under the foundation (serious) to rusted brick ties failing and minor normal foundation settlement (cosmetic).

If I can do remedial repairs but keep the siding, the deal is a nice BRRRR w/ very little cash in the deal after refi.

Does anyone think tenants would notice repairs to the brick and avoid renting the house because of it?

Originally posted by @Sean McCluskey :

@Keaton M. , so cool to be able to get feedback who does this type of engineering work! I had a full inspection on the house. There has definitely been settling but the inspector didn't raise issues with the foundation's integrity. 

You said you wouldn't switch to siding - would you remove and reapply the brick then? Or is there a method to jack this upwards and reattach?

Unfortunately I'm not going to get any info out of the seller, its an as-is estate sale...

 Most housing inspectors go through a 40 hour class and get licensed. I would never put all my faith in what a house inspector says. Having dealt with several, I found they know less than me. If you had an actual structural engineer or similar look at it, that is better. 

The "repair" job was amateur hour big time. I would have someone clean out and tuck point. Brick is far more durable than siding - especially vinyl siding. I would never put vinyl on a rental. I have seen it damaged too many times. People do it because it is cheap and low maintenance, but it cracks and can even blow off in severe wind. Remember the story of the three little pigs... 

Of course figure out why it is cracking and make sure the settling has stopped. If you repair and it keeps settling, the issue comes right back.

Originally posted by @Sean McCluskey :

@John Teachout thank you, this is a good point about what was the brick sitting on. I will go back and look at the photos and videos that I have to see if I can tell.

My assumption on this is switching back and forth from subsidence under the foundation (serious) to rusted brick ties failing and minor normal foundation settlement (cosmetic).

If I can do remedial repairs but keep the siding, the deal is a nice BRRRR w/ very little cash in the deal after refi.

Does anyone think tenants would notice repairs to the brick and avoid renting the house because of it?


Nope. Renters don't care. As long as the house doesn't look "patched" & the inside of the window frame is good 99% will neither notice the brick, nor will they care. After all, anything structural is YOUR problem. That's even true of the foundation/slab. If it doesn't affect the function, renters could care less. I do honestly do suggest the paint wash/tint on the mortar of the repair to blend it in and, as others have said, budget "permanant" repairs into your CAP EX. Also consider landscaping options. You'll want something easy to maintain that blends with or upgrades the appearance of the house compared to the rest of the neighborhood.

Just to be clear; you have two questions.

1) Should you buy this house. 

My PERSONAL opinion;  As long as you aren't overpaying for either the property or your financing, and the brick is the only problem, I think you'll kick yourself if you DON'T buy it. For any property you should calculate conservatively -- budget slightly lower rent, higher repairs, & more vacancy that you expect. If you end up with extra $ it won't be an issue.  
2) What to do about the brick. 

Again, opinion; Make sure it's safe, do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn't fall off,  then repair the aesthetic issues of the crack. Figure  that eventually (5 years?) you will end up removing at least some of it, & budget your repair fund accordingly.