Once and For All Folks: Cracks in brick veneer should be no cause for panic. Here are the reasons why you should quit freaking out over brick veneer cracks!
The 3 important things you need to remember about Brick Veneer Cracking:
- All houses settle
- Brick Veneer has no structural importance to a home – it adds cosmetic value only
- You should only be concerned about exterior brick veneer cracks if there are interior dry wall cracks opposite the exterior brick veneer cracks
Whenever you escort a buyer to a new home for sale, and you chance upon cracks in the exterior brick veneer, tell them not to panic. Tell them: "We must go inside and look for signs of structural distortion in the same area as the brick veneer cracking. If none exist, you can take a deep sigh and know that I will help explain why brick veneer cracking has formed."
BRICK VENEER HAS NO STRUCTURAL IMPORTANCE!
What if I told you that you could tear all of the brick veneer off of every single house and throw it into the Tennessee River and the house could care less? Would you believe me? Well: It's true. Brick veneer does not support the roof; it does not brace the home from wind; it does not do anything structurally. It's just an attractive exterior siding material-no different from vinyl, wood or stucco. Actually, brick veneer is nothing but a pain in the derriere. Why? Because it can't stretch one bit. You try to stretch it and it cracks. Hit it with a hammer and it shatters. It has no significant shear and tensile strength. It is baked clay...burnt dirt, for God's sake. It can support itself because it has decent compressive strength, but it has little shear and tensile strength. So let's say a house footing settles or shifts about 1/2-inch. Guess what. The brick veneer cracks. But does the house care? "Heck no, it doesn't care." Because wood frame buildings, like houses, are very flexible. They can stretch a whole lot. This is why you hardly ever see cracks in the interior drywall finish opposite the exterior brick veneer cracks. If you do see large drywall cracks, then you likely have a problem.
I've been inspecting houses for more than three decades, and I've been performing floor level surveys for about three-fourths of this time. I have never inspected a home that didn't have at least ¾-inch of floor level variation across its footprint. I would say the average is around 1.0 to 1.5 inch of variation. And one-inch variation nearly always represents a crack free home. So if we contend that contractors can build a level foundation, I am here to tell you that all houses settle. That's a fact out of Buck's Almanac. So believe me, ¼-inch, ½-inch, ¾-inch, etc. footing elevation variation or settlement, does not mean that a seller of a home needs to spend $ 26,000.00 underpinning his foundation due to cracks in exterior brick veneer. Especially if he's been living in the home with the cracks for umpteen years and there are no problems inside the home. He might as well just replace the brick with some alternative siding. (Now that's a novel idea!)
The next time you have a home inspector come running into the home, panting and out of breath, exclaiming he's saved the day because he found cracks in the exterior brick veneer, ask him why this is so important. If he says that cracks in brick veneer represent a foundation failure, ask him to point out the cracks in the drywall inside the home opposite the exterior brick veneer cracks. If there are none, tell him to calm down. Tell him that brick veneer is very brittle and cannot stretch the slightest amount, so minor settlements, which crack brick, are nothing to worry about. And do this in front of the buyer. Stand your ground.
EDUCATION IS SO IMPORTANT!
Let's all work together to educate the home inspectors who think cracks in brick veneer represent foundation failure. Ask them, "what if this house had vinyl siding?" "Would you even be saying anything to us right now?" I say he/she wouldn't, because there are usually no cracks inside the home, and vinyl siding would certainly not show cracks. He/she wouldn't even be talking about it. See what he/she says. I bet they can't answer you, at least intelligently. It's true. Think about it.
If you're a Realtor who is sick and tired of seeing sellers pay huge sums of money to foundation repair contractors in order to salvage real estate deals because of cracks on the exterior of brick veneer homes, or if you've seen deals fall apart because of the high cost of foundation repairs that come from the free inspections, please let me take you to lunch. I'd like to hear some of your horror stories. I'd like to tell you what I could provide as an alternative to expensive foundation repair.
Or better yet: if you're a Realtor who's sick and tired of hearing me preach this sermon about brick veneer homes, then please contact me and tell me so. I would sincerely appreciate it. If enough of you respond this way, I promise to take a back seat on this issue and forever keep my mouth shut on the subject. I'll let this ridiculous/tragic real estate game continue.
JADE brings you over three decades of engineering experience to determine if cracks and real estate problems are major issues or just cosmetic. Contact us today if you need help!