Brick or Mortar Cracking? Our Number 1 Tip To Fix

A common problem, “brick or mortar cracking” on a structure could point to serious problems with your foundation. You may see cracked bricks, or mortar / masonry cracking and starting to fall out of the walls on your home or business. you might even notice cracks getting larger over time.

Mortar Definition

You Military guys may be thinking, I know artillery – hold on private, this is not the topic here. It is the substance that is used to keep the bricks together to build a wall or structure. It goes on easy after mixing with water and hardens over a period of 24 hours.

When to worry about cracks in brick? Do you see stair-step cracks on exterior brick walls? Hairline crack in the bricks? Brick or mortar cracking is not something to let go. It can easily cause more damage if not addressed early. If you don’t know how to fix cracks in brick mortar or fix stair-step cracks in brick, you will need a professional.

Since we moved in a couple of years ago, I noticed the Carport had several settlement cracks in brick walls. More noticeable was a crack on the corner of the carport. At the time I thought the vertical cracks were new. The bricks cracks were something I just missed during inspection. So I kept an eye on it to monitor if it gets worse. Overall, the cracks were not huge but they were both in the mortar and individual bricks. They were not simple cracks that would stop. We had several other issues that were more pressing (check out our other posts), so we held off in getting it repaired.

Common symptoms of cracks on a brick wall

I reached out to several contractors, trying to understand why this could be happening. I searched on duck duck go for “Brick repair near me” or “mortar brick repair” and “foundation Brick Repair”. I dug through several websites and I took away the following notes, not necessarily in any order. This Old House had an article on foundation issues that helped me to understand that angle too – check it out.

  • Corner Cracks: The vertical cracks on a brick wall can occur if there is shrinking of the soil around the structure. This also could be where you might have run off from the roof that is settling around the foundation with little to no where to go. Over time this could cause instability in the foundation.
  • Bulging Bricks or Masonry: This occurs when there is a corrosion of the shelf angle. Poor gutter quality causes over-saturation of the ground around the brick wall and support is lost.
  • Stair Step Cracks: Step cracks in brick walls occur when settlement happens to the foundation of the structure.
  • Ground Compaction: Your foundation Settling or and sinking will cause bricks to compact down on one another under the weight of the structure.
  • Hidden Structure issues: Depending a contractor may need to remove a portion of the wall to understand what needs to be done to address the cause. This while is expensive up front, it maybe valid if the issue is not crystal clear and could SAVE you hundreds of dollars if not THOUSANDS.

Brick or Mortar Cracking Repair Estimates

We had a wide range of estimates but there is a couple of things to take away. Depending if it’s a foundation crack on your home or business understanding the potential level of cash you are willing to spend is helpful. Here are the estimates that we got which may sway you one way or another.

  • Foundation Pier installation (not including brick wall replacement or repair) $14,100
  • Foundation Pier installation (not including brick wall replacement or repair) $12,500
  • Brick wall repair (replacement of the bricks that were cracked and fix the post in the corner – reset it) $2,450
  • Brick wall repair (replacement of the bricks that were cracked and fix the post in the corner – reset it) $2,300
  • Additional service to add foam rod and caulk the between the expanses of concrete $1,600

Overall, not that the foundation could not have issues, but it did not explain why this corner which is load bearing was having an issue. The cracks on the wall were focused in this one area mainly with other normal / expected cracks. We opted to go with a little exploratory surgery to see what the heck is going on. Also note: not all brick or mortar cracking are foundation issues, however they can show signs of a foundation problem.

Water Damage to brick wall
This was the core of the issue with the wall. The cracking brick, the cracking mortar was growing (not daily) but over a period of months. It started to impact a couple of other locations that would need to be repaired too.

Overall weight out your costs with foundation work. If one corner of your house needs foundation work, you can do piers of if space allows remove and replace the foundation and brick. The price might shock you on how affordable it CAN be on both sides. Several of the foundation people told me they sometimes hand bills over to homeowners upwards of $75K. I guess in this market today, that maybe worth it for the value of your home.

The KEY is to find out WHY!!! WHY is the brick cracking, WHY are there foundation issues happening? 90% of the time I am going to guess is related to WATER. We did not have gutters on the carport originally (we did install them last year and need to blog about it). I believe it was the water running off the roof which at the end of the day caused this problem. So the real question that we had to solve is, what specifically is causing the instability?

You may have similar unknown issues that you can’t see. Sometime exploratory research is key to knowing the next best steps. This is what we elected to do.

Reconstruction of the Wall

The good news is our contractor from DSI Masonry had a good idea on what was the root cause. They also identified the exact match brick (which was a local company and a common color – Salem Blend from Pine Hall Brick (info below). The first task was to demo the wall.

tear down close up of cracked brick wall and mortar
Close up of cracked brick wall and mortar
It didn’t take long to start tearing down the wall and almost immediately seeing where the problem came from. How it started is another question.

Identifying the issue why the brick and mortar were cracking.

do you have brick or mortar cracking on your wall?
As the wall was broken down, we found that the L-Iron bracket (used to anchor the column to the structure) was rusting and swelling. Essentially this caused the the brick or mortar cracking down the wall as it expanded. Did we have some settlement of the foundation? Yes – however the issues with the wall problem today, is tied to the metal L-Iron anchors that were exposed to moisture.
Brick corner repair for brick or mortar cracking
They ended up tearing the corner down to almost the bottom of the wall. The good news was the structure underneath was solid. Time to start building the brick wall and tying them together again.

Rebuilding the column

Post mount on top of brick wall from cracked brick or mortar
Stainless Steel Mount for column secured on top of brick wall vs. L-Iron Steel that was embedded lower in the wall.
replacing bricks in a wall
A couple of sections did not need the entire section broken down, but they did have cracks and stress fractures. They inspected this area that may need additional attention in the future if the brick and mortar cracking continues.
Brick or mortar cracking repaired cutting a  new pvc board with a ridged saw for one of the columns.
PVC Boards used for white column
Using a 6×6 to replace the previous 2×4. Final adding a PVC board wrap. no more painting or dealing with rotten wood!
Finished product with new brick and PVC boards
The final product. We were really happy with the outcome of this activity. Not only does the wall look better (repaired the brick and the cracked mortar but the PVC Boards on the column looks much better than the old wooden column covers. No more painting (EVER) for these columns. They maybe expensive but worry and maintenance free = peace of mind.
logo pine hall brick horiz color

Thank goodness our brick was still available, called “Salem Blend” by Pine Hall Brick. They were Founded in 1922, they’ve made billions of bricks, so they kinda know what they are doing. Styles will come and go but this color has stood the test of time. They are local in our area like many brick makers near you.

SalemBlendModular

Plant of Manufacture: Madison, NC
Sizes Available
Modular – 7-5/8″ x 2-1/4″ by 3-1/2″
Mod Thin – 7-5/8″ x 2-1/4″ by 1/2″


Our Number 1 Tip to Solve Brick or Mortar Cracking

Overall, the longest part of this project was working on estimates. Trying to asses who had the correct opinion of what is the main cause of this issue. In our final assessment, this is the number one thing to consider.

A. Get several estimates with a wide range of opinions. Look any contractor is going to give you their best assessment but sometimes you find one you feel has a better idea than the other guy. That is your task (even if you don’t know the subject).
B. look for a company with a history of repairing similar problems and structures. In everything in life, experience matters and why newly graduated people don’t make as much as people with years of experience.
C. Look for good feedback from customers (if they have a Facebook page / website feedback / Google or other business reviews). This ensures you get a good picture of who they are and the type of work they do.

Does all of this take time (YES) – and it is worth it. If you have something like “brick or mortar cracking” on your foundation of other similar home problems, you want to try and find the best fit for you and the job at hand.

I can’t thank the guys enough over at DSI Masonry. They worked hard, got the job done in a couple of days (even though it was freezing for most of the mornings) and the quality is on par with the original construction (maybe a tad bit better with the PVC boards). If you are local in the Triad of North Carolina – check out their website or use the contact information.
336-995-7879 or email at: dsimasonry@triad.rr.com

Cost for this project:

Brick and Mortar replacement: Rang from $2300 – $3000 depending on how large of a job you might have.

We thank you for stopping buy and we hope this information helps you in the future to not only understand some of the pitfalls of having the brick or mortar cracking issues address on your house. They are not as scary as it may seem and the more information you can have on these issues the better. Oh and finally… I found a picture of the stairs when we moved in (a month after purchase) – guess what, the cracks were there… Oh well, I don’t beat myself up too much as you can’t catch everything!

Until next time!

2 thoughts on “Brick or Mortar Cracking? Our Number 1 Tip To Fix”

  1. I know it was not easy to find information with solid numbers. While we won’t know the total outcome today we have a decent feeling we should be good to go for some time in the future. All the best to you on your project.

  2. On our house we have had many cracks and issues with understanding what is the truth between contractors is difficult. This helps us make the decision or and to have things to think about. Thanks for the article! The carport looks great.

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