Exteriors with masonry accents can often require additional maintenance. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Michale M.)
Timeless and refined, a brick or stone exterior is one of the best choices for your home. Either material creates a fire-resistant covering that will increase the value of your home. Research has shown that brick effectively lowers heating and cooling costs by as much as eight percent. It can withstand high winds and is not typically damaged by hail or other debris that may be blown around in windy conditions. Brick and stone exteriors are also extremely durable and can continue protecting your home well into the next century.
Disadvantages - Brick and stone cost more to install than other home exterior materials and their weight needs to be considered during construction. Once in place they are very solid and inflexible. This makes brick and stone a problematic choice in areas that are prone to earthquakes. Over time, brick and stone will also start to weather, changing their colors slightly. This can make it difficult to match the appearance if the home is later expanded or remodeled.
Cost - Expect to pay between six and twelve dollars a square foot for brick siding on your home. Stone siding is even more expensive, costing between eight and fifteen dollars a square foot.
Installation – People mistakenly assume brick is waterproof. However, water can penetrate and seep through to the area behind it. It is important that a waterproof barrier be placed on the wall before the brick siding is installed. Brick needs to be installed with a drainage plane or weep holes so any water has an easy escape route. The installation will cost a little more initially, but it will avoid countless problems down the road. You should also find out how the mason ensures that falling mortar won’t block this important drainage system. When brick or stone is added to an existing home originally designed for wood siding, the builder may need to add foundational support to carry the added weight.
Maintenance - Bricks may crack over time, so you still need to inspect your brick home on an annual basis. Small cracks can be ignored, but it might be better to patch them using grout tinted to match the brick. Cracks that grow too large will require the help of a mason to replace the damaged brick. More likely, however, would be the need to replace mortar. It should hold up for twenty-five years or longer, but when cracks and gaps start to appear, you will want to start calling masons for estimates. The damaged mortar should be chiseled out before new mortar is put in place.
Repointing mortar is not as simple as removing the old mortar with a power tool and then slopping in a new mix. Talk to the contractor to ensure he will remove the old mortar to a depth of one inch. The new mortar should also match the existing mortar to ensure proper bonding. This isn’t a big problem for new homes, but it can be a serious issue for historic homes. If your home is older, especially if it is more than seventy years old, consider hiring professionals who specialize in working with older brick.