I feel as though some bricks stick out more than others, which is why some have a shadow beneath them and some don't. This is really bugging me. Am I being too picky or is it not being laid right?
It looks great! I think you are comparing it too much to the uniform bricks where each one is exactly the same.
thanks for the compliment, Laura. I went on the Old Virginia website and looked up countless photos of their brick and they don't have random shadow lines caused by some sticking out further. I don't know what to do. Maybe I just need to calm down.
And, doesn't it seem like there is a lot of mess from mortar on the brick?
The top 6 courses look terrible. You've had 2 different people work on that wall.
Are these recycled brick? They seem to have some really irregular edges. If that's the look you were after, it explains some of the crookedness effect.
Most of the shadowed areas are in the grooves between 2 bricks. The groove is in a different plane than the brick above it.
no, it's not recycled brick. this is Old Virginia wood molded brick. It's supposed to look different from extruded brick, therefore somewhat imperfect, but I don't want it to look terrible.
How can you tell it was laid by two different people? Aside from the imperfect edges of the brick, does anything else look bad?
Here is a photo from the company website, but they used a different way of applying the mortar...
Here is a link that might be useful: brick
There does seem to be a lot of mortar but I have only seen brick laid one other time and it was even messier, so I have no idea what is normal in that regard!
Regarding the uneveness of the brick, i actually like it! Do you have photos of what you expected it to look like that you could share? It could just be that in the professional photos they used lighting to a oid any shadows.
Hi Three apples,
I do agree that the top two rows are very sloppy. I would insist they redo those top two rows as the mortar is oozing out way too much and looks very different from the other rows of mortar. As for some bricks sticking out more from others, it looks to me as if that may be the way the bricks were designed, so looks good to me. However, that does not mean some bricks are not sticking out further than others. Are you able to watch them while they brick? Are they in fact sticking some out further than others. As per the photo you linked from the manufacturer, in that photo it looks like they used mortar color which will make the bricks look different as well.
I hope you get satisfaction, especially for the top two rows of brick. Except for the top two rows, I think it looks good for what it is worth. I am not noticing from the picture a lot of drips of mortar, but perhaps I would feel differently if seeing it in real life.
I looked at the link, and it looks very similar to the close up of the window, and the backyard fireplace.
As for the first two rows, I assumed that was just finished and they still need to clean it up. If they think the top two rows are okay then you do have a problem!
Could it be that they didn't strike the mortar in those top two rows before my husband snapped the picture? What's wrong with the four rows beneath those?
In answer to your question, 'How can you tell the top 6 courses were done by someone different than the courses below?' The spacing between the bricks, height of mortar on top & below the bricks and the positioning of the bricks in the mortar (pulled further out/ set in crooked) differs greatly between those 2 areas. That 6th row from the top is where the change occurs and the bricks hang out over the courses below. With a single brick mason laying the brick you get uniformity of their brick laying style/technique--you have 2 different ones showing up on that portion of wall. Often you will have multiple brick-laying crews working at once all around the house so some variation is expected, however when you have this much in one area, that's another story. One thing to ask is how far up the backfill will cover. Likely, the brick at the bottom will be mostly if not completely covered by backfill/landscaping leaving you with the aged, hand-layed, weathered look of the top-most rows. You will need to make sure that as they continue up the wall that the style/technique is continued.
Did you end up with the sand-faced brick you had posted about before? If so, the brick masons have got to be much more careful to remove any excess mortar, mortar splatters and smears as soon as it happens. That type of brick CANNOT be pressure washed to remove the mortar as you will lose all the sand and the brick will end up a VERY different color than what was intended. In the meantime, they can scrape the hardened mortar off as best they can. I would make it VERY clear to your GC and the brick masons that if the facade of the house is covered in mortar mess at completion, that they will need to remove the offending areas and rebrick at their expense for materials and labor. Same goes if they try to pressure wash the brick.
If it's not a sand faced brick, then pressure washing shouldn't be an issue and the mortar will come off when they wash it.
I can't imagine they are leaving the top rows with the slobbery mortar look when the rows below are finger finished-I think it was just the timing of the picture.
Hope this helps!
mydreamhome, yes, this is the sand-faced brick. we have wood chips down in the areas where they are laying brick to try to keep mud off the brick and the builder, my husband, and i have all mentioned that the brick cannot be pressure washed. the mason and his crew continue to respond that they will have no problem getting this mortar off with a brush and that the remainder will wash off in time. i'm uneasy about it.
i honestly did not pick up on the differences you have pointed out with respect to the top six courses being different than those below. the mason has a crew of young guys training with him that were the ones laying the brick when i saw them there on the first day. i was incredibly uneasy that young kids were laying my brick and the mason was supervising, but when my husband was there they all were working. i guess this is the Amish way and I mean no disrespect by showing concern, i just don't think they're doing a great job and i'm not sure they will improve.
should i demand only one guy lay the brick and not the young crew?
by the way, this is an area on the side of a porch you're looking at, so no landscaping here as it is connected to the walk-out basement patio. alas, it will be in plain view. uggh!
I just wanted to emphasize that I am not trying to be disrespectful by commenting on the young guys laying my brick, but rather I meant that I'd rather the seasoned mason do it. His crew is made up of young guys and I see from the photo, now that it's been pointed out, that there is a lot of inconsistency in the spacing of the bricks. Obviously something about this image did not sit right with me and I now see the reasons for that after you all have pointed out the errors to me. What can be done? I think the job is too large for the mason in charge to do the whole house on his own.
I agree, the job is too large for 1 man to do alone on any type of reasonable time schedule. I would sit down with the GC and/or head brick mason and point out the areas you are concerned about. I would also insist that they get any mortar drops, splatter and smears off the brick before it dries. The brush will take the sand off too--then instead of a mortar splotchy finish you'll have sections of what appears to be different color bricks. It's really not that hard for them to be neat and clean up any "spills" immediately as they go. Have they ever dealt with sand-faced brick before? Perhaps they haven't or if they have it wasn't on a custom build so it really didn't matter.
I don't think anyone has taken offense to your comments on the young guys. Obviously, every tradesman has to get their hands on training somewhere at some point so they can later become master tradesmen. Unfortunately, it sounds like you might have an entire crew of "green" brick masons. I think this is a valid point to make with the head brick mason and GC. Perhaps they could pull a few more of their more experienced masons to lead/supervise the younger crew a little more closely.
Just out of curiosity, did you have the opportunity to see any of the brick mason's previous work before they started? Perhaps this is normal for them...?
If you didn't want a handmade brick look--with it's unevenness and different thicknesses---then why did you pick it? You could have picked the machine made brick and saved a couple of thousands.
I have no idea if they've dealt with sand-faced brick before. The mason commented to our builder that this is the most challenging brick they've laid. He wanted to brush it off after it dried at the end of the day. That is not a good idea, then? I'll remind him again to clean it off as they go.
I saw another house they laid the brick on and, to be honest, I didn't inspect it at all. It is a beige brick with a similar color mortar and the lack of contrast meant that any issues weren't obvious to my quick glance. Our builder is confident this mason is very skilled and I know he's been at it for at least two decades. You're right though, the "green" crew need to be supervised more diligently.
My husband is going there shortly to take more photos and I'll post them when I have them.
"Old Virginia wood molded brick."
You purchased a non 'mass production' brick that is molded instead of wire curt and now do not like that it has more variation?
No I love it's variation. I don't love that some bricks are laid unevenly spaces from each other and that the vertical "seams" are not lining up properly.
Here are a few more images:
The last few pic you put up look nice to me. But I am not an expert. In the previous pic the mortar looking like it was weeping on the top rows.
i think they hadn't struck the top two rows yet in my first pic.
i notice, in the last pic, that the brick goes closer to the top of the door than it does at the bottom of the door, so it's not level vertically.
also, the first photo in the group of three shows several areas where bricks are almost touching each other and some that have a large bit of mortar between them. is this inconsistency in spacing normal?
It's so hard to tell when you are looking at close up shots of something that's meant to be seen as part of the grand scheme.
I'd like to suggest that you just go with the flow for now.... to suggest that things be done differently might result in just that. If you succeed in getting them to alter their technique (without removing the sections already done) there's the real possibility that your house might look like a patchwork quilt?
So depending on how much has been bricked, I'd probably let them carry on and hope that you get a similar result across the entire house.
It's a lovely brick and I like the handmade look!
I live about 10 mile from the Virginia Brick plant in Madison Heights VA and I do see a lot of the brick all over the place. I agree with threeapples the mortar I see and in the pictures from the company are flush with the brick surface. Not indented like yours are. Show your brick mason what you want and get him to do it right.
I would contact Virginia Brick with the photos and ask them to advise how the mortar should be applied.
Drop a plumb line at the doorway. That way you can tell if what you see or what you think you see is straight or not.
I also can see a lot more shadows in the brick in picture #1 of 3 at the crisscross of the scaffolding.
I think the last pictures you posted look great.
here are two more photos:
" I don't love that some bricks are laid unevenly spaces from each other and that the vertical "seams" are not lining up properly."
Not a mass produced product.
Variation is going to occur.
you don't see the huge variation in how much mortar is used between the bricks, brickeyee? look at the second-to-last photo, top row. the brick is not dictating a massive amount of mortar in one area and too little in another. to me this is poor planning. i've seen this very brick on three other structures and, even on my four sample walls, and none of them had these spacing issues.
It's all pretty normal for handmade brick. Well within say a 90th percentile of install possibility. Not perfect, but not bad either. Yes, there are areas that could be slightly better, but overall, it's a pleasing blend of texture. As it must be, due to the variable sizes of the brick.
This is something you are not seeming to understand. The variability in the brick is NOT "just in the color". They are different sizes as well. This requires a larger mortar joint as well as some in and out of the brick placement. Some joints will be smaller, where two of the larger bricks are next to each other, and some will be smaller, where two of the smaller sized bricks will be next to each other. Some bricks will stick out, and some will be a bit more recessed. This is where you have to step 50 feet back and look at the big picture, not try to micromanage 5 square feet.
If you do not care for the look, perhaps it's not too late to have them remove it and to purchase machine made brick instead so you can have a bunch of regular soldiers lining up perfectly straight.
thanks, hollysprings. no, i do not want to use a different brick. as i said, i've seen this exact brick on several other structures in our area and the mortar joints were more consistent. there is no reason for there to be some areas where there is very little mortar placed between the bricks horizontally, for example. i'm well aware that this brick is not perfect in its size or shape. that has no bearing on improper planning such as is evidenced around the opening to the basement door where the brick gets closer to the door at the top then it does at the bottom, or as evidenced by some areas where some bricks are diagonal instead of horizontal. perhaps my photos are not illustrative enough of the inconsistencies.
the company's website photos prove this brick can be laid more regularly and perhaps that proves my point more than my own pictures.
look how great my sample panels look:
there is clearly a huge difference. this is the SAME brick, same mortar, but laid much better and more evenly.
I am beginning to see what you saying about the brick laying, and I think if you are concerned you need your GC to bring it up with the masons now, showing them the very specific photos of how it should look.
It sounds as if they are not experienced with this type of brick and you may need to readdress the situation.
"around the opening to the basement door where the brick gets closer to the door at the top then it does at the bottom"
Have the bricklayer show you with his level that this is straight. Or get your own level out. I guess they don't use plumblines as much any more.
I agree your sample boards look better but I don't think the other looks bad - just not quite as perfect. There is a distinct difference in brick sizes which makes up for some of the variation. Some of it is sloppy mortaring though.
I agree to get the door checked. It does not look level to me either but that may be an optical illusion. I took to carrying a level with me in my car because there were a number of things that looked "off" during our build. Not all were, but some were. With all the mortar lines, it can create an optical illusion.
It looks like around the door they just cut bricks in half to make the mortar lines line up but didn't take into account the variation of the brick so it throws it off. Maybe it is an optical illusion though?
Some of the head joints are awfully wide, but to establish a maximum width of 3/8" for them would probably mean others would have to be a lot less than 1/4", like almost touching.
Then there's the fact that it's all running bond with no header courses, which spoils the illusion that it is really a brick house and not "just a veneer". around here every sixth course would be a tie-in course of headers, and a typical early 19th century brick house had Flemish bond on the street facade and American bond on the sides and back.
Also, what are you doing above your french doors? I would have expected a jack arch or soldier course of brick but they just continued the running bond.
We did a soldier course (which my architect was against since it is not really architecturally correct), but I liked it much better since we were painting the brick. If we had not painted the brick, we would have used a jack arch.
Much of the sloppy appearance is caused by raking the mortar with something rough instead of tooling it with a smooth steel tool. The photo from the brick company is "tuck pointed" with a steel tool that has a groove in it. It reduces the wide appearance of the mortar joint.
Raked joints create more texture to a wall but that is usually not necessary with a handmade brick. The combination is pretty rustic.
As for cleaning molded brick, Glen-Gery says:
"At the end of each shift, remove
excess mortar with a stiff bristle
brush. Clean with wooden paddles
and stiff fiber brushes using
If a cleaning agent is necessary,
presoak the wall with clean water prior
to applying the cleaning agent and
thoroughly rinse the wall with
clean water after cleaning. Prior to
determining a final cleaning solution,
test the procedure and cleaning agent
on a small sample area to observe the
effectiveness of the overall cleaning
solution and, most importantly, to
detect any possible deleterious effects
or changes in appearance of the brick.
Additional information is available in
the Glen-Gery Technical Profile
"Cleaning New Brickwork." Some
Handmade bricks should not be
cleaned; Check with your Glen-Gery
Distributor or District Sales Manager
prior to making a final selection of a
cleaning procedure and solution.
Reference: BIA Technical Notes on
Brick Construction 20, "Cleaning
Renovator--threeapples indicates the brick is sand faced--no pressure washing or stiff wire brushes can be used as it will strip the brick of the sand and result in a very different appearance than intended. That's the reason why she's so worried about all the mortar on the brick.
You have several issues going on. At one time Old Virginia made some very nice brick. There are millions upon millions on colleges and homes across the country, however, about 6 years ago the company was sold and the majority of the old staff are no longer there. Since then their quality is among the worst in the industry. The reason you have so many irregular shaped brick is because the mould boxes are worn out and haven't been replaced.
All of the cracks you see are not by design but are a result of a poor mix design and improper drying and firing.
The sample panels you show are from different "runs", that is the main reason they look so different from what you're laying in the wall.
The mortar joint issue is coming from selecting a "raked joint", this is the most difficult of all joints to install correctly. Contrary to some other comments, it's best to leave slight areas of mortar alone until it dries. If you try cleaning the mortar when it's wet you can smear it and make it much worse.
Sand faced brick can be cleaned with a mild detergent and brushes with light water pressure. Blowing the sand off is not the issue, it's designed to come off, you must be careful to not blow the face off the brick. Moulded brick do not have the compressive strength that extruded brick do.
The top 2 courses in the first photo have not been jointed yet. Did you take the photo while the guys were on break? The mortar looks green and I would assume that they were waiting for it to set up before they raked the joint.
The workmanship could be better but they're hindered by the quality of the brick. Make sure they flash and seal everything as well as fully grout every head joint. Every crack you see has the potential to leak water and that will be a major expense to repair.
I once foolishly commented to a buyer how "clean" the masons were working removing mortar from the brick on their home. Sure enough, the buyers then examined the brick from one or two feet away, complaining about the still visible flecks of mortar and then listed pages of "defects" in their complaint to the Warranty Programme. All rejected, by the way.
As a builder, the masons always ask me "raked" (typically with just a random stick) or "tooled"?
brickguy, i had no idea my brick was so poorly made and of poor quality! this is not the best thing for me to be hearing right now. :(
what do you mean about having the masons flash and seal everything? please explain so i can let them know what to do with the remaining areas.
should i be worried about my brick and mortar's longevity?
The occasional cracked brick in a veneer wall is mainly a cosmetic issue. All brick is porous and absorbs water, even leaks water to the interior. The walls on the OP's home appear to include a drainage plane--the Tyvek--that will handle the water.
Flashing should be at the bottom and above and below openings.
Speaking of grouting, where it's really needed--and maybe it was done after the photos--is at the top row of the block foundation. Easier yet, they could have been solid to begin with.
Rather than try and second-guess the masons--and all the other trades working on your home--invest in an expert's inspection of the project during and after completion. An architect or engineer.
We had an expert inspect it a few days ago and will again at its completion. We will have flashing.
Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. Just trying to advise you of some issues you could face.
All brick are extremely dense, therefore they will absorb a minimal amount of water but if properly made none will pass through the brick. The water that seeps in comes through faulty head joints (the left and right vertical joint of the brick). When you have irregular edges, it is critical for the mason to make sure that those joints are full and jointed tight to prevent water penetration.
Moulded brick tend to absorb more water than their extruded counterparts because they are not manufactured under the same amount of pressure but if properly manufactured and installed will perform well for many, many years.
Moulded brick are beautiful. The traditional look that they convey with their softer texture is something that extruded brick can never duplicate. However, the bows, cracks and warps that you are seeing are NOT a characteristic of moulded brick. Some people like the rough, irregular sizes but they are a nightmare to lay and can lead to a very sloppy looking job if you don't have a mason that is familiar with laying them.
Did you buy these brick direct from Old Virginia or from a distributor? Also, what state are you in? Old Virginia is sitting on a mountain of "cull brick" (brick that were graded as sub-par) and they ship them out of state to areas that don't consume large amounts of moulded brick therefore they don't realize how bad they actually are.
If you would like to see some really nice moulded brick, check out Cushwa Brick, there are millions of them on Camden Yards in Baltimore as well as M & T Stadium where the Ravens play.
Let me know if you need any further help.
We are in Ohio. We ordered directly from Old Virginia.
I'm very nervous now our brick won't hold up or will cause problems. They said it was made specifically for us.
Brickguy, I noticed you just joined GardenWeb two days ago. May I ask what your qualification is to comment on the quality of Old Virginia brick? I've been unable to find information online that points to these issues you mention. Do you think my brick will not have a long life?
I worked for a masonry contractor for roughly 6 years and moved to selling brick and masonry supplies for the last 25 years. I stumbled across your post a few days ago researching another problem for a client of mine.
Don't be overly alarmed, your brick will hold up and are not going to fall off the house, but you need to be proactive to avoid any potential water leaks from the brick. With the excessive cracks in the faces you may run into a "spalling" issue a few years down the road where water gets into the cracks and through the freeze/thaw cycles it will cause parts of the faces to pop off.
Most manufacturers offer a warranty for their brick, usually they'll say for as long as you own the home, some offer as much as a 50 year warranty. If you purchased the brick direct from Old Virginia, you should ask them what kind of warranty they offer. They have sales reps that work out of state and if you make the request they should send someone out to look at it.
Being in Ohio, check with Belden Brick in Canton. They make a great moulded brick and may be able to assist you with some of your concerns.
thanks, brickguy. i was hoping you might not know what you're talking about.
i do know belden bricks, but i couldn't find one that i liked as much as old virginia. i'm not sure what they could do to help since our brick is going up. hopefully the faces of the cracked bricks won't pop off. i guess if that happens we'll have to have someone come in, remove those bricks, and replace them.
It was requested of me that I update my posts. The brick walls in the above photos were removed and redone a few days after my initial post. I was rather unhappy about the unevenness of the mortar lines (some were 1/4" thick while others were nearly a whole inch!).
Our architect admitted to forgetting to specify jack arches for our French doors in the basement. He noticed this after the house was entirely bricked. The cost for redoing these areas would have to come out of our pocket and we just didn't want to spend it.
The brick looks great and has held up well through the winter. Here is an updated photo:
Looks beautiful to me!
I agree - it looks beautiful! I know your new home has been quite an ordeal and you'll be so glad to have it behind you, I'm sure! You've been birthing this baby for a long time. :)
Thanks! Yes, 21months and counting.
"you don't see the huge variation in how much mortar is used between the bricks, brickeyee? look at the second-to-last photo, top row. the brick is not dictating a massive amount of mortar in one area and too little in another. "
Actually. it does.
Any slight variation in the brick dimensions can only be made up for in the mortar joints.
I love your home threeapples!!
I wanted to know if you had checked plumb along the door frames. Visually, they looked crooked.