Although the bulk of my work relates to advice prior to purchase if you have problems with such issues as dampness, leaking chimneys, crumbling brickwork or cracking I can advise and give guidance. I do not provide pre contract specifications or supervise building works. The following two cases are examples of where I have been of assistance.
My client had bought a bungalow which had been built as a speculative development within the garden of a bigger house in the 1980’s. It was conventionally built of 275mm (11”) brick faced cavity walls. To give the building an older appearance, the builder had used some reclaimed bricks from a salvage yard and investigation revealed that these had come from an old factory in Cambridge.
My client was concerned that over time the brick faces were beginning to crumble away and that there were now about 300 bricks where the faces were showing the sort of problems shown in the photograph.
Before the days of modern computer controlled brick kilns when a kiln was fired, those bricks closest to the fire might be over burnt, those a bit further back might make good facing bricks, whilst those furthest away would be under burnt. The bricks would be graded and some sold as facing bricks, whilst the under burnt ones could find uses in internal locations where they were protected from the frost. This is one of the dangers of buying old materials from a salvage yard. They do not come with labels and instructions!
My conclusions was that problems were being caused by water retention issues in the bricks combined with a rapid freeze thaw cycle leading to frost damage on the faces. This was worst on the south east facing elevation. The hard cement mortar which was used to bed the bricks was preventing drainage and encouraging the moisture to become trapped within the bricks. This combined with the soft bricks was leading to the damage seen.
The roof loads for this bungalow would be low and were being taken by the internal skin of the cavity wall, which was of concrete blockwork. The external brick skin just helped to stiffen the structure and protect it from the weather. Therefore I was able to reassure the client that it was a cosmetic issue not a structural one. Even so if the bricks were not protected in some way it would continue to get worse. The obvious solution was to provide a render, weatherboard or tile hanging over the existing brickwork. There was an adequate eaves overhang for this although some re detailing around the window and door opening would probably be required. As an alternative you could try to carry out individual repairs to the bricks but this would be both costly and in my opinion an on-going commitment producing a slightly motley appearance in the brickwork.