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What is Brick Veneer?

By Josie Myers
Updated May 16, 2024
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Veneer, sometimes called facing, is the name given to any surfacing material. Brick veneer is simply a veneer with a thin brick surface on the front. There are varieties produced for both indoor and outdoor applications, with installation varying greatly between the two. Some veneers look very similar to traditional red brick, while others opt for a more rustic appearance.

On interior walls, brick veneer is laid similarly to tile. A mortar is spread on the wall and the bricks are set into place on top of the mortar. Plastic spacers separate the bricks during the drying process to create even spacing between them. Once the mortar has set up, the brick is then grouted. Indoor brick is most popular for decorating walls around inset fireplaces, or for producing an industrial feel in apartments that were once old factories.

Outdoor installation of brick veneer is very different than its indoor counterpart. The veneer is not installed directly on top of the house, but rather as a free standing wall anchored to the house. The anchors, also called brick ties, are connected to the house through joints in the mortar. The bricks are set on a foundation and built from the ground up and are supported by their own weight.

There are a few disadvantages that should be considered by someone interested in installing brick veneer onto the outside of their home. The installation is not as easy as it may look, and most home owners without serious contracting experience are recommended against taking it on as a do-it-yourself project. Since the veneer is a separate structure when installed properly, it does not improve the structural integrity as one might easily believe it would. It can also be subject to water damage, although this can be minimized by providing drainage holes in the bottom of the wall. Like any brick structures, the veneer will need to be pointed in time. This process is a difficult one that involves grinding out the old mortar, and setting new mortar in its place.

Despite these drawbacks, outdoor brick veneer is an attractive and classic choice for many home owners. It provides durability with low maintenance requirements. Vinyl siding is particularly susceptible to damage from flying objects during a wind storm, while metal siding can dent and fade with time. With brick veneer, there is no extra painting required as there is with wood or metal siding, and there is significantly less chance of damage than vinyl siding. Replacement of siding can be a difficult process and matching old and new together can prove to be a difficult task, which makes brick the obvious choice for those seeking long term simplicity. With proper professional installation, brick veneer can prove to be a lovely addition to any home.

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Discussion Comments
By anon298419 — On Oct 20, 2012

"On interior walls, brick veneer is laid similarly to tile."

Thin, adhered, brick veneer can also be used on exterior walls, but it must be adhered to a layer of traditional stucco or cement board, installed with the same waterproofing measured as would be used on a stucco installation (enough mortar breaks or spacers to allow drainage, two layers of lapped tar paper, flashings and a weep screed). However, corner pieces, either supplied from the manufacturer or mitered, glued and "dusted" by the mason, may be needed to avoid a two dimensional "wall paper" look.

For those who can't afford or justify covering the whole house with brick, a combination of brick and stucco can be a reasonable alternative. For inconspicuous areas, the stucco can even be colored and carved into a brick pattern. A trained eye can usually tell the difference, but a really good job can result in walls that are nearly indistinguishable from real brick.

By jwal33 — On Jul 13, 2010

Brick veneer is a good surface-covering option as it creates the illusion of brick without requiring all the complicated work involved in laying actual brick. Many people enjoy this type of veneer because of its inviting, traditional appeal.

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 04, 2010

We used brick veneer on the interior of our home. Our kitchen had two columns in it and we had brick veneer to cover them. It is a beautiful addition. We also used it in our den. It brings out the fireplace and makes the whole room seem cozy.

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