Are you confused by the different types of brick siding? If you want to learn the difference between solid brick and brick veneer then you’ve come to the right place. In our latest RenoCompare post we will look at each of these brick siding options and compare installation, costs, maintenance and more.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at exactly what we mean by solid brick and brick veneer:
WHAT IS SOLID BRICK?
Solid brick siding is constructed of full bricks roughly 3 ½” deep, 2 ½” high and 7 ½” long, though size varies. Bricks are made of clay that has been mixed with water, formed and baked or fired to make them extremely hard and durable.
A solid brick wall is also called a mortar wall and a facade wall.
What solid brick is not: Traditional brick walls were constructed of a rear and front wall. The rear, unseen wall could be brick or concrete block, with brick construction used for the visible wall. This was standard practice through the mid-20th century.
Today, brick siding is a single wall of brick, aka a facade wall, covering the home’s framework and sheathing.
WHAT IS BRICK VENEER?
Brick veneer siding is thin brick, 1/2″ to 1” thick. Height and length are the same as full brick. There are two main types.
The first type is clay. Genuine brick veneer can be made from reclaimed clay bricks that have been cut or sliced to create 4-6 pieces of veneer.
More commonly, the veneer, also called thin brick, can be manufactured from clay in thin pieces. When this method is used, corner pieces are also produced that have a 90-degree angle on one end.
Individual pieces are installed using standard brick mortar.
The second type is concrete. Called faux brick veneer, like faux stone, it is made with a cement mix that is colored and formed in molds to give the pieces shape and texture. Standard and corner pieces are produced.
This type is also often attached to a mesh backing. Panels generally contain three courses of veneer, usually three pieces wide.
What brick veneer is not: When brick walls were still being built the traditional way with a rear wall and front wall, single-wall construction was called a veneer wall or a facade wall. To reiterate, we are using the term brick veneer in its “modern” sense of thin brick material.
Full bricks are typically installed on a concrete footing for support due to their weight. Mortar is used to hold the bricks together and to the wall behind them, if it is concrete. The mortar is typically about 3/8” thick on the top and sides of each brick.
If the wall behind the brick is wood, then wire or steel reinforcement is used at intervals to secure the brick to the house structure. Courses of brick are staggered so that the ends of the bricks do not align with the ends of the bricks below and above them.
Thin brick veneer pieces are installed using standard brick mortar, piece by piece, row after row. Assemblies using mesh are secured to the home’s sheathing, and mortar is used to fill the gaps.
The cost of brick veneer siding is $15 to $24 per square foot, while solid brick siding cost is $22 to $37 per square foot.
Doing the math, you will save around 30% to 35% with brick veneer siding vs solid brick siding.
These are among the more expensive siding types. While some homeowners prefer a home completely sided in brick or brick veneer, using one of these materials on just the front or as an accent feature are options commonly taken too.
How does lifespan affect the long-term price of brick siding and brick veneer?
Solid brick lasts indefinitely when properly maintained, so it might have a lower lifetime cost.
Brick veneer will likely need replacement after 40-60 years.
However, few homeowners can take advantage of the lower long-term cost of full brick siding unless the home is passed down from generation to generation.
Caring for brick siding is similar whether it is full brick or veneer. There are do’s and don’ts.
Wash the brick as needed, usually every few years, using mild detergent and a moderately stiff brush or broom. Rinse off the siding with a hose. Using a garden sprayer attachment is okay.
Remove algae with a fungicide or oxygen bleach and a stiff brush, and rinse the area thoroughly.
Inspect the walls annually – spring is a good time – to look for loose mortar and cracked bricks.
Also look for a white powdery residue on the brick surface, something called efflorescence. It means moisture has gotten behind the brick, and minerals such as salt, are migrating to the surface. Remove the efflorescence, and more importantly, schedule a visit from your brick siding contractor to discover and repair the source of moisture penetration.
Check weep holes, if the wall contains them, and clear them of debris when needed
Replace loose or missing mortar immediately. Waiting on repairs is an invitation for moisture to penetrate and cause water damage to the structure of your home.
Seal the entire brick wall with an appropriate sealer every 3-5 years or as often as the brick manufacturer or installer recommends.
Don’t use a power washer, aka pressure washer, on brick of any type. The pressure may damage mortar and the caulk used to seal around windows, doors, etc. Water penetration behind solid brick or brick veneer is the main cause of wall failure, and repairs can be extensive and very costly.
Don’t wait on repairs to loose and missing mortar or caulk. Yes, that’s a repeat, but it is worth mentioning again.
Brick and veneer are excellent siding choices for any climate.
However, in rainy regions and those with winter freeze & thaw cycles, keeping a good seal on the brick is critical to preventing moisture absorption and the havoc it causes.
Clay used in solid brick and brick veneer is natural, so that’s a plus for green building. Using reclaimed brick, a common practice, is another boost for the environment.
And not as much energy is required to produce these materials as goes into vinyl or aluminum siding – or faux brick veneer.
Faux veneer made with cement blends require much more energy to produce, so it is less environmentally friendly.
There is little difference in the appearance of brick veneer vs full brick, especially when the veneer is made from clay. Some of the faux/cement brick veneer isn’t as elegant in appearance. This is especially true if the material is painted rather than tinted all the way through. We recommend avoiding painted faux brick veneer. Thankfully, most manufacturers have stopped producing it.
Check your HOA rules, if applicable. In upscale neighborhoods, full brick might be your only choice for home construction or exterior remodeling.
Where cost is a factor and you don’t plan to live in the home “forever,” then strongly consider brick veneer siding.
But if you’re building a house suitable for the generations to come, then solid brick is the premium choice in home siding.