Why couldn't the wolf huff and puff and blow down the third pig's house? Because it was made of brick, so it was strong and stable and secure. Unfortunately, the real world is not a fairytale and brickwork is not always perfect. Cracked brickwork is an all-too-common problem that can indicate underlying structural issues with a house. Many renovators encounter this problem on the job, and it is a tricky one to deal with. Popular solutions for cracked brickwork include underpinning and simply filling the cracks. To figure out which solution will work for your house, you need to get the foundations assessed to find the underlying cause of the cracking.
- Get an evaluation done - before you start any kind of work on the cracked brickwork, get a structural engineer or experienced mason to evaluate the problem. An expert will be able to tell you whether the cracks are caused by an issue with the foundations, or whether they are simply a superficial problem caused by heat or age. They will also be able to recommend a solution for your situation. For example, brickwork cracks which are around 6mm wide and run diagonally through the walls are a strong indicator that the problem is with the foundations and a solution such as underpinning may be required.
- Underpin the foundations - underpinning is the best traditional solution if your cracked brickwork is caused by subsidence. It involves fixing the foundations of the house so that they stop shifting with the movement of the land. Most commonly, the method used is one of laying concrete into pits in the land beneath the foundations.
- Offset moisture expansion - for newer, superficially cracked brickwork (i.e. not caused by foundational issues), making room in the brick for expansion by opening narrow gaps is a good solution. This allows the bricks to expand with moisture towards each other without cracking.
- Fill the cracks - filling the cracked brickwork is a simple, cheap solution if your cracked brickwork is only a superficial problem. However, filling the cracks will only work temporarily if there are deeper issues with your house. For some older houses, this solution will work perfectly because the cracked brickwork is just a sign of age.
If your cracked brickwork only needs aesthetic correction, it won't take much work to remedy the defect. However, foundational issues can be more difficult to fix. Restoring an old house to its former glory is no easy work, but hopefully, this guide to repairing cracked brickwork makes the job a little easier.