My neighbor spent well over $200,000 to add a beautiful addition to her traditional brick veneer Cape Cod home. But when the masonry contractor put up the brick he failed to even come close to matching the color of the mortar to the original part of the house. Even worse the new bright white mortar clashes with both the new brick and the old. The house now has a garish and jarring appearance and the cost of repair is prohibitive.
Brick veneer is the most durable and beautiful material that will protect your home from the elements. Brick is virtually maintenance free and will last for generations. Living in the Detroit area it is plain to see the brick in all the dilapidated buildings is still in beautiful condition and in most cases can be salvaged and reused. Brick veneer is more costly and you will have to live with your choice for as long as you own your home. If you’re planning an addition or building a new home the money, time and effort invested in choosing the design, brick, mortar and most importantly the contractor will be returned many times over in long-term value.
These are some ideas to consider when choosing or matching brick veneer
• Cost: maybe it would be better to sacrifice square footage for quality and beauty
• Design: Long, high walls need to be broken up with a vertical course of brick, a ledge of stone or by brick that varies in color and texture. Design in offset walls with interior or exterior corners to give vertical definition to the house.
• Use “offset” (brick that protrudes from the wall in patterns or randomly)of bricks to create interest
• Make the addition narrower or wider than the existing home for interior or exterior corners to make brick and mortar matching easier
• How does the house fit into the neighborhood? A traditional styled house needs darker reds and more texture with gray mortar. Fieldstone, granite or sandstone can be used carefully
• Contemporary houses can use whites, blushes or neutral colors and smooth to glazed brick. Mortar can be bright white
• A skilled and experienced mason will take the time to try out various mixtures to match the mortar. Remember it is the SAND in the mortar that must match. Ask to see other work the mason has done and be prepared to pay a little more
• There are many sizes and profiles of brick available. We have a ranch house built on a slab in our neighborhood that used long, low profile brick with a subtle wavy texture. Along with a double-hip roof and deep eves this house would be the envy of Frank Lloyd Wright himself!
• Design the roof and gutters so the downspouts can be used to hide the seam between the old and new brick. There are many decorative gutter and downspout products available. Visit a local siding and gutter supply house
• A faux copper downspout with an elegant leader head (or conductor) can be used to hide a seam too
• Many faux half columns are available in various metal and paintable materials
• Use high quality beveled horizontal or battened vertical siding carefully in your design
• More and/or larger windows, entry doors, shutters and small round or octagon shaped windows can be used to breakup large brick walls
• Be careful using brick up into gables. Because of the roof slope at each end of the brick courses, the careless mason will loose his way; the vertical joints will not line up and the wall will have an undulating and amateurish look. A small window high in the gable would be good in this circumstance
• And remember to choose your roof shingles and materials at the same time. As an example, using a metal roof on an addition can be a way of making the addition “compliment” the original house instead of trying for an exact “match” (for the few of you that are self-confident, brave and daring you can use a combination of materials and design to “contrast” the original house; I’ve seen it done and to wonderful ends!)
And finally a special mention when using stone. A cobblestone cottage looks the way it does because it’s a cottage! A cottage is a small house. A large stone house must be very carefully designed. Avoid long, tall walls of stone veneer.
Mixing stone with brick veneer can produce a pleasing effect. Try to imagine you are building your house on the ancient ruins of stone fence or an old country manor. The lower corners, some around the entry door and a few randomly chosen places in the wall are all that is needed.
Brick has been made in local kilns using clay dug up from nearby river banks for centuries. The brick you find made in New England may clash with landscape of the house you build in Texas. The same is true if you use that blush pink brick that you loved in Florida for a house built in Wisconsin. The brick must be from the same origin as the house. Contemporary or traditional; single story ranch or two story colonial; split-level or townhouse; new construction or addition, all need the appropriate brick veneer to enhance long term value and style.