House Exterior Wall Inspection Essentials

Masonry refers to using individual units bound together with mortar and laid in to create various structures. When inspecting a property, house inspectors will find both veneer and rugged masonry walls. Unfortunately, each of them has various flaws.

Solid Masonry Walls



A lot of properties these days are built using stone or full thickness brick masonry. There are also many new homes which are built using wood frame at the second floor and concrete blocks at the 1st floor. However, regardless of the way they are built, they are still prone to developing cracks. The cracks develop because of the natural settling of the property and a mortar line shrinkage.



The duty of a home inspector in regards to this is to find out whether the cracks can be considered defects or not. Cracks of any kind (including larger cracks) need to be inspected even more in order to see what consequences they can have on the property’s structure and that’s because they’re generally responsible for allowing water to seep in.



Most of the times, if the cracks in masonry walls are larger than one fourth of an inch, then they have to be inspected further. On top of that, if small cracks measure up to one fourth of an inch or even more than that, then this can be a sign of more than regular movement. If the cracks have lateral movement, they need to be inspected by a structural engineer as soon as possible in order to avoid massive damage to the property’s structure.

It’s also essential to check for other proofs and signs of movement which lead to the cracks in the walls. Its can include sloping floors, interior cracks, rubbing or trimmed interior doors, wracking of door frames and window frames and so forth. These signs, including the property’s age and the type of material that is inspected can signal more than regular movement and necessitate evaluation by professional and advice on what exactly needs to be done to fix these issues.

There are also licensed masonry contractors capable of  performing professional evaluation of a compromised  masonry structure. The main benefit of utilizing their help is a fact that evaluation and a masonry wall repair quote are in most cases performed without any charges to property owner.

Compared to cracks, bulges are a lot easier to assess and that is because they generally indicate movement in the wall. Because there is a chance that the wall may fail completely, it’s recommended that these issues are immediately investigated by a professional.

There are of course many other areas that have to be inspected carefully when it comes to rugged masonry walls and they include doors and windows. Rugged masonry walls aren’t barrier walls and that is why they can allow moisture to penetrate the property. Also, in order to allow for proper water drainage from behind the wall, a number of wythes is required.

Because of this, if there are any straight intrusions in the wall, then this can cause the moisture to be slowed down on its way towards the bottom. When this happens, the wood frames will absorb the moisture and become deteriorated.

Usually, when it comes to older stone masonry or solid brick masonry walls, they are reinforced using mortar. However, the mortar was usually soft and given the fact it’s also porous, it isn’t able to stop the moisture and prevent it from escaping between the stone or bricks. In time, old lime mortar will also deteriorate which means that it needs to be raked down and replaced.

It’s a process that many refer to as pointing.

re-pointing brick wall


The thing is that if the same type of mortar is not used, then this will cause the CMUs to spall. Therefore, if you’ve noticed your masonry walls have begun to deteriorate, then you should consider hiring a professional masonry expert who has experience and is knowledgeable in restoration procedures.




In general, veneers can be any type of material, yet they’re oftentimes synonymous with either faux stone or brick. Since they are large materials, anchored veneers need a substructure. Using metal straps positioned at 24” on center each way, the veneers are carefully anchored to the wood frame walls. The materials should be installed with one to two inches of air gap between one another and the timber frame walls since this will cause the humidity to weep towards the bottom.



Most of the times, weep holes are installed not more than 33” on center according to the Residential Building Code. On the other hand, according to the BIA, you should consider twenty four inches for weeps and sixteen inches for wicks, since this is going to help prevent pests from infesting the property and also make it easy for moisture to escape the wall.

The attached veneers are going to be glued to the property by using thin set plastic mortar. The way it goes is that a metal lath and building paper are going to be applied to the external part of the timber framing. After that, a three eights of an inch thick coat of plaster is applied and left to dry.

When the coating has dried properly, the joints are mortared and the attached veneer is glued. This is a simple way to go about installing them and the good news is that there’s no need to consider a second substructure ledge for the veneer.

Evaluation and repairs are generally considered necessary when inspectors detect issues in the anchored veneers such as lack of moisture exits, jammed weep holes and lack of weep holes.

From time to time, home inspectors can also come across attached veneer walls with portions that have become displaced because the humidity behind the wall couldn’t escape and the freezing led to movement.

When it comes to headers or metal lintels, they are generally installed to offer support to the masonry veneer, but sooner or later they are going to rust. If the inspector detects that the veneers have moved or that there’s excessive rusting, then he should investigate the matter further. In this case, there’s always going to be fissures of the mortar in the metal lintel. Contrary to what some people may believe, this is absolutely normal and they shouldn’t fill it with caulking since it represents the exit for humidity.