Using Wood Framing for Brick Veneers
Brick will always have an important place in design and architecture. It’s durable, it adapts to a wide range of architectural styles, and it ages gracefully. However, from homes to mid-rise buildings, much of what we think of as modern brick construction isn’t. Instead, it’s more likely to be a brick veneer. Brick veneer is flexible and cost-effective but doesn’t come without its drawbacks or dangers. It’s not a job you want to leave in the hands of an inexperienced masonry contractor.
Breaking Tradition With Supporting Brick Veneer on Wood Frame
Traditional bricklaying relies on one of two construction methods: brick-on-brick, or brick-on-block. Viewed in cross-section, you’d see the building facade, an air barrier behind that for insulation, and the concrete structure that holds up bricks and buildings alike. This method persisted for centuries because conventional wisdom had it that only brick or concrete could bear the weight of bricks. However, changing times have brought along alternatives for new construction and retrofits alike in the form of brick veneer on wood frame construction.
What is Cross Laminated Timber?
A thin piece of wood doesn’t have much structural integrity. A board is thicker and stronger, but also has its limitations. Cross- laminated timber (CLT) is similar to plywood, but rather than stacking multiple thin layers of wood, CLT glues together multiple boards to create a stronger single beam. A CLT beam is capable of bearing the heavier load of a brick veneer.
What is the Biggest Consideration when Supporting Brick Veneer on Wood Framing?
Brick veneers take experience and care regardless of the type of framing. With that said, supporting a brick veneer on wood framing has one consideration that’s paramount above all else.
What is a Control Joint?
That consideration is the control joint. While we tend to think of brickwork as an inflexible monolith, the truth is more complex. Buildings settle. They can also be subject to high winds,seismic activity, and compression. When a structure is finished, the load of people, furnishings, and other finishing materials will lead to pressure on the control joints. The control joints are compressed material that allows for building movement and flexibility. For example, a one-inch gap can be compressed to a half-inch after loading. If the structure and accompanying brickwork are too rigid, it can crack or collapse.
Benefits of Supporting Brick Veneer on Wood Framing
Now that we have a basic understanding of the mechanics of brick veneer on wood framing, what are some of its benefits?
The look of exposed brick is timeless. It requires no painting or additional finishing and will weather the elements. If it’s installed properly and maintained correctly, it will always look attractive.
A brick veneer over a wood frame is lighter than a comparable traditionally-built brick structure. The CLT beams are mostly fabricated from recycled wood. Because of this, brick veneer on a wood frame is more eco-conscious than many alternatives.
Drawbacks of Supporting Brick Veneer on Wood Framing
While it has many advantages, installing a brick veneer over a wood frame does have its drawbacks.
Scaffolding, whether the standard type or the hydraulic scaffolding favored by J&S Masonry, exerts a force on the structure. The spacing and installation are different, typically requiring ten units and five ties for a wood structure.
Wood is porous and more susceptible to pressure than concrete. That means a higher degree of settling than you’d find with brick construction on a concrete-framed building, and in turn, presents challenges with the sizing and spacing of control joints.
Wood frames are harder to reinforce than concrete. While not an insurmountable challenge in either new construction or a retrofit, it does introduce another layer of complexity. With the added complexity comes added expense.
How to Install a Brick Veneer
When handled properly, wood is a viable option for framing with masonry. At J&S Masonry, we have the knowledge and experience to install brick veneers over either concrete or wood structures successfully. Given the potential challenges, and the high, even catastrophic, cost of failure, we do not suggest less-experienced masonry contractors. Come to us for quality work performed with the utmost care. Your next masonry project in Oregon or Washington should begin with a simple phone call to J&S Masonry.