How to Build a Brick Veneer Wall

Add style and curb appeal to your home's exterior with a brick veneer wall. We'll show you how to successfully install brick cladding.

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Brick cladding, also called brick veneer, will dress up the exterior walls of your home. Brick veneer is essentially a one-wythe wall attached to the house. After a few preparatory steps, you apply it using the same techniques as you would for a running-bond wall. The first step is to establish a solid bed for the brick to rest on.

You can dig a trench, build forms, and set a concrete footing along the wall, or you can fasten 4x4x3/16-inch angle iron to the foundation to provide a ledge, as illustrated on these pages. Even a half-high wall is a substantial weight, so fasten the angle iron with lag shields and lag screws. This layer of brick will trap moisture against the wall; weep holes at the bottom of the wall give trapped moisture a way to escape.

Expect to spend about a day laying a 4x10-foot wall. Before you begin, you'll need to remove siding on the surface you plan to place the wall. Make sure you're comfortable mixing and applying mortar, measuring and leveling, cutting bricks, and striking joints.

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What You Need

  • Trowel
  • Level
  • Story pole
  • Brick set
  • Small sledgehammer
  • Hammer
  • Concave jointer
  • Brush
  • Open-end wrench
  • Heavy-duty drill and bit
  • T-bevel
  • Mortar
  • Brick
  • 4x4-inch angle iron
  • Lag shield
  • Lag screws
  • 2x lumber
  • Finishing nails
  • Glue

Before You Begin: Prep for Veneer

Before you brick-veneer an exterior wall, remove the siding. Then staple a layer of house wrap or 15-pound felt paper to the sheathing as a moisture barrier.

Take off the window and door moldings—after you've laid the veneer, the existing moldings won't fit. You'll either have to replace the molding with thicker trim or add extensions to the original moldings.

Using a story pole, mark the felt paper just below door and window openings so you can properly position a top rowlock course under them.

Step 1: Attach and Angle Iron

Snap a level chalk line on the foundation at the location of the angle-iron ledge. Cut the angle iron to length and drill holes at 1-foot intervals. Hold up (or prop) the angle iron on the line and mark the foundation at the center of the holes. Drill the foundation, insert lag shields, and attach the angle iron with lag screws.

Step 2: Lay Mortar

Starting at one end of the ledge, throw a 1-inch bed of mortar two or three bricks long. Furrow the mortar with the trowel tip.

Step 3: Lay First Brick

Align the first brick with the edge of the foundation ledge and press it into the mortar. Leave a 1/2-inch airspace between the brick and the foundation. Make the mortar-bed joint 3/8-inch thick. Trim off the excess mortar and throw it back onto your mortarboard or the brick ledge.

Editor's Tip: If your veneer goes around a corner, install it by building corner leads. The brick goes in two directions, so you won't need to start alternating courses with a half brick—the corner brick acts as a half brick (if the actual width of the brick is exactly half its length). The number of bricks you lay in the first course in both directions should equal the number of courses you want in your lead. For example, if you want your lead to be nine courses high, lay five bricks in one direction and four bricks in the other. That will make a base for a nine-course lead.

Step 4: Lay More Bricks

Butter several bricks and lay them. Every three or four bricks, check them for level, making sure joints are 3/8 inch thick. Use the level to plumb the faces of the brick and make sure they lie on the same plane.

Editor's Tip: From time to time, check the mortar to determine if it's ready for striking. When it has set up just enough that you can leave an impression with your thumb, strike the joints with a concave jointer. After striking the joints, let the mortar set up, then remove the excess with a stiff brush. Clean smears with a damp rag and a brush.

Step 5: Place Cord

About every 2 feet, set a short piece of 1/4-inch cord at the bottom of the head joint. Start the cord at the back of the brick. When the mortar starts to set, pull out the cord to create a weep hole. Or, instead of forming a weep hole with 1/4-inch cord, you can insert a plastic tube into the joint. Leave it in place as the mortar cures.

Step 6: Lay More Courses

Using the same techniques used to build a running-bond wall, build up the leads, starting every other course with a half brick. Check your work frequently for level, plumb, and proper alignment. Continue laying brick to make a five- or six-course lead at each end of the wall.

Step 7: Attach Mason's Blocks

Attach mason's blocks and line at the ends of the first course, aligned with the top of the course and about 1/16 inch out from the front face. Working from both ends to the middle, lay the remainder of the first course.

Step 8: Dry-Set Final Brick

At the middle, dry-set the final brick to make sure it will fit with 3/8-inch mortar joints. If it's too long, trim it slightly. Then butter both ends of the brick and push it in place. Make sure it's level and plumb. Move the line blocks up one course and lay that course. Continue laying courses past the top of the foundation.

Step 9: Attach Ties to Studs

At this point, and at every fifth course, nail corrugated brick ties into the studs. You can use a story pole to mark the wall at five-course intervals. Find the studs with a stud finder, a tape measure, or by finding the nails in the sheathing. Mortar the ties into the bottom joint as you set the next course of brick. Continue building leads and laying brick until you have reached the finished wall height.

Step 10: Set the Rowlock Course

To set the rowlock course at the correct angle of the wall and parallel to the window sill, set a T-bevel to the angle of the sill. Then transfer the angle to each of your rowlock bricks and cut them.

Step 11: Install Rowlock Course

Install the rowlock course by buttering the sides of the bricks and pushing them into the mortar. If the course doesn't fit exactly, you can adjust the course's length by altering the thickness of the mortar joints.

Bonus: How to Extend the Sill

The existing trim is cut for the thickness of your siding, so a rowlock course under the window will look out of proportion unless you extend the sill. Fix a T-bevel at the angle of the sill and transfer the angle to a 2x piece of lumber. Cut the extension on a table saw set to the same angle. Sand off or otherwise remove the paint on your old sill. Glue and nail the extension to the old sill.

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