You’re seeing this gap of space opening up on the side of one of your windows. What in the world is this?? Why do you have a gap between your brick and your window? This seems bad, but you’re hoping there’s a reasonable explanation and fix!
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we get asked about signs and symptoms around the home during foundation inspections all the time. After 35+ years in business, we know the answer to this question and can help you work through what to do about this troubling home issue.
This article will describe and explain what is causing a gap in between a window frame and brick veneer siding. We will explore repair options so that you can decide what you want to do to handle this problem. Let’s get started!
Examples of Gaps Between Brick and Window Openings
Just to make sure we are all talking about the same thing here, this home symptom has the following characteristics. This gap is:
- Visible on the exterior of the home,
- Found on one side of a window, and
- Appears where the window meets the brick veneer.
These gaps can be very substantial and scary looking, pulling caulk apart and making what looks like a hole in your brick. Don’t worry though, this is a gap in the outer cosmetic layer of your house. So it’s not opening up a hole that leads directly to the inside of your home. But it does create an opening to the inner layers of the home structure where there shouldn’t be one.
A picture is worth a thousand words so here are several examples of the kind of gap we are talking about. So, do you think 3 pictures are worth 3,000 words? Just wondering . . .
2 Causes of Opening Between Window and Exterior Brick Veneer
There are two reasons that something like this could be happening to your home:
- Foundation settlement (most likely), or
- Lack of brick ties (not very common).
1. Gap Between Window and Brick Caused by Foundation Settlement
When a home’s foundation settles, it means that all or part of the foundation has moved in a downward direction further into the soil from when it was built. When the foundation settles, the brick wall goes with it. This causes an *out of plumb* condition that stresses the connection between the window frame and the brick.
In other words, your brick wall used to be straight up and down and now it’s not.
When the foundation and wall move, it causes the brick veneer to fall away from its upright position. The connection between a window frame and a wall is secured by small nails and some caulk. A heavy brick wall slowly leaning against that connection will start to cause a gap where the bricks are pulling down and to the side, separating from the window frame.
As a foundation settles, the framing, sheathing, and brick veneer move with it. If there was no window, you would just get a stair-step crack. But since there is a window frame, you often get a smaller crack and then a big ol’ gap on the side of the window instead.
Fun fact (or maybe not-so-fun fact): The side of the window where the gap appears is closer to the area where your foundation is settling.
2. Gap Between Window and Brick Caused by Lack of Brick Ties
When the brick veneer is placed on a home, there’s a way that the brick is connected to the framing of the house. They call these “brick ties” and they prevent the brick from separating from the rest of the home, as well as transfer some of the weight and force of gravity onto the framing.
There could either not be enough brick ties installed correctly by the builder, or something happened to the brick ties over the course of time due to age, or degradation. Either way, it’s causing the brick veneer to move independently from the rest of the home and putting stress on the window frame’s connection to the brick.
As mentioned above, this is not particularly common as the source of gaps between windows and brick because installing brick ties is a simple step for masons and they don’t typically fail on their own.
Also, brick tie problems tend to make the bricks lean towards you rather than to one side or the other. So the gapping would usually present itself differently in a brick tie issue than the symptom we are describing here. But houses sometimes do strange things, so it’s still worth considering as a possibility.
How to Identify the Cause of Space Between Windows and Brick
Here’s how we typically can tell if brick/window trim separations are caused by foundation settlement or by brick tie issues. When we go out to a home to perform a foundation inspection and notice window gaps, we have to investigate a little further to verify what’s causing them.
How to Tell if Window/Brick Separation is Caused by Settlement
If the gap around your window is caused by foundation settlement, you will likely have other signs of foundation settlement developing in your home. You will never have *just one sign* when a home is experiencing foundation issues.
Check out this Ultimate Picture Guide to Foundation Problem Signs to look for anything else showing up in your home connected to foundation settlement issues. Once you know what you are looking for, there are likely other signs that will help to confirm that the gap on the side of your window is caused by foundation settlement.
You will almost always have a diagonal crack in the drywall inside the home that corresponds to the window gap outside the home. It’s very common for these two signs to appear together around the same window because the stresses that cause the gap on the outside also cause the wall to crack on the inside. Unless of course, someone has patched and painted over the telltale diagonal crack to mask it.
If the Gap on the Side of Your Window is Caused by Brick Tie Issues
If you shove on the brick wall with your body, does it move or feel loose? If so, it’s a brick-tie problem. A brick veneer that is not properly or adequately tied into the home will move slightly when pushed. Remember that brick is a cosmetic veneer so even if your brick wall falls away from the house, the rest of the house isn’t coming with it.
6 Options to Handle Gaps Between Window Frames and Brick
You’ve got some options on what to do about these gaps around your windows. Let’s list them quickly here and then we can elaborate on the options.
- Ignore the gaps and do nothing
- Repair with caulk
- Apply mortar instead of caulk
- Remove and replace damaged sections
- Redo the entire brick wall on one or more sides of the home
- Raise the foundation using foundation repair
Don’t worry, we will elaborate on these options . . .
Option 1: Ignore the Gap In Your Brick
Suggesting that you ignore the gap sounds a little strange, but we’re just listing *all* the options here. But if the gap or gaps don’t bother you that much and aren’t getting actively worse at the moment, then you could just ignore them for a while until you decide if or how to proceed later.
If the gap is not that big or is on the back of your house or just not easily visible to *others*, then it might not be that urgent for you.
Options 2 & 3: Caulk or Mortar to Cover Your Gaps Around Windows
Repairing the gap with some extra caulk or mortar are both cosmetic ways to mask the issue. You would at least be sealing up the exposed inner workings of the home. This could work in the short term if you just want to cover the gap temporarily and be less noticeable for an event at your home. Eventually, the gaps will open up again if the root cause of the problem is not addressed and your home is still settling.
Options 4 & 5: Remove/Replace/Redo Sections or Entire Walls
Removing and replacing damaged sections or redoing an entire wall of brick is a temporary cosmetic fix if your foundation is still settling. When active foundation settlement is the cause, this would be a short-lived and costly solution, not to mention a huge waste of money. The gaps will return if your foundation is still moving.
If you could somehow verify or tell that the foundation is no longer moving, then this would solve the problem more permanently. If this sounds like what you need to do right now, feel free to contact a Brazos Valley masonry contractor to get this cosmetic repair done for you.
I feel like we should mention that it’s pretty hard to know for sure if a foundation is still moving or not or if it will move again in the future without the extra support of foundation repair. This conveniently leads us to the last and best option . . .
Option 6: Raise the Foundation with Foundation Repair
If you want to fix foundation-related brick/window gaps with a more permanent and lasting solution, raising your foundation back to its original elevation is the way to go. Foundation repair is the only solution that addresses the root cause of the problem.
Foundation repair adds extra support under the length of your affected brick wall(s) and then returns the portions of the home that have settled back into their original position when built. After a foundation is repaired, you can confidently do some re-mortaring and caulking to seal up the gaps for good without the worry of it happening again due to further settlement.
Interior Drywall Repair May Be Needed As Well
We know that typically there are diagonal drywall cracks that accompany this kind of gapping around windows. You might also want to plan on repairing your drywall afterward.
It’s best to wait until the next change in seasons to repair drywall after foundation repairs. There are also several different ways to handle diagonal wall cracks from cheap and easy, to more costly and complex.
If you have diagonal wall cracks too, just know that you might also need the help of a drywall contractor in our area at some point. Foundation repair companies don’t typically handle drywall repairs.
Handling the Source of the Gaps Around Your Windows
Now that you know what has caused the gap between your window and brick exterior, what’s next? Well, you will need to decide if it’s time for foundation repairs or if you want to choose a more temporary solution.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing foundations for 35+ years in Bryan, College Station, and surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Caldwell and Brenham. We want to empower you with as much diagnostic information as possible so that you feel confident making repair decisions for your home.
Knowing when to get started with foundation repairs is a tough call for any homeowner. First, look around your home for other signs of foundation issues. Then, check out this article for guidance on knowing when the time is right to move forward with foundation repairs on your home with 100% confidence.