You’ve started to notice mortar cracking between your bricks. These are not vertical brick cracks going mostly in a straight line up or down or in a stair-step pattern. These cracks are going mostly straight in a horizontal direction. This can’t be good, can it? So now you’re *Googling* home symptoms the way your mother-in-law Googles health symptoms on WebMD.
Or maybe you are looking to buy a brick home and notice this horizontal cracking on the exterior during your showing. What is going on here? Should I be concerned that this is a foundation problem?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we understand that homeowners can see alarming signs like horizontal cracks in brick mortar and be concerned about them. While we are not masons or brick layers, we do know how foundation settlement and other causes affect masonry work and brick veneer siding and can tell you about how we diagnose issues during foundation inspection visits.
This article will explain the root cause of horizontal cracks in brick mortar. We will also review your options for getting this troubling home issue repaired.
What Do Horizontal Mortar Cracks Mean?
There is only one reason for horizontal mortar cracks to appear in a brick home. This concerning pattern is caused by foundation settlement.
Foundation settlement is a *less dire* way of saying that your home is sinking because that sounds terrible and scary like you’re falling into a bottomless pit. Foundation settlement happens frequently in construction and it’s not that dramatic. It means that your home has moved somewhat in a downward direction from when it was originally built.
Horizontal cracks especially highlight foundation settlement when there is a mid-wall sag or low spot between two corners of your home. In other words, the entire home is not settling evenly. A section in the middle of a wall has moved lower than the corners of the house.
Why or How Do Horizontal Mortar Cracks Happen?
When a foundation settles (or sinks down) the framing of the home moves with it. A brick veneer wall is attached to the framing. Settlement forces put pressure on the bonds between bricks and as your slab foundation and framing sink, the mortar cracks as a result. Imagine gravity pulling straight down in the middle of a brick wall and where and how the bricks would separate from one another.
When foundation settlement is happening in the center section of a wall, it often shows up with a telltale horizontal crack in the mortar and separation between brick layers.
What To Do About Horizontal Brick Mortar Cracks: 6 Options
You’ve got some options on what to do about horizontal brick mortar cracks. Let’s list them quickly here and then we can elaborate on the options.
- Ignore the cracks and do nothing
- Repair with caulk
- Re-apply mortar (also called tuck point)
- Remove and replace damaged sections
- Redo the entire brick wall on one or more sides of the home
- Raise the foundation using foundation repair
Let’s discuss . . .
Option 1: Ignore the Horizontal Cracks In Your Brick
Suggesting that you ignore the cracks sounds a little strange, but we’re just listing *all* the options here. But if the cracks 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 cracking is not on the front of your house or not easily visible from the street, then it might not be that urgent for you.
Options 2 & 3: Caulk or Re-Mortar Your Horizontal Brick Cracks
Repairing the cracks with caulk or mortar are both cosmetic ways to mask the issue. This could work in the short term if you just want to make the cracks disappear temporarily to look good for an event at your home. Eventually, the cracks will reveal themselves again if the root cause of the problem is not addressed.
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.
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 cracks 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 visual problem more permanently. But 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 leads us perfectly into the next option almost as if I had planned it that way . . .
Option 6: Raise the Foundation with Foundation Repair
If you want to fix foundation-related brick cracks 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 to seal up the cracks for good without the worry of it cracking again due to further settlement.
Interior Foundation Repair May Be Needed with Horizontal Cracks
It should be noted that horizontal brick mortar cracks are not only an indication of a sag in the middle of a wall but also indicate that a specific kind of foundation repair might be needed. Sags in the middle of walls often point to interior foundation settlement, meaning settlement that is happening under the center of the home, not just on the perimeter (which is more common).
Foundation repairs for settlement under the interior of the home are more extensive and expensive than perimeter foundation repairs. You would want to check around your home for other signs of interior foundation settlement, specifically looking up for gaps in your brick frieze along the exterior walls.
This article about signs of interior settlement will help you know what to look for as you check around your home.
Handling the Source of Your Horizontal Brick Mortar Cracks
Now that you know what has caused your horizontal crack issue, 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 Navasota 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.