You’re just minding your own business, walking around your yard . . . fa la la . . . You look up and randomly notice this little piece of trim that has a gap in it on the corner of your brick home. It’s kinda near the top under the eaves. You can tell that it’s supposed to be connected at the corner but has somehow separated. What is this and what does it mean???
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing Brazos Valley foundations since 1985. We can tell you about this issue because we have seen it many times while conducting foundation inspections. We understand how the components of a home interact, especially as a result of foundation settlement.
This article will define and describe this issue and show example photos so you can confirm what you are seeing with your home. We will also discuss the possible causes of this trim separation issue and ways to handle it.
Describing and Defining Your Corner Trim Problem
Half of the problem here is that most people don’t know what they are looking at or what it’s called. The other half of the problem is that it’s really hard to describe with words in a way that you can picture it, but we’ll try.
Horizontal trim boards cover the gap between the vertical brick wall and the overhanging eave aka the soffit. These trim pieces are primarily cosmetic to cover what could be an unattractive transition between brick and wood materials. But this trim does serve the function of covering the gap for an extra layer to keep out critters too.
Here’s where a picture is worth a billion words. Check out the image below to show you what we are talking about.
This piece of trim apparently has a special name, it’s called “brick frieze” or “frieze board” and I don’t know why. But understanding how this trim piece got its name is not that important. What you really want to know is why is your brick frieze separating, amiright?
What Does Brick Frieze Separation Mean In a Home? 2 Reasons
There are two general reasons that brick frieze might separate like this. It could be because of 1.) foundation settlement or 2.) caused by a problem with your brick ties.
1. Brick Frieze Separation 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 brick frieze and the home.
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 doesn’t take much to pop the brick frieze away from its position. Brick frieze is only held on by small nails and some caulk. A heavy brick wall slowly leaning against that connection will start to cause the frieze trim boards to separate.
2. Problem with Brick Ties Causing Brick Frieze Separation
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 frieze board corner connection.
Finding the Cause of Your Brick Frieze Trim Separation
Here’s how we typically can tell if brick frieze 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 frieze board gaps, we have to investigate a little further to figure out what’s causing them.
How to Tell if Frieze Board Separation is Caused by Settlement
If your brick frieze separation is being 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 your brick problem is caused by foundation settlement.
How to Tell if Frieze Board Separation 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.
Options to Handle Brick Frieze Gapping and Separations
Now that you know what the problem is with your trim and its likely cause, you need some options to take care of this issue. Your choices range from cheap ‘n’ temporary to more expensive and long-lasting. To deal with your gapping brick frieze trim, you could:
- Ignore it and do nothing,
- Cosmetically repair the issue in a couple of ways, or
- Raise your foundation with foundation repairs.
Suggesting that you ignore the problem sounds a little strange, but we’re just listing *all* the options here. Popping brick frieze is imperceptible to most people and isn’t a big eyesore or embarrassing home problem. If you don’t have any other concerning foundation problem signs at the moment, then you could very well ignore it for a while.
You can repair the separating trim with caulk and paint or replace the entire trim board with a new one and paint it. If your foundation is actively settling or your brick tie problem isn’t rectified, this might only be a temporary fix.
The only way to tackle the source of a gapping brick frieze problem caused by foundation settlement is to raise your foundation back to its original elevation. The separated trim will be easy to tack back in place after the walls are back where they should be. Addressing the source issue with foundation repairs is a more permanent and lasting solution to gapping frieze boards.
When You Have Foundation Settlement and Brick Tie Issues
It should be noted that we have seen homes with BOTH a brick tie problem and a foundation problem at the same time. In a case where both issues are occurring in one home, the best thing to do is to repair your foundation first.
Sometimes, raising the foundation will actually shore up the looseness in the walls and squeeze everything back together sufficiently. So foundation repair *could* end up fixing both problems! Though it’s not guaranteed to work especially if you have a true issue with brick ties.
If you still seem to have an issue with a lack of brick tie connection after foundation repairs, you would still need to take steps to handle the brick tie issue to your satisfaction afterward. Fixing a brick tie problem for good would require removing the brick and redoing the affected wall(s) with sufficient and correct brick tie technique.
Handling the Source of Your Brick Frieze Separation
Now that you know how to figure out if you have a potential foundation problem or a brick tie issue, what’s next? Well, if you truly think you have a brick tie problem here in BCS, get in touch with a mason or bricklayer to consult with you more on your options – they are the experts when it comes to all things brick.
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.
If you think you have a foundation problem on your hands, we’re here to help whenever you are ready. Most homeowners don’t automatically know a lot about foundation repair. Check out, “What Does Foundation Repair Mean and How Does It Work?” for an introductory lesson in simple terms.