Are Cracks in Brick Normal? The Pros Explain How to Tell

Cracks in brick aren’t normal and shouldn’t be accepted as “par for the course” if you own a brick home in Alabama. Cracks in your home’s brick exterior, retaining walls, or any other wall can signal that something’s wrong with the home’s foundation—hands down the most important, though rarely seen, part of your house. Here we explain why bricks crack and what different types of brick cracking can mean.

Why Do Bricks Crack?

Brick is a porous—but strong—building material that naturally expands and contracts over time. Temperature and moisture (humidity) impact the rate of expansion and contraction. The location of the brick (like exposure to direct sunlight), and the integrity of surrounding building materials also play a role. Bricks begin to crack when they either don’t have enough room to “do their thang,” or uneven pressure is applied from an outside force.

Different Types of Cracks in Brick

At Alabama Foundation Repairs and Home Improvement, we customize our repair to match your needs. Every home and homeowner is unique and is treated as such! What follows is a brief overview of what your brick crack could signal and the potential repair.

Stair-Step Crack in Brick House

Stair-step cracks are appropriately named and are the most common type of brick crack cited by homeowners. A stair-step crack is a diagonal, right-angle crack that travels through the mortar surrounding the brick since mortar is not as strong as brick. The resulting crack looks like a staircase going up and down. A stair-step crack will usually point to the area of the foundation that is sinking or settling.

Stair-step cracks in brick are often due to uneven, moisture-related settling of the foundation. Below are two examples of stair-step cracks around the window sill of a home’s exterior in Alabama.

Stair-step brick cracks on the exterior of a home, pointing to moisture-related foundation settling.

Horizontal Crack in Brick Wall

Horizontal cracks can result from a combination of factors, some foundation related and some not. A horizontal crack can emerge because:

  • Dirt or wind is pushing against the brick wall.
  • Moisture is running rampant from clogged gutters or unresolved flood damage.
  • The soil underneath the foundation is weak.

Are you seeing horizontal cracking low on one of your foundation walls in the crawlspace or basement? If so, please call immediately. The soil pressure may be causing the foundation to buckle and a horizontal crack may signal a looming collapse. Horizontal brick cracks indicate that a wall may soon give way.

Vertical Cracking (Exterior)

Vertical cracks in a brick home’s exterior can be an exterior sign of foundation settlement. Vertical cracks will vary depending on your foundation material (basement, crawlspace, concrete slab-on-grade, etc.). Small, thin vertical brick cracks can show up right after a home has been built and can be traced back to some initial foundation settlement. Though usually minor, these cracks should still be examined by a professional. Wide vertical brick cracks, on the other hand, are serious indicators of a foundation problem. Wide brick cracks will often vary in width from one end to the other.

Vertical Cracking in Corners or Wall Seams (Interior)

Let’s say you have an exposed brick wall inside your home. It looks beautiful, stylish, and oh-so farmhouse chic… until you notice a vertical crack in one of the inside corners of the wall. Yikes.

Vertical cracking is typically due to brick expansion (remember, bricks are porous and absorb/release moisture like a sponge). Bricks can grow in size as they are exposed to humidity. As bricks grow, they can cause cracking at the seams of walls. In Alabama, vertical cracking in an interior wall usually isn’t an interior sign of foundation problems. Instead, it means that the builder didn’t leave enough space between the bricks to allow for thermal expansion.

How to Repair Cracked Brick

Cracks in brick are not normal and are not something you want to patch up on your own. A quick layer of plaster won’t fix the underlying issue. Alabama Foundations can help diagnose the cause of cracks in your home’s brickwork, and if needed, provide you with an affordable solution. Call or email for a free on-site consultation today. We repair cracked brick for good.