Brick ledge/Foundation walls question

Hello, I would like some opinions about this…

Most of the new homes I see in my area are built with the bottom row of bricks below grade, and without weepholes. I believe that this is done so that buyers won’t complain about ugly exposed foundation walls. If there are any weep holes installed, they are below grade, which of course is incorrect. I learned that there should be at least 4 to 6 inches of clearance from grade to the bottom row of bricks. I write this up whenever I see it, but am curious about what you guys think. Is this ever acceptable?


I’ve see them with a perforated plastic drain below the wall, was on the building plans and built that way.

But I wouldn’t know about your particular situation.

Bottom couple row of bricks were backfilled with pea-stone above the drain.


The Ontario Building Code is very specific about this (1)
THE EXTERIOR FOUNDATION WALLS SHALL EXTEND NOT LESS THAN 150MM 5 7/8" ABOVE FINISHED GROUND LEVEL It sounds to me that your code has something similar to this.Stick with it.Besides bricks are not designed to be below grade.


P.S. Hope this helps you.

Hi. Mike;

This is a scenario that I have crossed numerous times in my building career and will try to explain as best I can. Remember I am French and sometimes confuse more than I explain. ha. ha.

I my area, design Architects of out of State or in-State will come up with designs that show the brick bearing on top of the foundation with the counterflashings under the brick.
I will always change that design with a sketch showing why it is wrong.
I will show them that creating an 8" brick shelf in the foundation and dropping the counterflashing below the finished floor, will always prove better for water and moisture intrusion into the finshed floor. Weep holes in this case would be 8" below finish floor.
In the other scenario, the brick shelf is situated below grade and some of the bricks get buried and not showing concrete foundation above grade.
In this design, the buried 8" +’/- bricks are slushed with grout in the cavity and the counterflashing is installed one brick below finished floor with weep holes every two feet above grade. Weep holes come in a variety of design such as corrugated plastic butt joint inserts, PVC tubing and the old cloth weeps rope.
The eight inches of buried brick will be backed up with grout, and my extra preventive assurance, I also install weeps underground for release of whatever moisture that could get trapped behind the brick at the underground portion. This is an option and not really required by Architectural Designs.

The key here is to provide proper weeps of the cavity and have the counter flashings installed below finished floor so there is no chance of water seeping or wicking under the sill plates.
Hope you follow all this without pictures.
Posting pictures is not my bag. Still illiterate I guess. ha. ha.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Thanks for the response!

FYI, After I posted here, I received this response from an engineer at the Brick Industry Association,

[FONT=Arial]Hello Mike,[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]BIA does not recommend brick veneer below grade. Additionally, we highly recommend weeps – above grade as they will not “work” below grade. There needs to be an outlet for water that penetrates the veneer. Our Technical Notes 7, 7A and 7B will provide more information.[/FONT]

The wood destroying insects would love weep holes below grade, just add some moisture. I always recommend a minimum of 4 to 6" exposed slab to veneer surface. My termite guy will recommend treatment if he cant see the slab.

You all missed the point of design here, but that is OK.
There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Designers and Engineers fail to explain the difference between grouted cavity and buried brick veneers. There is a big difference.
:slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Maybe this link will help understand.

Look close at the right photo and the back side of the brick has been slushed in.

Hope this helps and all you do now is exaggerate it to two feet below grade and it still works and no foundation showing, it is done all the time.
:slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Thanks for your input everyone…

Marcel, does this mean that it is okay if brick is below grade if the space behind the veneer is slushed in completly? Also, can clay brick and mortar be damaged by constant contact with soils and moisture in the soils? Can water not seep up from the ground into the brick, slush an up the wall where it can freeze and damage the brick work? (These are all question that I’m asking 'cause I am “ignoorant” about this subject and am looking for as many opinions as possible.) BTW, I think from a home inspection standpoint, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to determine if the space behind the have been slushed in. Also, in most of the cases that I have found, the interior and exterior floors are almost at the same level, or there is very little difference in height. This is the main concern that I have with veneer/grade/foundation construction.

Brick can be below grade when the right dense clay brick is used and backed up with solid grout. It has no place to go and is no different then the density of the concrete behind it.
The objective here in this design, is to create a brickshelve in the foundation where you would use dovetail anchors if more than two feet of vertical height and slush or backfill the extremity of the brick cavity of the intentional backfill field area.
the counterflashing would be installed above grade as I previously indicated, and weep holes provided accordingly. The difference is that the flashing is below the finished floor elevation by 3" or more and the foundation is concealed by the brick below that.
This is no different than having the brick, 6" above grade with foundation exposed. In this case you do not see concrete foundation.

Commercially, done all the time, and Residentially, would not make any difference. Since I have been in Construction for the past 40 years, and never had a complaint on buried brick, when done properly, I guess something has to be proven here without Links.

I’m sticking to the code!

I guess, that would be your perogative on this, but have built many Commercial Building per Architects and Engineers design based on this post description of the design.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Interesting subject.

Just curious how the average home inspector would determine that brick was dense enough to withstand even a little moisture absorption without spalling?

I have seen countless homes with spalling brick damage just from a little contact from gardens or spalling where decks have been built right against brick.

I have even seen a lot of moisture damage to concrete brick veneer due to moisture. I always write these items up even if there is no damage after 4 or 5 years.

Still would be interested in how you would identify any moisture resistant brick though. I do a lot of commercial inspections and while I have never seen brick buried underground, you never know what you might come across.


Roger, 1:35 of this video… open mortar joints etc that were below grade, we see this all the time throughout 39 yrs in this business. Not my best video-example but will have to do for now

I’ve seen pictures of weep holes and brick ledges BUT out in Kansas City our builders don’t use them.

They bolt a 90 degree angle iron to the foundation and set brick on it.

On commercial I almost always see weep holes or wick ropes and brick ledges BUT only once OR twice a year maybe do we see that kinda stuff on a house.

I guess it must be a lot of trouble for our foundation guys to do brick ledges, weeps, etc

AND the soil is almost always up on the brick UNLESS its a walkout basement with several feet of concrete showing. I think it helps keep the brick warm.