Cracks Mortar of Brick Veneer Over Extended Roof Line - Differences of Opinion?

Two story single family home wood framed, with engineered members (LVLSs and PSLs, trusses, iJoists), brick veneer. Homeowner called for a residential home re-inspection as it is approaching one year since homeowner closed on new construction. Some parts of the home warranty by the builder expire after one year. The homeowner did have an engineer (PE) do framing and crawl space inspection 15 months ago during construction, and then an inspection by a licensed inspector just prior to closing in late August 2017. During the one-year re-inspection July 2018, some cracking of the mortar for brick veneer found. All cracks found in roughly in a 20 feet wide area on the 2nd floor rear home over an extended roof line. Below, on the 1st floor, there is a small breakfast room that extends off the kitchen further then the main rear brick veneer wall of the home. The breakfast room is about 15 wide and protrudes about 8 feet beyond the main rear line of the home. A wood engineered LVL spans the roof of the breakfast room on the 1st floor which supports load for the 2nd floor where there is a large master bathroom above that has a small toilet room, as well as the brick veneer for the exterior. Undoubtedly, the LVL also supports the brick veneer for the rear portion of the home that is above the 1st floor breakfast room.

All the cracks are through mortar. The widest crack is about 3/8"wide coming off a 2nd floor window for the master bathroom, lower left corner, stair-stepping a couple feet out to the corner of the home. All the home is brick veneer. This stairstep crack is visible with the naked eye looking up from the ground. There are skinnier cracks running along the mortar joint from the top right corner of this same window, hard to see with naked eye, that runs horizontal. Another is coming off the next window further to the center of the rear of the home for the same master bathroom – top left-corner – off a small window for the toilet room of the master bathroom.

Homeowner is highly conscientious. He made an initial report to the builder. He then called a friend who is a AMB, CDT, CGP, LEED AP BD+C (building scientist) to come look at the cracks. The building scientist said that the cracks are not of major nor catastrophic concern. He said that the wood that this brick veneer sits upon above the breakfast room, likely dried and shrunk a tiny amount over one year. A rough estimate of roughly 4,000 pounds of brick veneer above the breakfast room below, and the tiniest shrinkage caused some cracking in the very brittle mortar. The building scientist has contacts with structural engineers. Had one come out with the goal being that this PE would write a letter to keep on file for when the home is eventually sold one day. This PE came out. The PE believes there is one small section of missing blocking on the exterior wall of the crawl space that may have caused the cracking. This PE did not feel as if the cracking would continue nor would be catastrophic or cause any serious concern. He is going to write a letter to recommend this one small area of blocking be added in the crawl space to ensure that no additional cracking occurs, but, that if this small area in the crawl is not blocked, it is still not likely that the cracking will continue.

That’s not all.

The first PE who did the framing and crawl space inspection 15 months prior just recently called the homeowner back; as the HO had contacted him first, but was out of the country doing assignment work with his engineering firm. To make a long story less long, this PE, when told of the cracking, and shared pictures, also came back out to see for himself. This PE disagreed that some missing blocking was the cause. He stipulated that if missing blocking was the concern there would be bowed floors, cracked interior walls, sticking windows, sagging crown molding, or something going on the interior of the home. None of this is happening. The inside of the home remains in pristine condition. There is no evidence of anything adverse happening on the interior of the home. This PE stipulates that the LVL that spans the breakfast room may have deflected slightly causing the brick veneer above to crack. He suggested the HO get from the builder the load calculations for that LVL, or if he can’t, get the framing plans to see what type of LVL was used to do the calculation himself. He said once this is done, he can write a letter one of two ways: one, if the LVL was sized properly, it may have deflected a tiny amount in the middle, causing the cracking in the 2nd floor brick veneer above but basically not to worry about it and use some Mor-Flexx flexible mortar to shore up the cracks. Or, if the LVL calculates as undersized, suggest additional improvements. In either case, this PE also believes there won’t be some sort of catastrophic nor serious failure.

So the HO is kind of in a what to do at this point mode?

While all three professionals that have looked at the cracking all agree that nothing serious nor catastrophic will occur. All three have variances of opinion as to what the cause is, making it potentially more challenging to discuss with the builder. Builders tend to like to have conclusive evidence before taking action that requires more work or more money than something simple.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.


It appears by your description the LVL beam that supports the upper floor and the brick veneer may be under designed. Most lumber yards spec out LVL beams based on manufacturers printed tables. These tables have notes printed at the bottom that outlines the parameters used to develop the tables. VERSA-LAM for examples lists the following note:

Total Load values are limited by shear, moment or deflection equal to L/240.

This deflection limit is usually OK for most interior finished such as drywall. However, if the LVL beam also supports brick veneer you have to look at the minimum deflection limits for masonry, which is L/600.

If the building plans were stamped by an architect or engineer they would or should have applied the more stringent deflection requirement of L/600 or even bump it up to L/1000 depending on the span length. Masonry is brittle like glass, but this fact gets overlooked in residential construction. If there was a 15-foot plate glass window supported on that LVL beam I would bet someone would have questioned the deflection criteria used to design that LVL beam.

Here is another link on this topic:

Randy thanks a bunch for your updates.

First, a couple quick updates.

So the PE who is a senior structural/civil engineer with an engineering firm, who did the framing inspection a year ago, came back out a day ago. He is a close friend and neighbor of the real estate agent the homeowner used in having the house built.

After being back on site, taking measurements of the floor-to-ceiling height of the span of the 1st floor breakfast room, over which is the extended roof line - and that brick veneer - and also pulled pics from the framing. He does not believe it is LVL deflection. There are actually triple LVLs spanning the breakfast room, supported by PSLs. The PE says this is common way that he designs an extended roof area. The PE is now turning his attention to how the brick veneer over this breakfast room itself was laid, which no brick veneer was laid at the time of his framing inspection last year.

The second update is: the other PE… who came out at the call of the building scientist friend of the homeowner, is NOT a PE. His firm released a report today, signed and stamped by someone else who is a PE but that PE never made an on site visit. The person who did visit on-site has “E.I.” after his name on his business card and calls himself “Design/Inspection Consultant.” This person believes some missing blocking in the crawl space is what caused the cracking in the 2nd story veneer above the breakfast room.

The senior structural/civil engineer disagrees with this finding. He believes that if missing blocking were an issue; there would be other issues, such as gaps in the bottom of the quarter round to the wood floor, soft floor, sticky windows - there is a 3050 twin double lite directly above the proposed area for blocking that operates flawlessly, sagging crown molding, cracking walls, etc. - but none of that exists at all. The interior of the home is totally pristine.

The building plans are engineer designed and stamped by an architecture. The senior PE when doing his framing/crawl inspection last year was loaned a copy of the plans by the builder.


Only the original designer has all the data used to design the LVL beam. The plans the senior engineer used only gives the location and size of the LVL beam the designer specified. So to be sure you will need the original designer’s design computations or have him verify he designed the LVL with deflection limits of L/600 or less. The senior engineer has correctly pointed out the method of attaching the brick veneer to the LVL should also be investigated. This will likely involve some removal of building materials the contractor will not pay to replace if no problem is discovered. Some possible brick attachment problems could be if an angle iron lintel was used it was not properly bolted to the LVL beam or the angle iron used was too small and the projected leg of the angle iron deflected due to the weight of the brick. I would verify the design first, that only takes a phone call. The homeowner should consider negotiating an extension on the warranty until this is resolved. From past experience, there is usually a lot of finger pointing between the builder and the designer and this could drag out way past the warranty deadline.


Thank you so much for all the wonderful insights and for another reply.
Sounds like this will be a marathon that will take weeks if not months to resolve, not a sprint. But, at least it sounds like that the rear corner of our home won’t fall down.

Let me fess up… I am the homeowner. I’m an analyst by trade, so fortunately or unfortunately, I like to dig for answers. Maybe too much sometimes. But my employer (major bank) seems to like that about me. :smiley:

LVLs: Yep, my senior PE said that I’d have to call the builder and ask to try to get the calculations. But, he does want me to hold off calling the builder to try to get those calculations because he believes the LVLs are sufficient. He is very busy working his full time job with Midrex and is in India on assignment several times during the year so I have to compete with his day job…Back to the brick.

I’ve read that like you said, steel lintels must be properly bolted and used and brick veneer not just laid down on framing.

Also, I’ve heard that vertical expansion joints with backer rod and the correct sealant must be used where brick veneer supported by foundation meets brick veneer supported by wood framing, or else cracking will result?

This article written by a PE I found explains the lintel issue you brought up and the vertical expansion joints issue:

Supporting Brick Veneer On Wood Framing | JLC Online | Framing, Joints, Masonry Construction, Metal, Steel Framing, Foundation, Brick

One more thing.

I already have the phone number for the owner of the masonry and foundation company. It is McGee Brothers, a well known (and generally respected) brick/foundation firm in our area. Rodney McGee and I have talked twice in the last couple of weeks by phone, and texted just today. Our builder rep for our neighborhood is out on vacation. Rodney sends a guy out that repairs these types of cracks. But he is behind about 2 weeks on work. He mentioned that he uses a product called Mor-Flexx (flexible type mortar) over an extended roof line for these type of mortar cracks.

Is Mor-Flexx acceptable to repair the cracked mortar joints for the veneer?
I wonder if Rodney would know the answer to the steel lintels design for the veneer?

I also wonder how “aggressive” should I be in demanding the exact solution be found and remedied by our builder?

We try to balance getting things repaired that need to be repaired (not much) versus hosing the builder over every little cosmetic thing. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors do that - with pages upon pages of a punch list and tons of cosmetic things that I don’t even see.

On the one hand, it is “just brick veneer.” I fully understand that the home is sound and not going to fall down; interior floors won’t sag, interior walls won’t crack, etc.

But on the other hand… eventually the home will be sold and if it has wrong lintels or missing vertical expansion joints then that’s what should have been there at construction. I highly doubt any county inspector could ever really check that - it was just up to the guy laying the brick when it was built.

…Frankly, if I had a PE letter in hand that basically said the cracks were minor and due to either possibly incorrectly sized lintels supporting the veneer or lack of vertical expansion joints but that the veneer won’t fall down and the home is structurally sound… filling back in the existing cracks with Mor-Flexx or whatever, and monitoring… something like that… I’d probably be fine with that? Or maybe I should not be fine with that?

If the next person who buys the home in 20 years has it inspected, and the Mor-Flexx blends in pretty well that future inspector may never be aware that there were some veneer mortar cracks. But he could.

I do have one PE letter in hand received Tuesday.

It is from the “design consultant” who came on-site last week. The letter is stamped by a PE that did not visit the site but reviewed photos and the report written by the design consultant. The gyst of that report is… add a bit more blocking to one side of the crawl space and repoint the mortar. This is inexpensive and easy for anybody in construction to do.

However, my senior PE disagrees with the need for more blocking, due to the lack of a single adverse condition that generally does occur if more blocking is needed; inside the home (or outside). Also, if the blocking is a wrong conclusion, repointed mortar will just crack again?

Our home is well built overall and we are pleased with it, but I guess I’m glad I had the licensed home inspector do a one year re-inspection. He found a few things, nothing major.

Thanks again, and have a great finish to your week.

Randy’s made some good comments. Listen to him.

Todd … Way too many words from your local people that have still said almost nothing AND still basically only say

Could it also be coming from any of their guesses combined with expansive soils, weak soils, or movement of whatever you have for a foundation, etc.

Differing OPINIONS (guesses) by many locals. If its that important to you pay someone to remove the finishes AND look for the answer.

Not to be rude, BUT when I was building 35 yrs ago, based on the Pics shown… that is nothing I would have done as your builder (removing finishes to look at such small gaps). I would have suggested since all your experts had told you it was not significant THAT if you wanted it done … You do it.

One other thing … I was not sure from reading your original comments, if the experts you are relying on are RESIDENTIAL experts. I’m in Kansas City and have done expert witness for over 25 yrs. Many of those times I have been thrown against a licensed PE or architect to challenge their opinions, etc. To date my testimony has prevailed each time. So what I’m saying is ARE your experts actually EXPERTS in residential home building / structural design.

Their are over 52 engineering degrees I’m aware of that can actually be called PE’s with most having little actual training / experience in your issues.

Dan thanks so much for your reply. You make some great points. I really appreciate you and Randy for taking time to share your valued opinions and being pros makes it that much more helpful.

One of your points I will take to heart, is if getting a PE in the future get one who is a residential expert.

Yeah, I don’t think anywhere I suggested I’m going to ask the builder to rip the veneer down to find out exact root cause.

Randy has been wonderful and the fact that is a P.E. makes his advice especially helpful. He might be the only person who suggested that IF one wants to be sure to find root cause of the mortar cracks, veneer may have to be torn down and perhaps re-done at my expense if the suspicion ended up not being the root cause. I have no intention - unless perhaps I did somehow find a residential P.E. who was near 100% sure or if the builder brought over his P.E. to tell him that (which I doubt the builder will tell me that if his PE told him that anyway).

The whole thing for me: I believe I’ve said I have no fear the rear corner of my house is going to fall down. But its all about peace of mind, and the next sale…and the fact I bought a new home.

If the next buyer - whether in two years or 20 years - gets a “picky” inspector who takes binoculars to study the veneer (like the home inspector I just had) and finds evidence of mortar that was previously repaired - regardless of how “perfect” the cracked mortar is repaired. That licensed home inspector will probably in that case do a little CYA and say “contact a structural engineer to evaluate…” If that buyer contacts a “foundation expert” or some P.E. who is not well-versed on residential veneer, it could end up being an unwanted, unreasonable, or expensive repair request laid at my feet - or a request that is all three at the same time.

I’m fine with a PE issuing a letter something to the effect that yes there are minor cracks in the mortar due to undetermined reasons, but the walls, floors etc all appears to be structurally sound. Repair the mortar to prevent water intrusion, and monitor. No structural repairs to load bearing members are recommended at this time. I’ve had my PE on site to tell me that verbally, and another PE’s intern on site to tell me that verbally. But my PE has been unable or unwilling to write a letter to that effect so far (he could be just busy with his day job). And the PE for the internet that visit, stamped a letter stating get some more blocking and a transfer beam in the crawl. When that same intern said that even if you didn’t get that stuff done the cracking of mortar won’t get worse.

And like I said above, my P.E. disagrees with the PE’s intern. My PE believes lack of blocking is not a cause or there would be other adverse affects other than mortar cracks on veneer.

So that’s where I stand so far. Disagreements among two PE’s (intern of one of the P.E.s) and/or “over-prescribed” repairs. Lack of a letter to essentially say their no big deal - something I can have in hand to store for when I go to sale.

The builder’s local on-site rep returns from vacation next week so maybe some progress can be made as to the best solution that is reasonable for the builder and his trade, and reasonable to protect me as the new homeowner and future seller. Or maybe I should just take another chance on getting a P.E. out again who is a bona-fide residential expert as you suggested.


Just for general conversation.

I grew up in a foundation family. We built highways, streets, shopping centers; basements all over the midwest. I spent 7-8 years building houses for a 5,000 house a year builder in 7 states. I’ve done residential and commercial inspections for 35 yrs.

I’m fairly conservative and when in doubt always choose to err on the safe side BUT so far I’ve seen nothing in the Pics you posted that would cause me to recommend to a client … Call a structural engineer.

I’ve shared your Pics with several other inspectors with years of experience also and structural repair experience, and so far none are alarmed by the Pics

Interesting. Thanks for sharing that Dan.

I’m curious, what would you or some of your licensed inspectors may have put in a report if those cracks were seen on your inspection?

… The only inspector I’ve ever used is the one who raised the flag, or his dad 20 years ago on another home I sold when we had this new home built. They’ve had a reputation for being thorough. They always seem to say “call a licensed [insert the appropriate trade here]” after anything that may raise a flag to them.

For example, when my inspector, on that same inspection, found the insulation coating for the ARC neutral wires in my panel slightly discolored white (all three). He wrote “contact a licensed electrician.” He was stating that the “off-white” color of the ARC neutrals may be indicative of heat stress or burning. Personally, I never was or am. But I can see where he just wants to “if in doubt, list it out.” My inspector did not know if ARC neutrals insulation is normally pure white in color or off white in color. So, I guess his mindset was, if this house burns down, and the CFD investigates and discovers one of the ARC neutrals shorted causing a fire, at least he would be “covered” for having it called out as a potential concern.

But to his defense, when I’ve talking to others in our area about inspectors, including say for example my buddy who is a licensed building scientist, he will say a similar thing, inspectors, if they list something as a potential problem, always tend to follow it with a “call a…”


Soil expands, shrinks. House materials expand, contract. Foundations move.

What your Pics showed were not what I / we would consider significant.

Depending on what the rest of the house and its components looked like would determine what was said. It could be as simple as:

OR if something else in the building excited us we could recommend opening of wall cavities to examine further OR shooting laser levels to determine what exactly had moved and by how much, etc.

To be honest, if an inspector of mine called for a structural engineer based on no more movement than what was shown in your pics … depending on my mood, we would have a serious “Come to Jesus” talk OR he would be required to do a lot more training in structural BEFORE he was allowed in the field EXCEPT as a helper OR if he was experienced he might be terminated.


Thanks for both your two recent replies. They make sense.
I think I need Jesus too. :smiley:

I seem to have bad luck with getting an overzealous inspector - glad he noticed the crack - but writing down recommend calling a structural engineer - then… not having one, but two different engineers or their intern disagree and/or suggest things that may “over-engineer” the situation (even if inexpensive).

They’ve all seen the rest of the house is pristine and shows no sign of adverse reaction, even though nobody on this thread can see that, they did.

… latest development…

Had a One Year Walk with our builder rep today. Don’t have but a handful of things but first thing we looked at were those cracks. Very positive interaction. He totally agrees that while the back of the house probably is not going to fall down, nor are the cracks getting worse… still should talk to his mason (who has an excellent rep in this area) and grab one of their engineers who comes on site for other builds to see if a letter of some sort can be written that speaks to what is known/not known and what repairs if any should be done, or just monitored, and if not a structural concern… .so state, etc.

I will probably save but essentially disregard the only letter I have so far (one stamped by a PE for the intern that came out).

An intern (EIT - engineer in training) is as good as his personal experience.

I have 3 PE’s that don’t like crawlspaces on old residential houses.

Each of them have worked around me and often when called on for a structural analysis of foundation issues on something like a crawlspace OR rural area 60 miles out … will send me out to look, measure, take pics and then give my opinion to them on whats wrong, why, etc.

Based on that they write an engineers report and seal it.

Sounds like one of your PE’s did the same.