This Old House Billerica house project
The Billerica house project, which was damaged by a fire before the TOH crew renovated it in 1999.
When Dick and Sandy Silva rebuilt their home in March 1999, they asked me to do the masonry work. The new plans called for several different projects, including a fireplace and a chimney with an extra flue for the furnace. They also mentioned that they didn't want to see any of the concrete foundation exposed above the finished grade and asked if I could cover it with bricks. I told them it could be done, but because there wasn't a shelf on the foundation to receive a standard brick, we would have to use thinner brick known as veneer brick. Dick and Sandy contacted the Spaulding Brick Company, who supplied the bricks for the chimney and they were able to make veneer brick to match. These thin bricks, which measure 7 5/8 inches by 2 inches by 9/16 of an inch, are available in a variety of blends and colors. Foundation Preparation
First I prepared the foundation to receive these thin bricks. Because the process involved gluing these bricks to the concrete, the wall surface had to be smooth-that meant filling in any hole or dip in the concrete with cement and then knocking off any concrete left on the foundation walls. I also wanted to be sure the walls were free of dirt or any other substance that might interfere with the bonding of the bricks. Before I started gluing, I determined the best place to start — I didn't want to cut any bricks unless absolutely necessary. By spacing the bricks carefully, I could minimize cutting. I also had to check the height of all the openings in the walls (e.g. windows, doors) because I wanted a full row of bricks above each opening. Since I was starting from the bottom and working my way up, I also had to space the bricks so that I had a full row at the top of the walls. Like any number of other jobs in construction, preparation was the key to a great-looking job. Stuck On You
To fix the thin bricks to the foundation walls, I used an epoxy mortar. Although there are a number of different adhesives that you can use, I find epoxy mortar easiest to work with. Using the flat side of a notched trowel, I spread on the epoxy 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch thick. Then I went over it with the notched side of the trowel, just as you would do if you were setting tiles on a bathroom floor. I only did an area of approximately 3 feet by 6 feet at a time to be sure that I had time to position the bricks before the mortar starts to set. I pressed the bricks firmly into the epoxy, making sure that all the bricks are equally spaced. If I did have to cut a brick, I used a dry diamond-masonry blade set in a tile-cutting saw. When the work was complete, I let the bricks set for 48 hours. To be safe, I kept them under cover in case of rain. Mortar the Merrier
For grouting, I used the same masonry cement that I had used on the chimney, with the same red dye to assure the same color. I applied it with a motorized mortar gun, which had a nozzle matched to the space left between the bricks, filling the joints to the depth of the brick face. Once the mortar was "thumb-print" hard, I ran a metal joiner over every joint to smooth the mortar into place. I let that set for another 20 minutes or so and then brushed the entire wall to remove any excess mortar before it had time to cure. Finally, the manufacturer of the bricks recommends that the brick be sealed with a brick sealer 30 days after installing. I've used these thin veneer bricks on many other projects over the years, on interior walls, behind wood-burning stoves, and on exterior walls as well. When full bricks are not an option, veneer bricks are better than no brick at all.
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