Brickwork is everywhere across the Chicagoland area. Around since the early 1600s, the popular building material is commonly used not only because of its aesthetic appeal, but also because of its practicality. Naturally weatherproof, bricks protect well against wind, fire, and a large amount of water damage. Sounds like a magical building material, right?
Well, not quite. What many condominium associations don’t realize is that there's a fair amount of maintenance that goes into brickwork. From repointing and caulking to cleaning and sanding—brick walls are an investment, and if taken care of appropriately can last beautifully for generations.
The Brick Basics
Not all bricks are created equal. Bricks come in a myriad of different shapes, styles and textures. There are two basic types says Chuck McCrimmon, president at Dakota Evans Restoration Inc., a restoration contractor in Palatine. “There are common bricks, which are clay-fired units. They are less decorative and less expensive, so they are more commonly used on the sides and rear of the buildings not facing the street. Then there is face brick, containing more shades, so you can get a harder face and introduce different colors and textures into them. These are what you would use for the street-facing side of the building,” he explains.
Bricks are also graded SW (severe weathering as we see here in the Midwest and Northeast), MW (for the rest of the country, and NW, which is only to be utilized on the interiors, he adds.
These days, though, a majority of the walls are made of brick veneers. What’s that mean? Essentially, the brick you see on the outside of the building is only one brick thick, and is anchored to the wall beneath. Behind that layer of brick, there is a cavity or airspace roughly 1 to 2 inches wide, and then a backup wall behind that which is generally made of concrete block or steel studs with gypsum sheeting. Compared, for example, to old-school buildings—specifically those built before 1950—which often boasted walls made of one to two feet of layered brick, this is a completely different ballgame.