My neighbor spent over $200,000 to add a beautiful addition to her traditional brick-faced Cape Cod home. But when the masonry contractor laid the bricks, he couldn’t even match the color of the mortar to the original part of the house. Worse still, the new shiny white mortar clashes with both the new and old brick. The house now has a garish and jarring appearance and the cost of repair is prohibitive.

Brick veneer is the most durable and beautiful material that will protect your home from the elements. Brick is virtually maintenance free and will last for generations. Living in the Detroit area, it’s easy to see that the brick in all of the dilapidated buildings is still in beautiful condition and, in most cases, can be salvaged and reused. Brick veneer is more expensive and you will have to live with your choice for as long as you own your home. Whether you’re planning an addition or building a new home, the money, time, and effort you put into choosing the design, the bricks, the mortar, and most importantly, the contractor, will pay back many times over in long-term value. .

Here are some ideas to keep in mind when choosing or combining brick cladding

• Cost: perhaps it would be better to sacrifice square footage for quality and beauty

• Design: Long, tall walls should be broken up with a vertical course of bricks, a stone ledge, or bricks that vary in color and texture. Staggered wall design with inside or outside corners to give vertical definition to the house.

• Use “offset” (brick protruding from the wall in random or patterns) of bricks to create interest

• Make the addition narrower or wider than the existing house for inside or outside corners to make it easier to blend brick and mortar.

• How does the house fit into the neighborhood? A traditional style house needs darker reds and more texture with gray mortar. Field stone, granite or sandstone can be used with care

• Contemporary homes may use whites, blushes or neutral colors and plain or glazed bricks. Mortar can be bright white

• A skilled and experienced mason will take the time to try various mixes to match the mortar. Remember that it is the SAND of the mortar that must match. Ask to see other work the mason has done and be prepared to pay a little more

• Many sizes and profiles of bricks are available. We have a slab-built farmhouse in our neighborhood that used long, low-profile bricks with a subtle rippled texture. Coupled with a pitched roof and deep eaves, this home would be the envy of Frank Lloyd Wright himself!

• Design roof and gutters so that downspouts can be used to hide the seam between old and new brick. There are many decorative gutter and downspout products available. Visit a local gutter and siding supply house

• A faux copper downspout with a fancy guide head (or conductor) can also be used to hide a seam.

• Many faux half columns are available in various metallic and paintable materials.

• Carefully use high quality horizontal beveled or vertical batten siding in your design

• More windows, entry doors, shutters, and small round or octagonal or larger windows can be used to break up large brick walls.

• Be careful when using brick in gables. Due to the slope of the roof at each end of the brick courses, the careless mason will get lost; vertical joints will not line up and the wall will have a wavy, amateurish look. A small window high in the gable would be good in this circumstance.

• And remember to choose shingles and roofing materials at the same time. For example, using a metal roof on an addition can be a way to make the addition “complement” the original house rather than attempting an exact “match” (for the few of you who are confident, brave and daring). you can use a combination of materials and design to “contrast” the original house; I have seen it done and to wonderful ends!)

And finally a special mention when using stone. A cobblestone cabin looks like this because it is a cabin! A cabin is a small house. A large stone house must be designed very carefully. Avoid long, tall walls of stone cladding.

Mixing stone with brick veneer can produce a pleasing effect. Try to imagine that you are building your house on the old ruins of a stone fence or an old manor house. The bottom corners, some around the front door, and a few random spots on the wall are all that’s needed.

The brick is made in local kilns using clay quarried from the banks of nearby rivers for centuries. The brick you find made in New England can clash with the landscape of the house you build in Texas. The same is true if you use that blush pink brick you loved in Florida for a house built in Wisconsin. The brick must be of the same origin as the house. Contemporary or traditional; single-story ranch or two-story colonial; semi-detached or split-level home; new construction or addition, everyone needs the right brick veneer to enhance long-term value and style.

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