The next exterior wall in line of popularity is the brick wall. As a rule these will be either a solid brick wall composed of two thicknesses of brick, or a brick-veneer wall composed of one thickness of brick backed up by a wood sheathing attached to the frame of the house.
The solid brick wall will rarely give the owner any trouble unless the brick itself is too porous, the mortar between the bricks too soft, or the workmanship bad when the wall was laid up.
Solid brick walls, composed of two thicknesses of brick, are a standard high-class exterior for both large and small houses.
Porous brick will quickly make itself evident by the fact that it will never seem to thoroughly dry out after a heavy spell of wet weather. However, there is a permanent remedy for this by using a good colorless waterproofing compound. To do the job properly, the wall must be allowed to dry thoroughly for at least a week.
The hotter the weather the better, as long as it is dry. The wall should be given a thorough brushing with a coarse fibre brush, so as to remove all dust and dirt. Then the waterproofing should be brushed on generously, and worked in vigorously. Spraying will not produce as good a job as hand-painting. In most cases a damp wall can be waterproofed and tightened up in this manner.
Porous or leaking brick walls may be tightened by the application of a good masonry waterproofing compound. Brick must be clean.
It is possible to have a solid brick wall with good non-porous brick, and yet have it leak. Nine times out of ten the cause of this will be that the mortar used in the joints, and in laying up the brick, was mixed with too large a percentage of sand or lime in its make-up. This is quite easy to detect, as you can run your fingernail along the joints and they will "sand out," or in other words you can rub the mortar right out of the joints. There is a cure for this in taking a narrow brush and painting the joints with colorless waterproofing. This will penetrate the soft mortar and harden and preserve the joint.
Defective mortar joints can be cut out and refilled with new mortar. Joints must be dust-free and well wetted before filling.
In cases of very bad joint deterioration, it is often necessary to chisel out the loose pieces of mortar and re-point the bricks. This operation consists entirely of removing all loose mortar, brushing out any dust or sand, wetting the joint thoroughly, and filling it again with fresh mortar. A good mortar consists of four parts of good clean sand and one part of portland cement, with just enough water to make a paste of wheat-cake consistency. Great care should be exercised in cutting out a joint or any other part of a brick wall, because heavy blows of the hammer will tend to loosen up the other bricks around the area you are repairing, and may crack open joints which are thoroughly sound. Work done on masonry is something that you must not rush at. Take your time at it, for masonry has none of the resiliency of wood. It is hard and brittle, and therefore subject to fracture.
Brick veneered walls are more apt to cause trouble than solid walls, for the reason that they are only a skin or membrane of brick. When a veneered wall is being built, the mason will drive small steel clamps into the wood sheathing so that they will be built into the brick veneer and hold it tightly to the frame of the house. Quite often not enough of these "anchors" or ties are used, and as a result the wall may bulge out in places. There is nothing to be done here, except to remove the bricks that bulge and re-set them with additional anchors. In attempting this operation, the amateur is warned not to be too ambitious and not to take out any more than two square feet of brick-work at one time, else he is liable to bring down the entire wall. If the bulge should cover any considerable area, such as a space five or six feet long and two or three feet high, he would do well to consult an experienced mason.
The permanence of brick-veneered walls is largely dependent on the number and the proper fastening of the small anchors shown.
The average bulge is developed because of lack of anchors, a heavy explosion in the immediate neighborhood, or because the weather has gotten behind the veneer and formed ice which force the wall out. Usually the weather will get behind the wall from around window or door frames, but if these points are kept caulked up, you should not experience any trouble from that cause.
Another favorite method of exterior house covering is stucco. Before the use of metal lath became general, wood lath was used. As soon as a crack developed in the coat of stucco, moisture would get in behind it and attack the wood lath. Probably everyone has seen stucco houses so badly gone that the coating was falling off in large pieces. Invariably these were wood lath jobs, and quite impossible to repair properly. When metal lath is used, the stucco job is liable to hold up better, and incidently it can be kept in repair with greater ease.
The first rule in keeping stucco walls in good shape is constant vigilance. As soon as a crack appears it must have immediate attention. If you neglect it, it will increase in size rapidly. There are special paints on the market which are made for use on stucco walls. They will fill all hair-cracks and tighten up the surface. It is also good practice to paint stucco walls with a coat of thin cement, which will do the same job.
Care should be exercised in maintaining stucco walls. All small cracks or defects should be repaired at once to avoid growth.
You will frequently see where a slight settling of the house has caused long vertical cracks, and where a compound with an oil base has been used to repair them, with the result that the oil stained the surface for a few inches on both sides of the cracks and the house looks very badly. That is not the way to repair a stucco wall. If caulking is used, it must be non-staining. There is no use in advertising to the neighborhood that your house is in bad shape, particularly when the proper methods of repairing are available to you.
Solid stone walls usually denote a house of excellent quality. Stone-veneer requires the same attention as brick veneer.
Exterior stone walls usually denote a solid job of house building. Once in a great while you do find a house with stone veneer walls, but not very often. The care of these follows the line of recommendations for brick veneered walls. The solid stone job will never require any repair whatever, except perhaps to the joints, and these should be treated as already suggested. Laying up a stone wall is quite an art, because the stone-mason must study each stone he uses, turning it over and over before he decides how to bed it. Usually when he has finished, you will find a piece of masonry which is good forever. Watch the joints, and you are doing all that the amateur could hope to accomplish.
Beneath the exterior finish of the average house, there is a skin of material which backs up the outer wall. Wood sheathing has been a standard for many years. It is applied diagonally. Insulating board and plywood sheets have demonstrated their practical value in the small house building field. (See Chapter III.)
Wood or asbestos shingles are one of the favorite exterior finishes in use today. The ease with which one or more shingles can be replaced is obvious.
(See Chapter III.)
Solid brick or brick-veneered walls are another of the most popular small house exterior finishes. A workman-like job such as illustrated is sure to give satisfaction. (See Chapter III.)