A brick veneer is a thin ayer of brick that is used aesthetically as a form of surface finish rather than structurally. Conventional brick walls typically support the structural loads of the building, whereas brick veneers are applied for decorative purposes.
They are generally formed from thin brick slips, which may be as little as 20mm thick (compared to 102.5mm for a standard brick). Brick veneers can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications and can be applied to almost any surface. A range of special brick slips are available for conditions such as corners, to continue the illusion that walls are constructed from full bricks.
For interior applications, such as around fireplaces, brick veneers may laid in a similar way to tiles. Mortar (or some other adhesive) is spread on the wall and the bricks are set into place on it, separated during drying by plastic spacers. Once bed mortar has set, the brick joints are pointed using more mortar. Other 'veneers' are available in rolls, as a form of three-dimensional wallpaper.
For exterior applications, the veneer may be laid in a similar way to internal applications, as a form of cladding. However, they may also be installed as a free-standing panels (often prefabricated off site, and sometimes including other components such as insulation), anchored back to the structural frame. This type of veneer is vertically self-supporting, but in multi-storey buildings, shelf angles may be used to provide a horizontal expansion joint, usually at the floor edges. This allows for expansion of the brick and potential shrinkage of the frame.
There are several advantages to using brick veneers:
- They are relatively easy and quick to install.
- They are not as heavy as other forms of masonry, which reduces structural loading.
- Cavities behind external brick veneers can aid insulation.
- They are durable and fire-resistant.
- They can achieve a wide range of decorative functions
- They require little maintenance.
- They are more susceptible to damage as they are thinner than conventional brick walls.
- They do not contribute to structural integrity.
- They can be susceptible to water damage.
- Over time, the veneer will require re-pointing with new mortar.
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