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Building a house: Not all bricks are created equal

Freelance
ROSIE ON THE HOUSE

So you’ve decided to build an all-brick house – or you want to add a layer of thin brick veneer over your existing stucco home. You have a lot of choices to make.

For starters, did you know that bricks come in more than 100 colors?

And looks alone don’t make a quality brick.

When you’re selecting brick for the face of your home, judge it by more than its beauty. Consider its size, texture, strength, durability, weather resistance and availability in your area.

The best way to evaluate all of that is to consult with a masonry contractor. Even if you plan to lay the bricks yourself, it’s a good idea to talk to a pro before you buy your materials.

And if you’re going to hire an installer, involve him in your decision making before you buy your brick. He can help you decide which bricks are best for our climate and for your home.

Some things to consider as you make your choices:

• The size of the brick greatly affects the appearance of a wall – and the cost to build it. If you choose larger bricks, you may pay less for labor because the installer will handle fewer bricks. Some homeowners like to mix brick sizes to create unique patterns.

• Bricks are held in place with mortar – a mixture of cement, sand, water and lime. The mortar can be “tooled” so it’s flush with the bricks, giving your wall a smooth appearance. Or you can apply mortar so it “spills” out between the bricks or has a concave appearance.

• Mortar accounts for about 20 percent of a brick wall’s surface, so make sure it looks nice. The tooling, color and quality of the mortar will have a huge impact on how your home looks. Give as much thought to choosing your mortar as you do to choosing your bricks.

• The more unusual your bricks are – in color, size and texture – the harder they could be to replace if any get damaged over the years. Even standard red bricks differ in color and size. A tip: When you shop for a replacement, bring a piece of the broken brick, along with its dimensions (thickness, height and length) so you can find the closest match.

• Bricks made locally are less expensive than those imported from other states or countries. Still, don’t write off the imports. Because the clay in such states as Nebraska, Colorado and California is harder than ours, it’s not as prone to efflorescence – those ugly white stains that often appear on masonry products that get wet. That might make the extra out-of-state cost worth it to you.

Rosie Romero has been in the Arizona home-building and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM (790). For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com.

ROSIE ROMERO

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