Patching a Brick-Filled Frame House?

Today’s Ask an Architect query comes from Catherine, the owner of a lovely frame house in the South Slope. Her question is being answered by Joseph Vance of Joseph Vance Architects, a full-service architectural firm located in Brooklyn with extensive experience in townhouse renovations. Have a question for an architect about your wooden house? Send it our way!

Q: We will be redoing the front of our frame house next summer. Is it necessary to patch up holes/gaps on the brick under the siding in a brick-filled frame house? We did this on the back of our house, but the contractor for the front of the house is saying it is not necessary.

A: The brick you see in your exterior wall is there to provide some level of fire protection and is not structural. It is not necessary for the mortar joints to be tight but it would be a good idea to fill in any holes that are a half brick in size or larger. However to give some added solidity to your house (in the wake of what could have been much higher winds during Irene) I suggest having the contractors GLUE AND NAIL the new wood sheathing (beneath the new siding) to the exterior. A heavy construction adhesive like PL 400 should be used. Be sure they use galvanized or stainless steel nails or staples. Also be sure they flash above all window and door openings AND properly install an air barrier like Tyvec.

As a bonus Catherine sent us photos documenting the renovation of the rear of her house (and just to clear up any confusion, Joseph Vance was not affiliated with this). Enjoy!


  • john

    Totally confused, is that a wood frame house with a brick exterior? Is this common on homes to have this brick “siding”? If so how many more wooden homes are there out there, but facading the fact they are wood? Cool reno topic…

  • Save the Slope

    I share the previous commenter’s confusion.  What exactly is a “brick-filled” frame house?

    • The Wooden House Project

      Great questions. The installation of brick infill on exterior walls was a method of providing a wind barrier, insulation, sound and fire proofing on older frame buildings built prior to around 1900 (Catherine’s house dates from the mid-to-late 19th century). As Joseph mentioned, the brick is not structural and was never intended to be exposed. There’s a great article online that goes into much more depth about this topic:

      Because of the fire limits, most of the wood rowhouses in Brooklyn predate the turn of the 20th century, but John unfortunately I can’t vouch for how many of them are filled with brick. I’d love to hear from other frame house owners in Brooklyn whether or not they’ve encountered this in their own home.