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Don’t Omit Through-Wall Flashings

Launch Slideshow

Troubleshooting Brick Veneer

Typical issues around windows

Troubleshooting Brick Veneer

Typical issues around windows

  • Figure 4. The rubber flashing tape intended to direct water onto the steel lintel (A) has pulled away from the housewrap and is instead directing water into the framing. Here (B), a metal flashing above the window just misses the lintel. Note the amount of mortar clogging the cavities in both cases. At left (C), a failed job required all the brick to be removed, revealing improperly flashed lintels at the windows, as well as ties that were never used.

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    Figure 4. The rubber flashing tape intended to direct water onto the steel lintel (A) has pulled away from the housewrap and is instead directing water into the framing. Here (B), a metal flashing above the window just misses the lintel. Note the amount of mortar clogging the cavities in both cases. At left (C), a failed job required all the brick to be removed, revealing improperly flashed lintels at the windows, as well as ties that were never used.

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    © McCampbell & Associates

    Here the rubber flashing tape intended to direct water onto the steel lintel has pulled away from the housewrap and is instead directing water into the framing.
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    © McCampbell & Associates

    In this case metal flashing above the window just misses the lintel. Note the amount of mortar clogging the cavity.
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    This failed job required all the brick to be removed, revealing improperly flashed lintels at the windows, as well as brick ties that were never used.
  • Figure 5. Unlike this one (A), window sills should be sloped 15 degrees. A close inspection reveals potential leak spots along this window frame (B); because theres no through-wall flashing, water will get into the framing. Instead of flashing below this window (C), theres a cavity clogged with mortar and compromised torn housewrap.

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    Figure 5. Unlike this one (A), window sills should be sloped 15 degrees. A close inspection reveals potential leak spots along this window frame (B); because theres no through-wall flashing, water will get into the framing. Instead of flashing below this window (C), theres a cavity clogged with mortar and compromised torn housewrap.

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    © McCampbell & Associates

    Window sills should be sloped 15 degrees to carry water away from the window frame; the rectangle held at the corner of the opening indicates that the sill here is sloped. 
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    A close inspection reveals potential leak spots along this window frame; because there’s no through-wall flashing, water will get into the framing.
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    © McCampbell & Associates

    Instead of flashing below this window, there’s a cavity clogged with mortar and compromised, torn housewrap.

The main cause of moisture problems in the brick homes I investigate is the lack of proper through-wall flashings (see slideshow). For example, one common source of leaks is the counterflashing installed where a sloped shingle roof abuts a brick wall. The metal is usually 4 or 5 inches high, follows the shingles in a straight line parallel with the roof, and may have an occasional fastener through its face into a mortar joint.

  • The sketch above, made by the author during a site visit, explains to the client the difference between a kerfed-in and a through-wall flashing.
    The sketch above, made by the author during a site visit, explains to the client the difference between a kerfed-in and a through-wall flashing.
Typically, the suspect flashing is turned in about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch along the top and simply let into a kerf cut in the mortar or brick with a masonry blade. But the biggest warning signs are the nails and the copious amounts of caulk along the top edge. Even when I find the metal installed in stair-step fashion down a brick wall, it’s still most likely a saw-cut job, where the counterflashing was installed after the brick had been laid.