Brick Veneer - Defined in the Code

portrait photo of Glenn

Glenn Stewart, M.E., P.E.

Brick Veneer – Defined in the Code

Today, one of the more popular exterior wall cladding materials in residential and commercial buildings is brick veneer. Ride around any city or town and you are sure to encounter homes and businesses with this wall cladding. Bricks are one of the oldest types of building materials that we use and date back to 7000 BC. In the manufacturing process; clay, shale, or similar naturally occurring materials are subjected to heat treatment by firing the bricks at elevated temperatures. 
Even with its long and trusted history, questions can arise regarding the performance of a brick veneer system. When these performance issues arise, the property owner, adjuster, or attorney are often barraged with various terms such as water-resistive barrier, veneer, or exterior wall envelope. Many of these terms are defined in the International Building Code. These definitions can inform us as we sort through potential issues regarding a brick veneer system.  

Here are some important terms used regarding brick veneer and guidance provided by the definitions in the International Building Code.

Exterior Wall

  • a bearing or non-bearing wall
  • an enclosing wall for a building

Exterior Wall Cladding

  • material or assembly of materials
  • applied on the exterior side of exterior walls
  • the purpose is to provide a weather-resisting barrier, insulation, or aesthetics
  • including such things as veneers, siding, exterior insulation, and finish system, trim, cornices, soffits, fascia, gutters, and leaders

Exterior Wall Envelope

  • system or assembly of exterior wall components
  • includes exterior wall finish materials
  • protects building structural members
  • protects conditioned interior space


  • facing attached to a wall
  • provides ornamentation, protection, or insulation
  • not be counted on to add strength to the wall

Water-Resistive Barrier

  • the material behind the exterior wall cladding
  • intended to resist water from further intruding into the exterior wall


  • installed in a manner as to prevent moisture from entering wall
  • or, installed to redirect moisture to the exterior
  • located in first course above finished grade above foundation wall
  • installed at points of support
  • installed with weep holes


  • built-up construction
  • combination of building units or materials
  • clay, shale, concrete, glass, gypsum, or stone
  • bonded with or without mortar

Clay or Shale Brick

  • solid or hollow
  • usually formed into rectangular prism
  • burned or fired in a kiln
  • a ceramic product

As we see with this quick review, the building code is a potential resource for us as we sort through the various terms used in building construction, including those buildings clad with brick veneer.


Brick Veneer Building Code


About the Author

Glenn Stewart, P.E. is a Consulting Engineer in our Columbia, SC Office. Mr. Stewart provides specialized consulting in the areas of construction evaluation, damage assessment, engineering design, safety consultation, and loss evaluation. You may contact him for your forensic engineering needs at or (803) 791-8800.

Learn about how EDT Forensic Engineering & Consulting approaches construction assessments, scope of damage, and forensic engineering by assigning a file today.