An important structural part of most any brick or masonry buildings is the lintels. If you own a brick or masonry home or building that is starting to get older, the lintels are certainly something that you should inspect or have inspected by a masonry professional on a regular basis.
What is a lintel? It is a structural support used in openings such as doors and windows in a brick or masonry building. The lintel goes across the top of the window or door and supports the heavy load above the opening. They are usually made from brick, concrete, wood or metal. If you have bare masonry or brick walls you can usually see them over the top of the door or window.
Lintels hold the heavy load over the openings in your brick and masonry walls so they are a critical part of your home or building. If you are seeing any cracks in your walls near a window or door, you may have an issue with the lintel that is supporting that opening. If you are seeing evidence of cracking, it might be time to do an inspection or have a masonry professional inspect the lintel near the cracking. They could be the root cause of the problem.
A failing lintel will often cause a vertical crack in the surrounding masonry. Vertical, step-shaped cracks are a clear sign that a lintel is failing. You may see diagonal cracks going upward and inward from the corners of the window or doorway. When one fails it generally bows downward which forces the brick up and inward resulting in cracking and bulging masonry. They usually fail due to corrosion of metal, rotting of wood or excessive stress on concrete or brick lintels. This can be caused by other structural problems such as movement in walls or foundations. In that case, you may need to talk to a structural engineer along with a masonry professional to determine what steps need to be taken to correct the problem.
Many times, problems with lintels are discovered when replacing windows. This is definitely something that would need to be repaired or replaced before continuing with a window installation. Some damaged lintels can be repaired using reinforcements but it depends on the type and how much damage there is. You will want to consult a masonry professional to determine the best solution.
Lintel repair often involves adding extra support and repairing cracks by sealing them to prevent the elements from getting back in and doing more damage. Repairing a lintel is often much easier than replacing one but it really depends on how much damage there is and what kind of damage has been done.
Lintel replacement may be the best bet in the long run but it will be much more involved. Bricks and mortar will need to be removed and temporary supports will need to be put in place to support the wall while the work is being done. This is definitely a job in which you want to consider using a masonry professional.
Lintels really are important to the structure of your brick or masonry home or building. Make sure that they are inspected regularly and if repairs or replacement is needed, do it sooner rather than later to avoid more damage and more costly repairs. Be sure to hire a masonry professional to do this work right because the integrity of your home or building will count on it.