Unreinforced brick masonry walls

An overview of the hazards caused by single and multi-unit thick walls and potential strengthening solutions.

To find solutions that are appropriate for your building, consult a structural engineer for a professional assessment.

Single unit thick (“single-wythe”) 

Unreinforced brick masonry walls image
Image courtesy of Win Clark

Hazard

Parts of the masonry wall break off or the entire wall collapses – a life-threatening hazard and a threat to structural integrity of the building.

Potential structural strengthening projects

Enhance the wall’s capacity to resist loading in a direction at right-angles to the plane of the wall

Make a vertical saw cut into the brickwork to just over half the thickness of the wall. Grout a carbon strip or galvanized steel bar is into the saw-cut, using epoxy. Fill the remaining depth of the saw-cut with mortar. The brick surface can be left exposed or hard plaster finished.

If access is available from both sides of the masonry wall, the strips or bars can be installed on both sides, into saw-cuts that are deep enough to just take the strip or bar.

Enhance the wall’s capacity to resist loading in the direction of the wall plane

Place glass or carbon fabric, saturated with epoxy resin, against the prepared surface of the masonry. You may also need vertical tie-downs at each end of the wall.

Possible first steps with a structural engineer

They assess the structural capacity of the masonry wall and provide specifications for the required strengthening work.

Multi-unit thick (“multi-wythe”) 

Unreinforced brick masonry walls image - 2
Image courtesy of Michael Kelly

Hazard

Parts of the masonry wall break off or the entire wall collapses – a life–threatening hazard and a threat to the structural integrity of the building.

Potential structural strengthening projects

Where there is a high inter-storey space between adjacent floors, enhance the wall’s capacity to resist loading in a direction at right-angles to the plane of the wall.

Fit steel frames vertically and dowel-fix them to the inner face of the masonry, using epoxy. Screw the top and bottom of these frames to the floor below and above, or to the roof diaphragm (via perimeter blocking).

Possible first steps with a structural engineer

They assess the structural capacity of the masonry wall and provide specifications for the required strengthening works.