The first step when remodeling an exterior wall is to remove the wall covering. This is simple enough when the cladding is siding, but more complicated when a house is clad in brick. One scary part of remodeling a brick opening is removing the existing steel lintel that supports the brick above. Because brick’s bonded pattern makes a self-supporting corbelled arch, most lintels only support a triangle of brick directly above them. You can often remove the bricks in this triangular area and those above will stay put. Other times, there are so few courses above the lintel that it makes sense to take them all out — in openings of 3 ft. or less, often a few courses above the lintel can be removed and the mortar will hold the bricks temporarily. In some cases, relying on the mortar or the corbelled arch is not safe. If an opening interrupts the corbelled pattern, there is no self-supporting arch. With wide openings, it might be impractical to remove enough of the bricks above. In these cases, you need a structural engineer to design a shoring plan.
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