Not all masonry does in fact need a footer, but full depth brick and stone work as well as block work needs to be placed on a properly sized footer that is below any frost line. If movement from settling or frost heave occurs in mortared masonry, the resulting cracks have very little bond strength and quickly become unstable.
50 years is an acceptable lifetime for most brick walls. Periodic inspections and addressing any issues that arise can help the masonry structure outlive several generations of even the longest living families. Many buildings in America are well over 100 years and a majority of these structures are masonry. In Europe there are many buildings over 500 years old constructed of masonry. I am guessing the age of vinyl will quietly slip into the history books long before it reaches anywhere near 50 years.
Basically brick and block construction require little maintenance over the life of the structure. As the masonry work gets past ten years, an experienced mason can inspect your structure and inform you of any concerns or developing issues. Normally, if it looks good, it is good. But a trained eye can spot concerns much quicker than the average home owner.
Masonry construction does not require sealing in most instances. Some specific items should be inspected more regularly and could benefit from periodic sealing. Chimneys above the roof line and flat surfaces like porches and exterior shelf’s could benefit from a sealer on a regular basis. If you know the source of the brick or block, then you can ask the manufacturer when and how to seal the structure. Consulting with a mason will also help identify any concerns that may be developing with your masonry structure.
Certified chimney sweeps can inspect any chimney and determine the fitness of the structure. A video of chimney liner is usually recorded and a copy is provided for the home owner. Chimney’s should be inspected annually before the heating season to assure a safe and comfortable heating season.
Hopefully the only answer that fits here is because the guy in the bulldozer has the wrong address! Occasionally masonry surfaces begin to decay prematurely for several reasons. Almost always the deterioration stems back to water intrusion. Most brick and block absorb moisture during rain events, and then dry out when the sun comes back out. Normally this does not effect the long term durability of the brick, but occasionally the moisture can cause damage if it gets trapped between the outside masonry and inside wall. Providing a pathway for moisture to escape the area between the masonry exterior and interior walls allows the cavity to dry out and not be affected by standing water. If you are experiencing symptoms of water intrusion such as mold or water spots on the interior surfaces, involve an expert in building science as soon as possible. An improperly designed foundation can also allow conditions which the masonry will fail. Always include a professional structural architect in planning any construction project larger than a dog house.
The short answer is call a mason, but a few tips will help prevent an unnecessary service call. If your structure is less than a year old, you are probably experiencing “new building bloom.” This is a common situation that corrects itself after about 12-18 months. Patience is a virtue that few new building owners possess, but in this instance the standard “give it some time and you will get used to it” answer is actually the best advice you can get. If the structure is older, then it is time to look for water intrusion. If moisture is getting trapped behind the brickwork, eventually it is going to come out and bring with it pieces of the masonry wall. Do not ignore the warning signs of “efflorescence” in an older building. Contact a mason and figure out where the water is coming from.