For centuries, brick has been one of the most popular building materials used for the construction of homes due to its looks, the insulation it provides, and the fact that it is an extremely durable building material. In fact, when properly maintained, brick structures can outlive their builders by several centuries, with the oldest brick home in the United States having been built in the 17th century.
Of course, while brick is known to be extremely durable and long-lasting, it still requires maintenance in order to ensure your home’s structural integrity. Preventive maintenance can go a long way in helping to protect your brick home from the elements, preventing costly damage and repairs down the road. To help ensure your brick home lasts for generations to come, here is an overview of the maintenance steps you should be taking.
One of the most important things that you can do to prevent costly damage to your brick home is to inspect your home’s exterior annually for signs of damage. Spotting problems early will allow you to have any potential damage fixed before the problem worsens and becomes extremely expensive to repair. When inspecting your home’s brickwork, look for signs of cracks or holes, a crystal-like powder known as efflorescence, rust stains, bulges, or spalling (flaking). You should also look for signs of damaged mortar, as damaged mortar could allow water to seep in, potentially leading to structural damage. To check for damaged mortar, hose the brick down and look to see if the mortar appears to be crumbling. If during your annual inspection, you spot anything that you believe is cause for concern, it is critical that you have repairs performed as soon as possible.
Of course, one of the biggest threats to brick homes is moisture damage. Rain lashing against your home or seeping up from the ground can work its way into cracks in your bricks, which could potentially lead to costly damage. However, the biggest thing homeowners need to be concerned about is the effect the winter freeze/thaw cycle can have on their brick homes. During winter, water can seep into cracks in your bricks, which will then expand as it freezes. This can expand existing cracks, causing structural damage.
It is then critical that homeowners have their brickwork sealed, as this is a good line of defense against water infiltration, staining, and damage from UV rays. Fortunately, you can purchase brick sealant from your local hardware store. Just make sure that you clean your masonry before you seal it. Of course, you should consider having your brick professionally sealed unless you have prior experience, as you do not want to inadvertently cause further damage to your home by improperly applying sealant.
Brick walls and structures often have weep holes built into the mortar placed periodically throughout the structure. These small holes allow moisture to drain to the outside, helping prevent flooding. Weep holes also help increase ventilation, which can prevent the growth of mold and mildew. However, over time, weep holes can become clogged, which can lead to potential moisture damage. It is then critical that you inspect your weep holes regularly and clear any clogs if necessary.
Visually inspect your weep holes to see if anything appears to be blocking them. Remove any visual clogs with compressed air or a piece of wire. You should then run a stream of water from your garden hose through the weep holes to make sure that they are not clogged. The stream of water running through the weep holes should be steady and clear. If this is not the case, there is still a blockage somewhere that you will need to clean out to ensure proper drainage.
While your brick house may look clean from a distance, a closer inspection might reveal dirt, debris, and fresh stains that are just starting to set in. Fortunately, brick is fairly easy to clean, you just need to take care to use the right products and materials. While brick is known for its durability, using harsh chemicals and cleaners on your brickwork can ruin your brick’s natural look.
Cleaning your home’s brickwork is as simple as using a synthetic or natural brush and scrubbing the masonry with a mix of mild detergent and water. Make sure that you do not use a wire brush when cleaning your home’s masonry, as these brushes can leave behind pieces of steel that can rust and ultimately cause discoloration of the surrounding brick. While you may want to clean your masonry more frequently if you notice efflorescence or discoloration, you need to clean your external masonry once a year at a minimum.
Masonry that does not see much sunlight and/or is close to wet vegetation is often extremely susceptible to growing moss, mold, and mildew. If you notice this happening, it is critical that you clean it as soon as possible as mold, moss, and mildew can all hold in moisture, leading to a host of potential problems. Fortunately, you can clean up your bricks easily with products that you likely already have in your laundry room. Simply mix one cup of bleach and a gallon of water. Next, soak the affected bricks in water to prevent them from absorbing the bleach. You can then apply the bleach solution to the affected area using a spray bottle or a sponge. Scrub the affected area with a scrub brush until it is clean.
One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when maintaining their home’s masonry is assuming that they can do everything on their own. However, if damage to your brickwork is extensive, you may find yourself in over your head if you try to address the problem on your own. Particularly if your home’s bricks are bulging, crumbling, or cracking extensively, it is imperative that you consider entrusting repairs to an experienced professional. If you have encountered problems with your home’s masonry and don’t know what your next steps should be, feel free to contact us. Our experienced masons can inspect your home’s bricks and come up with a restoration plan.