Brick Homes: Care and Maintenance

Brick, a strong material, is built to last many years. But, it does require some maintenance. While some jobs are better left professional brick masons, there are many ways that DIY homeowners can use to maintain and prevent damage to brick. These simple tips will keep your brick looking new. Brick has always been a popular building material. It is energy efficienct and aesthetically appealing as well. Homes constructed with full brick or brick veneer have a high resale value. Brick is nearly maintenance free. However in order to keep your brick home lasting for many years, the brick exterior does require occasional cleaning. Annual maintenance should include spot checks for water damage, and occasional repointing is necessary in order to maintain structural integrity.

When it comes to cleaning brick, take a less aggressive tact. Differenct types of dirt on your home’s brick exterior will need different cleaning products. At least once a year, use a garden hose with a spray nozzle, or use a spray bottle, to remove and loosen dirt. Inspect the brick exterior for moss, mold, and mildew growth. Use a mixture of one cup of bleach and a gallon of water. Apply the solution using a scrub brush. Avoid using a metal scrub brush because it will cause rust discoloration. The solution will clean most of the areas affected by moss, mildew, or mold. Prior to applying the mixture to the brick, spray the area with water. Give the brick area a good soaking which helps to prevent the brick from absorbing too much of the bleach.

Another problem to be aware of is water damage. Splash back and moisture or dampness are continual problems. Splash back is caused by rain beating on the brick and soaking into it. This causes mortar joints or the bricks to crack. Rising damp occurs when ground water seeps up leaving behind a tide line. The moisture eventually evaporates leaving behind salt crystals. Over an extended period of time, the salt crystals cause the brick and mortar to deteriorate. In addition, freezing and thawing cycles accelerate the amount of damage to brick that has received heavy amounts of rain and moisture. The earlier the damage is repaired and maintained, the longer the brick will last. Use an annual brick maintenance plan and plan to do brick repointing every few years.

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Brick repointing or tuckpointing helps to prolong the lifespan of brick. In places where the mortar joints have deteriorated or become soft or where the mortar is cracked or broken, it is necessary to perform repointing or tuckpointing maintenance. New mortar is applied in layers filling in cracks and crevices. The depth of the replacement mortar should be twice the width of the mortar joint. Ensure that the new mortar matches the original color. An experienced and professional masonry contractor will take a sample of the mortar. They will crush the mortar and dissolve it in acid. Doing so removes the binder and leaves behind the sand aggregate, which makes it easier to discover the proper shade that matches the original mortar. Properly done, tuckpointing or repointing refreshes the damaged mortar joints. Proper annual maintenance keeps your home’s brick exterior looking like new for many years.