Brick is known for its durability, but lack of maintenance or poorly done repairs can cause trouble. Faulty materials, workmanship or design can also lead to deterioration. A little attention to common problems with bricks will prolong the life of the brickwork and ensure that it retains its value and beauty. Bricks come in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes and textures, which is why brick is such a beautiful surface. Proceed with care, therefore, when doing brick maintenance.
Routine inspections – ideally done each season, will help identify potential issues. Problems with bricks to look out for include repairs using cement mortar, which can trap moisture. If one area of your masonry receives little sunlight and is prone to be damp, check for moss or mold. You can remove this with a mild bleach solution (one cup of bleach in a gallon of water.) First soak the area, to keep the brick from soaking up the bleach. Apply with a synthetic or natural brush, as wire brushes may leave traces of steel that will eventually rust.
Generally, properly made and installed brickwork does not require much maintenance. But if components in the brickwork, such as lintels, sills, copings or sealant joints, are damaged, it can lead to further deterioration.
While inspecting, you may wish to perform a little routine cleaning. Like any cleaning, this should be done using the least caustic process possible by gently removing loose dirt with a garden hose. Once you have inspected your brickwork, maintenance may be necessary to address specific problems.
One common problem with bricks is damage to the mortar between the bricks. Over time, the weather and other elements can cause the original mortar between the bricks to deteriorate. It may become necessary to re-point the brick. This means replacing the whitish or gray material between the bricks when it has become cracked or eroded. When to re-point is a tricky question.
It is not a good idea to ignore deterioration, but the job requires knowledge as well as a great deal of patience and may require the services of an expert. The damaged mortar must be removed with caution, to avoid damaging the surrounding brickwork. The damaged mortar must be removed because if new mortar is applied directly to the surface, it will not hold up. The new mortar is then applied in layers. If the brickwork is old, it is possible, with the assistance of an expert, to be sure the new mortar matches the original, in order to maintain the beauty of your brickwork.
Heavy vegetative growth – such as vines, on your masonry can cause problems such as eroding mortar, blocking gutters and downspouts, damaging soft wall surfaces and holding moisture against the masonry. It can even get in the way of inspections and repair work. If you are removing large, mature vines, use caution, as the removal may cause additional damage.
Another common issue is whether to remove paint. Painting brick was fashionable during the early 1800’s and many people still choose to do so. Removing the paint from brick, however, can be difficult and tedious. Sandblasting can cause permanent damage to the brick, especially when used on antique bricks. Chemical treatments should be handled by a professional and carefully spot tested as they can discolor or etch the surface of the brick. Old bricks are the most likely to be damaged, because of inconsistencies in the type of clay, the workmanship, and the firing, but even modern bricks can damaged during paint removal.
When dealing with brick maintenance, you may wish to seek advice and assistance from a professional. You want to work with others who cherish your brickwork as much as you do and will help you keep it in good condition for a long time to come. If you have questions concerning the proper care and maintenance of your brickwork, contact us. We are here to help.