Brick has been used in residential and commercial construction for centuries, and for good reason. It’s low-maintenance, energy-efficient and, when properly cared for, can last for generations.
A brick home never needs to be painted, will never rot, will never be eaten by termites and will never dent or tear. Brick homes built hundreds of years ago still stand today. It also looks great, no matter how old it is.
But that’s not to say that brick is entirely maintenance-free as a building material.
Brick walls will occasionally need spot-checked for potential water intrusion and the mortar will need to be kept up with repointing in order to ensure long-lasting structural integrity. For the most part, this is work that should be done by qualified professionals, but there are some steps that all homeowners should take to ensure their brick homes remain standing and beautiful for generations to come.
Keep It Clean
Unlike siding homes that can simply be repainted when they start looking weathered, brick needs to be cleaned from time to time.
According to the experts, however, the best approach to cleaning brick is often to be as noninvasive as possible. This means that something as simple as spraying down your brick walls with a garden hose once a year to remove any loose dirt may be enough to keep it looking great. For homes in damp areas, or for parts of the home that see little sunlight, be on the lookout for moss, mold or mildew growing as well.
A solution of one cup bleach mixed with a gallon of water can be used a scrub to clean most brick that can’t be handled by the hose. Don’t use a steel bristle brush, though, as they can permanently damage your brick.
Prevent Water Damage
Brick can be damaged by water that is either continuously splashed against it (like rain) or seeps up from below (from soaked soil). Both situations can leave permanent damage and cause the mortar joints and the bricks themselves to crack. The freeze-thaw cycling can accelerate this type of damage.
Water damaged brick is a problem for the professionals to address, but homeowners should keep an eye out for potential problem areas and be ready to make a call as soon as signs of damage are noticed. Repointing can help restore mortar in affected areas and prevent further damage as long as the problem is caught and addressed early.
Speaking of Mortar…
The mortar joints between bricks are the most vulnerable part of any brick wall or structure. Over time, these joints can become soft and the mortar itself can become cracked or damaged, in extreme cases even flaking away entirely.
Repointing is the process of carefully removing and repairing damaged mortar without disturbing the surrounding brickwork. Once the old mortar is removed, new mortar is applied in the gaps in layers, repairing the lost sections and strengthening the wall overall.
One note for owners of older, historic brick homes: It’s important that the fresh mortar that’s installed during the repointing process matches your original mortar. Contractors today are able to exactly match the existing shade, but if they aren’t careful in the color selection process it can make for a very sloppy looking repoint job that will be visible for years.