Brick is known for its strength and durability, but it ages in much the same way people do — it settles, expands, bloats, crumbles and cracks under excessive pressure, and is susceptible to inclement weather and pollution. Consequently, brick homes require maintenance to remain in tip-top shape. With that in mind, here are five telltale signs that your home’s exterior needs some TLC.
Brick that appears loose is a sign the mortar — the bonding agent between brick — has degraded and needs repair. Mortar naturally breaks down over time and for a variety of reasons, from extreme weather to over-salting in winter and poor repair work.
Repairing the affected area not only restores your home’s exterior aesthetic but goes a long way toward preventing further damage and degradation. In most cases, the repair is relatively simple and requires chipping out the old mortar and replacing it with, ideally, the appropriate historic blend. Using a new or incompatible mortar can damage older brickwork, and create an unsightly discrepancy between old and new.
Damaged or Missing Brick
Brick can shear or split under the stress of a home settling. It can also flake or crumble as the result of too many frost-thaw cycles. Because brick is porous, it absorbs moisture over time and eventually blows out. Once it does, the brick becomes structurally weak and is vulnerable to harbouring damaging moisture, or even insect or vermin infestation.
The method of repair for damaged brick depends on the cause of deterioration. It may involve repointing the joints of the brick or replacing entire sections of damaged brick.
Cracks in brick make walls vulnerable to moisture, which can increase damage over time. There is, however, a difference between minor and major cracks. Minor cracks may be the result of expansion, a natural process associated with weather. These can be fixed by scraping out the old material, sealing the crack and then repointing the mortar. Deep cracks, on the other hand, may indicate a greater problem within the structure itself, such as foundation damage, resulting in more involved repairs.
A stained or soiled exterior may be the result of a variety of factors, not the least of which is pollution or a chemical reaction within the brick itself. Brick that displays a whitish film similar in appearance to chalk is often a relatively minor problem, caused by salts leaching out of it and depositing on the surface. But if there is a chalky buildup, sections of brick may be damp. If left untreated, moisture may eventually penetrate your home, resulting in interior water damage.
With time, some stains will improve in appearance while others will need to be cleaned. In some instances, a sealer or coating should be applied to protect against future staining.
Brick that appears consistently wet or damp and doesn’t dry out after a rainfall ought to be repaired sooner rather than later. It holds moisture and makes the exterior vulnerable to frost, among other things, which may lead to greater damage and/or complications.
Older homes are vulnerable to rising damp for a number of reasons, including damaged or insufficient damp-proofing or leaking gutters. Solutions to the problem vary but should include determining the cause of the moisture. Once the source is revealed, repair methods typically involve removing the affected brick and replacing or bolstering a damp-proof membrane.