"A Doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines" - Frank Lloyd Wright
Your Brick House....Since I can only speak from experience, my own house is an 1884 Brick story and a half house. It has the elaborate gingerbread work of a Queen Anne, but lacks the turrets or fancy windows that seem the basis for that style. We're always at a loss to decide what style it really is. It does have a fabulous wrap around porch, and multi-shaped shingle siding on the second story gables. So, here are a few things that I've learned about brick houses since we started living in this one eight years ago.
Basically, brick is durable and long-lived as long as the mortar joints are sound. Brick houses are susceptible to moisture -- more so than wooden framed houses -- but require very little maintenance.
Fewer new houses are built of brick, since the cost is truly exorbitant for anything other than a brick facade. Surprisingly, a brick facade or skirt seems to be the sign of a custom or semi-custom home here in Colorado, and whole crops of new houses are thinly sheathed in brick (or sometimes "fake" brick). I'm lucky enough to have a full 15" thick double-brick-with-airspace wall: fine rubbed brick with tiny butter joints for the exterior, and larger rough brick for the interior of the wall. The airspace between is for insulation.
A couple of Don'ts for brick
Cleaning BrickworkFor normal dirt and grime, simply use plain water, rinsing with a hose and scrubbing with a stiff bristled brush. For stubborn stains, add 1/2c ammonia to a bucket of water. Rinse well. Don't use a powerwasher except as a last resort - if you have a crumbling brick problem, this will make it worse (not to mention old windows don't stand up to high pressure water very well).
We've found that simply spraying with a hose now and then to rinse of any dirt that is spattered on the house from sprinklers or rain is all we need.
Removing Organic GrowthIf brick has been continually moist, it will often start to grow a variety of molds and mosses. This is the same problem that can plague shake roofs, which often start to look green and fuzzy after a few years. This bespeaks of an underlying water problem, but it fairly easy to remedy.
First, scrape the moss or mold off the surface with a non-metallic spatula (the same kind you'd use on Teflon), and then apply a wash of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water to kill the spores. After a couple of days, scrape again and rewash. It will probably take a few applications to kill everything off.
Of course, you need to address the underlying moisture problem, or you'll be repeating the process for years.
Painting BrickworkAs far as I'm concerned, there really is a special place in hell for anyone who paints facing brick. They must spend eternity picking paint out of the pores of old brick with toothpicks.
However, some older brick houses were meant to be painted. They are constructed of rougher bricks, or seconds, and were designed to be painted to seal them from the elements. Often they were whitewashed, or painted with fanciful colors to mimic stone work.
If the house was painted originally, then by all means repaint it after doing the appropriate prep work. If you do paint, make sure you use a paint that is formulated for masonry, usually 100% acrylic latex.
Problems with Brick
ResourcesTri-State Cut Stone & Brick Co.
Acme Brick Company
Brampton Brick Limited
Brick Institute of America -technical notes
Church Brick Company
Glen-Ger Brick a guide to brick design.
Industrie Laterizi Riunite
Redland Brick, Inc.
Robinson Brick Company
Universal Thermo Brique Inc.
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All content ©1998-2009 R. Fingerson
Last updated 03/05/2009