Brick and stone are enduring materials that add elegance to any home or business. But like any construction material, they can be subject to damage. Recurrent maintenance is crucial in preserving masonry structures. This requires a thorough visual inspection and timely repairs. Here are a few tips to help new homeowners get started.
Mold and Mildew
While masonry is known for its durability, it can degrade with age. Preventive maintenance is essential to extend the lifespan of a masonry structure. This includes routine inspections, cleaning, and addressing any issues promptly. Masonry is susceptible to water damage, deterioration of the mortar joints, and mold and mildew growth. Brick and stone masonry exposed to direct sunlight or near moist vegetation is particularly prone to growing moss, mildew, and mold. These organisms weaken masonry by holding in moisture.
Similarly, brick and stone masonry that is not cleaned regularly can develop efflorescence (white, powdery deposits). This buildup is caused by water infiltration and moisture accumulation. Proper masonry Seattle, mortar application, and exterior sealing should prevent this problem. Regular cleaning should include using a scrub brush without steel bristles, as these can leave behind residue that rusts and discolors brick. In addition, cleaning should also be done in conjunction with repointing (removing and replacing deteriorated mortar joints). This can be a tricky task that is best left to a masonry professional.
Moisture damage is a common issue for brick, stone, and concrete. It can cause severe structural problems and lead to costly repairs if not addressed. Masonry structures are particularly susceptible to moisture-related damage due to their porous nature. Water can enter the walls through flashings, groundwater, and rising dampness. It can also cause problems by penetrating through the surface of the brick and settling within the insulation layers. When a homeowner or building maintenance professional notices water damage in masonry, extensive damage has already occurred. This is because the moisture has eroded the mortar that holds the bricks together when a leak has been detected. This is why it’s essential to establish a maintenance schedule that includes routine inspections and regular cleaning. A masonry specialist can identify potential issues before they become severe and expensive. This includes tuckpointing and repointing, which involve filling deteriorated mortar joints with new mortar.
Masonry structures deteriorate over time due to weathering, structural movement, and insufficient maintenance. Regular inspections and prompt repairs can extend the lifespan of these structures and significantly reduce long-term maintenance costs. Cleaners must remove organic growth (such as moss, mildew, and algae) and chemically dissolve stains. A pH-neutral or alkaline cleaning solution is the best approach to protecting the stone, bricks, and mortar. Cleaning methods used in masonry cleaning can be very harsh and damaging to the base material. Physical methods such as scrubbing and abrasive blasting tend to loosen a thin base material layer, which can harm soft brick, historic lime-based mortar, and glazed finishes. Water-based cleaning methods such as scrubbing with water and detergent, soaking, and steam cleaning can be effective on whole walls. However, the use of water should be limited to avoid promoting efflorescence.
Masonry is renowned for its durability and timeless beauty, but it must be maintained regularly to prevent damage and maintain functionality. Water damage, deteriorating mortar, and algae growth are the most common problems affecting masonry structures’ structural integrity. Regular inspections are essential to detect and address these issues before they worsen. A building engineer can examine a masonry structure to evaluate the condition of its coating, materials, and mortar joints and identify deficiencies or non-conformities. A masonry inspector should look for signs of excess moisture, such as brick spalling, deterioration of mortar, and sandstone erosion. They should also look for bowed walls, usually caused by water infiltration and can accelerate masonry deterioration. They should also check that the flashing is installed adequately at the base, sill, head, and roof locations with end dams, overlapped and sealed seams, and slip joints provided where necessary.