Win­ter­iz­ing the house

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - NEWS - David Wil­son

From the time I was 14 years old un­til I was al­most 40, I had the good for­tune of hav­ing an on­go­ing part-time job in my dad’s con­struc­tion busi­ness where I learned a lot about the proper up­keep of a build­ing, whether it is a busi­ness or a home.

As a re­sult, I can rec­om­mend sev­eral steps to make sure your brick home is ready for win­ter.

First, your roof and gut­ters should be cleared of all leaves, tree branches, and de­bris. You al­ways want the wa­ter to drain prop­erly, es­pe­cially dur­ing the win­ter.

If you have a brick or stone house, this is a good time to make sure it is clean and wa­ter­proof. Many times dur­ing the life of a home, the bricks can re­tain mois­ture and a dark buildup will emerge on it. Bricks that are not cov­ered by a roof (brick steps, brick side­walks, or brick pa­tios) will al­ways be­come dirty and stained quicker than brick on the wall of the house. That’s be­cause they catch more rain and un­like walls, will have wa­ter stand­ing on them.

To clean the brick, whether on walls or on a walk­way, it is best to use a ma­chine that will pro­vide high pres­sure wa­ter. You can rent one of these and do it your­self, or you can hire it done. The mois­ture stains on brick are of­ten a form of moss or mold, but the high pres­sure wa­ter will take it right off. For more stub­born stains, it is some­times nec­es­sary to use a chem­i­cal on it and then clean the brick with the high pres­sure wa­ter. Chem­i­cals that are pro­vided for such a task have been made en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly.

Some­times ma­sonry re­pairs are needed be­cause of cracks in the mor­tar or be­cause of sim­ple de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the brick or the mor­tar joints. It is best to do those after your brick have been cleaned, but be­fore ap­ply­ing any wa­ter­proof­ing.

The process of restor­ing mor­tar be­tween bricks is called tuck point­ing, and if you need that done, it is best to hire a pro­fes­sional. Your home may need a few mor­tar re­pairs in only a cou­ple of places, but you will want some­one who can make the re­pair look as good as new and as good as the sur­round­ing brick or mor­tar.

The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies when you have body work done on your car. You want dents and scratches fixed so that no one can tell by look­ing that you’ve had a fender-ben­der.

Be­lieve me, if you have an ama­teur smear mor­tar all over your brick wall, it will stick out like a sore thumb and may even be no­tice­able from down the street.

You might as­sume that any brick ma­son can make such tuck point­ing re­pairs, but that isn’t al­ways the case. Some can, but you will want to make sure be­fore hir­ing them.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, a brick layer is not the best tuck pointer, and a tuck pointer is not the best brick layer. Some peo­ple can do both, but it is rare that one per­son can do both with a high level of pro­duc­tion and ex­per­tise.

And ex­actly who you hire may de­pend on the needs of your build­ing. There are in­stances in which an older brick build­ing will need to be en­tirely tuck pointed. This would cost thou­sands of dol­lars and would be a ma­jor pro­ject. Talk to a con­trac­tor first and do your home­work when de­cid­ing upon the scope of the job you need.

After the bricks are cleaned, and after the mor­tar from the ma­sonry re­pairs is hard­ened, you can choose to make sure all of your bricks are wa­ter­proof.

I rec­om­mend it. Bricks are hard but they are still por­ous, and will ab­sorb wa­ter. They won’t soak up wa­ter as much as a sponge but they can take in some mois­ture, es­pe­cially from the rain and snow of the win­ter months.

Dur­ing the cold­est times of the year, when it is wet and freez­ing, the wa­ter that is ab­sorbed in to brick and mor­tar will freeze and ex­pand. And when it ex­pands, it can cause brick and mor­tar to crack, or it may cause the face of the brick to pop off.

If you wa­ter­proof your brick struc­ture, it will keep the wa­ter out and will slow down the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion process.

Dif­fer­ent brands of wa­ter­proof­ing are avail­able at al­most any hard­ware store. You can pur­chase it and spray it on the brick your­self, or you can have a con­trac­tor do it.

If you do it, make sure that you mask off win­dows and that you keep your ve­hi­cles away from the spray. Wa­ter­proof­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, by their very def­i­ni­tion, will not wash off of win­dows or cars with mere soap and wa­ter.

You will also want to cover up flow­ers, bushes, or plants to keep the wa­ter­proof­ing spray from get­ting on them.

If you have a house that needs paint­ing, the fall is also a good time to get it done. But I don’t ever rec­om­mend paint­ing over brick.

A painter might tell you oth­er­wise but tech­ni­cally, paint is not made for brick and bricks are not made for paint.

I hope these rec­om­men­da­tions are help­ful, be­cause it’s time to get ready for win­ter.

— David Wil­son, EdD, of Spring­dale, is a writer and teacher at heart. His book, Learn­ing Ev­ery Day, in­cludes sev­eral of his col­umns and is now avail­able on Ama­zon, iTunes, and Barnes and No­ble. You may e-mail him at dwnotes@hot­ The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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