It’s a fine old mess. . . bricks&mor­tar

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Cashing In -

Fif­teen years ago, I built the house we still live in and put in hard­wood win­dows with 4mm glass and 16mm air space. More than half of the 160 units have now bro­ken down. I am told that if dou­bleglazed units are in con­tact with putty, the oil within the putty re­acts with the seals. Re­mov­ing the hard­wood beads and fit­ting re­place­ment units is go­ing to make quite a mess and, if I have to do the same again in 15 years’ time, it out­weighs the ben­e­fits. Are there some dou­ble-glazed units I could fit which will not break down? David Snell writes: Dou­ble-glazed sealed units set in tim­ber frames are no­to­ri­ously un­re­li­able and do tend to break down quite eas­ily. The trou­ble is that with a tim­ber frame, the re­bates can­not be very deep and there is not the room for ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion that there is with uPVC. Wa­ter tends to col­lect in the re­bate and this re­acts with and breaks down the poly­sul­phide ad­he­sive that glues the two sheets of glass to the alu­minium spacer.

They should never have been set in putty. At the very least, 15 years ago, the rec­om­men­da­tion would have been to use a non-set­ting mas­tic and to use spac­ers to lift the units away from the frame and spread the load. If you are not go­ing to re­place the frames, re-set the new glaz­ing units on spac­ers and use a glaz­ing tape. Is hy­droflu­o­ric acid the best way to im­prove the look of the brick that was used to con­struct many Vic­to­rian houses in our north­ern cities? DS: Hy­droflu­o­ric acid is ideal for the re­moval of dirt and grime and should not re­ally harm the bricks. The prob­lem is that it is not very nice to use be­cause it is quite a nasty acid, which is why many firms have stopped stock­ing it.

If you do use it, you’ll have to be very care­ful not to over­clean the bricks, as, with a Vic­to­rian house, it would not look right if the bricks looked brand new. Be care­ful not to leave it on too long. Di­lute the acid, work in small ar­eas and wash it down thor­oughly with a pres­sure hose. Work from top to bot­tom so that you do not spoil what you’ve al­ready cleaned. Thor­oughly mask up any win­dows or other fea­tures, as the acid will etch th­ese. You could use an al­kali-based cleaner but it won’t be as quick and easy so, all in all, I think you’re do­ing the right thing. David Snell is con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor to ‘Home­build­ing & Ren­o­vat­ing’ mag­a­zine and au­thor of ‘Build­ing Your Own Home’, avail­able at £ 23 plus p& p from 0870 155 7222.

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