El­bow grease is essential in clean­ing ex­te­rior brick­work

The Day - - HOME SOURCE - By Day Mar­ket­ing

Bricks can lend a stately aes­thetic to a home, whether they are used in a pa­tio, walk­way, chim­ney, or even as the key ex­te­rior el­e­ment. As with other types of con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als, it's help­ful to do some reg­u­lar up­keep on brick­work to keep it look­ing its best.

When they are ex­posed to the el­e­ments, bricks can eas­ily be­come stained or dis­col­ored. Pe­ri­od­i­cally clean­ing them will keep them look­ing at­trac­tive and can also help pre­vent dam­age.

A sim­ple wash is usu­ally enough to re­move any dirt that has built up on the sur­face of the brick­work. Ge­or­gia Mad­den, writ­ing for the home de­sign site Houzz, says you can ap­ply a wa­ter and de­ter­gent so­lu­tion and scrub the grime away with a fiber or soft bronze bris­tle brush.

This method is typ­i­cally enough to re­move ef­flo­res­cence as well. Ef­flo­res­cence ap­pears as a white crust on the bricks when evap­o­rat­ing wa­ter in the bricks leaves salt de­posits be­hind. The Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion says a stiff, non­metal­lic brush can loosen up these de­posits, which can then be rinsed off with spray from a gar­den hose.

Try to re­move ef­flo­res­cence as soon as pos­si­ble. Al­though the de­posits are not harm­ful to the brick, they can re­act with at­mo­spheric car­bon diox­ide to form car­bon­ates. These are not wa­ter sol­u­ble and can only be re­moved with chem­i­cals.

If the bricks are lo­cated in a shadier part of your prop­erty, they can de­velop mold, moss, or mildew. The home im­prove­ment pro­fes­sional Bob Vila says this prob­lem can usu­ally be ad­dressed by wet­ting down the bricks, then scrub­bing them with a so­lu­tion of bleach and wa­ter.

A va­ri­ety of other stains can also form on bricks, such as min­er­als leach­ing out of the brick or rust em­a­nat­ing from a metal home fea­ture. Old House Web, a re­source on main­tain­ing his­toric prop­er­ties and other older homes, says grease re­movers can some­times be ef­fec­tive in re­mov­ing these blem­ishes. Acids should be avoided if pos­si­ble, since these can dis­color the brick, etch glass, or dam­age other parts of the home.

A pres­sure washer can be used to clean dirt and stains from bricks, but you should be care­ful how you use this tool. Keep it at a mod­er­ate set­ting, since high pres­sure can dam­age the brick. Old House Web says pres­sure wash­ing sprays should not ex­ceed 3,000 pounds per square inch.

When­ever you clean brick, it helps to sat­u­rate the sur­face ahead of time and rinse it off once you're done. Mad­den says the first step will help lo­cal­ize any clean­ing so­lu­tion, while the sec­ond will rinse away any ex­cess so­lu­tion which might stain the brick if left in place.

Brick near a bar­be­cue or fire pit might be stained with soot or ash. Some of this ma­te­rial can be vac­u­umed away, and a so­lu­tion of sugar soap will be ef­fec­tive in re­mov­ing any re­main­ing stains.

Clean­ing the bricks will let you see if you need to take any ad­di­tional steps to keep the ma­te­rial in good con­di­tion. Vila says you may need to re­point some ar­eas of the brick­work, or re­move any crum­bling old mor­tar and re­new it to pre­vent wa­ter dam­age.

Pro­tec­tive coat­ings can also be use­ful in pre­vent­ing wa­ter dam­age and other prob­lems with brick­work. Old House Web says these coat­ings can fill cracks in the mor­tar and bricks to help re­pel wa­ter; pen­e­trat­ing ap­pli­ca­tions are long last­ing, able to seal brick for a decade or longer.

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