Home Maintenance 101: What You Need To Know About Exterior Brickwork

When you live in a house that includes a significant amount of exterior brick, you enjoy the aesthetic, energy-saving and weather-resistant features of the material. While brick requires less maintenance than some other types of materials used for siding and chimneys, neglecting upkeep will cause your home to be less energy-efficient, vulnerable to moisture and less attractive.

If you are a new homeowner concerned about the condition and endurance of your home's brickwork, the following primer will provide you with essential information on the benefits and maintenance of the material.

Benefits of Exterior Brick

While other types of siding materials may be cheaper, they come up short when compared to the longevity and durability of brick.

With a lifespan of up to 100 years, brick provides homeowners with decades of protection from extreme weather conditions. In fact, compared to other types of siding materials, brick provides superior protection from high winds and wind-blown debris according to the Brick Industry Association.

Even if you purchased an older brick home, the durable material provides a number of advantages over aluminum, wood and vinyl siding. Brick will not bend, crack or develop dents. Unlike wood siding, brick is not vulnerable to warping or damage from pest infestations. In addition, you do not need to paint or stain brick.

When it comes to safety, brick is fire resistant and does not emit toxic fumes like other types of siding during a house fire.

Signs of Problems

While brick requires less maintenance than other materials, you still need to pay attention the condition of siding and chimneys in order to detect serious problems caused by extreme weather or general wear and tear. Signs of brick damage are easy to recognize.

  • Mortar damage: Moisture from prolonged rains and humid conditions can cause the mortar of brickwork to break apart. This can lead to water and moisture entering the chimney system. If your chimney has serious moisture damage, it will start to lean and could collapse. If you rub a key across a mortar joint and powdered material appears on your key, you need to repair the brickwork.
  • Cracks and holes: Over time, brick can develop holes and cracks resulting from extreme weather conditions, especially cold winters. While hairline cracks may not seem like a big deal, they can develop into large fissures and leave gaps in the brick. These gaps are ideal homes for bee, yellow jackets, wasps and other stinging insects. The pests will not damage the actual brick, but you certainly do not want those insects hanging around your house.
  • Efflorescence: If you notice unsightly whitish blemishes on your masonry, you have a salt deposit problem. Called, efflorescence, the deposits develop when water that contains salt evaporates on the brick. The deposits can also originate from soil moisture and travel up the wall. In other cases, the efflorescence originates from behind the brick when there is moisture in interior walls.

Repairing Brickwork

Masonry contractors provide tuckpointing services to repair residential brickwork. It involves removing and replacing damaged mortar and brick.

In general, you should only need to make major repairs to your brickwork every 20 years or so. However, it is important to get age-deteriorated mortar repaired as soon possible to preserve the structural integrity of your home.

While you can repair minor mortar problems with mortar mix, mortar coloring and common home improvement tools, you should leave major repairs up to professionals. Tuckpointing is messy work and contractors have access to professional power tools to complete job in a safe, tidy and timely manner.

The chisels, hammers and trowels you use in DIY masonry repair projects are no match for the diamond-blade power tools used by professionals.

Furthermore, the significant amount of silica dust generated during tuckpointing work can be hazardous to your health. Professionals wear proper protective clothing and use tools reduce the dust clouds generated when they remove old mortar.

If you notice that a lot of bricks on the exterior of your home are lose or falling, you have waited too long to schedule tuckpointing. When this happens, you may need to hire masonry experts to completely tear down the brick and install brand new material. You can avoid making your home a money pit by simply scheduling tuckpointing roughly every 20 years or so. Read on for more about this topic.