Maintaining your home’s exterior masonry & outdoor living construction might not be the most exciting task, but it’s a crucial one. Regular maintenance not only keeps your house looking great, but it helps you prevent and catch potential issues that could cause costly repairs down the road.
Homeowners often choose brick and stone siding and masonry for their homes because of its beauty and ease-of-maintenance. However, just because the maintenance is easy doesn’t mean that is doesn’t exist. Brick and natural stone are susceptible to damage from natural elements, and improper care can lead to major headaches later.
Here are five tips to help you care for your home’s exterior masonry.
Water damage is a primary concern for exterior masonry, but probably not how you think. While standing water or continual rain can erode natural stone and brick and cause the mortar joints to crack over time, the real danger to masonry lies in the freeze and thaw cycles during the colder winter months. This is why it’s crucial to seal masonry.
Be sure to use the correct sealant. Look for siloxane-based, or silane-based sealants, and always remove old sealant before applying a new sealant. Be sure that the masonry is clean before you seal it. In most cases, you’ll want to have an expert do the sealing, because it can be disastrous if done incorrectly.
When it comes to your home’s exterior masonry, the last thing you want to do is choose the “ignorance is bliss approach.” Damage is avoidable sometimes, especially if you have vines or shrubbery around your house, or if you live in a wetter climate.
Regularly, take the time to inspect your home’s exterior. Look for cracks, holes, crystal-like powder, mildew, rust stains, bulges, or spalling (flaking). If you see any of these issues, work to fix them immediately. Waiting to do so could result in a much more significant problem down the road.
The good news is that cleaning brick and exterior stone is pretty straightforward. Most of the time, a simple pressure-sprayer and the right cleaner can wash off simple debris. Sometimes, a little elbow grease and a brush might be required, too.
With natural stone and brick, go for less pressure, and rely more on the detergent. Start by wetting the masonry, and then apply the cleaning agent. You’ll need to find a cleaner that is safe for your particular stone, staining, and sealant.
Let the cleaner sit for around five to ten minutes, and then use a pressure sprayer to rinse it off. Use a lower to medium pressure setting to avoid damaging the mortar or stone’s face. Then, brush away any stains that weren’t removed by that process.
To clean mildew stains, you can use a bleach solution. A mixture combining one cup of bleach per one gallon of water will usually do the trick.
During your regular inspections, and before you think about cleaning, you want to patch up any mortar joints between bricks that are damaged. Look for any cracks or holes and chisel out any spots where the mortar is loose. Be sure to remove and brush away any loose particles, then mix the mortar and patch up the damaged areas.
If you need to do these repairs, be sure to do them at least a week before you clean and seal, because you’ll want to make sure that they have plenty of time to dry.
The biggest blunder people make is trying to DIY projects that should be left to the professionals. If you aren’t sure which chemicals to use, ask your masonry contractor. If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning, using patch mortar, or sealing your exterior siding, a professional will do these things for very reasonable rates.
However, the most important time to call in the big guns is when you see a real problem with your exterior siding. If you see any bulging bricks, vertical corner cracks, compacted bricks, efflorescent staining, spalling at the shelf angle, severe mortar buckling, signs of crumbling, or anything else serious, don’t try to handle on your own.
Instead, reach out to our qualified masonry contractor at Alexander and Xavier Masonry, we can either repair your issue before it gets worse, or offer a realistic solution.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the home building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.