Brick Walls: Tips on Treatment and Maintenance

Bricks have historically been the cornerstone of a wide array of living spaces, providing everything from enclosure and protection to the framework for letting in sunlight. Whether it be for their economic or aesthetic aspects in both color and texture, the use of brick can be glimpsed in cities the world over. 

In spite of its practicality and widespread use, brick does present a challenge for architects and builders. Everything from humidity, wind, sun, mold, and time leaves its mark on brick, gradually wearing down its practical and aesthetic properties.

But fear not, in the following article we'll give you our tips on how to best treat and care for brick.

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Casa Ladrillo / AZL architects. Image © Iwan Baan

First and foremost, it's essential to recognize the wide variety of bricks and the various ways they are treated and processed in order to fulfill specific purposes. 

If you note lighter colors and excessive roughness in your brick, it's likely that the soil and other agents accumulated much quicker than the ones found in darker, smoother bricks. Another key factor is the orientation of the walls and the resulting exposure to the elements. 

An annual inspection of your brick structure is a must, and should take into account every aesthetic as well as the functional factor of the brick. One way to do this is to spray the surface, using the pressure of the water to check for any weak spots in the mortar, which could lead to leaks and many other issues. 

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Casa Ladrillo / AZL architects. Image © Iwan Baan

Cleaning is essential to prevent negative results, despite the fact that many times we are going for a rustic look on our bricks. Climbing plants like ivy help a great deal in achieving this aesthetic. It's important to avoid health issues that can be caused by the accumulation of dirt and other particles. All in all, cleaning is a simple and economic process. 

An easy way to remove efflorescence and mold is by taking a hard-bristled brush and a mixture of bleach and water and scrubbing the surface in a horizontal motion. Don't forget to use protective gear such as gloves, a mask, and safety goggles. If the surface is more complicated, you can use chemical cleaning agents that can be diluted in water according to product specifications. Finally, always remember to pressure wash the surface while scrubbing.

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Casa Ladrillo / AZL architects. Image © Iwan Baan

As we said before, climbing plants are an attractive addition to brick walls, but left unchecked they can cause the premature deterioration of the brick facade. You can avoid this by routinely pruning the plants and cleaning the brick. 

Regarding repair, in the event that a section of the mortar is deteriorated, it should be removed carefully with the help of a chisel -- after a thorough cleaning of the entire wall, that is -- so that the surface can be primed and new mortar can be applied. 

Beyond cleaning and reparation, there is a wide variety of products for protecting against moisture -- all of which create an impermeable barrier -- and preventing the formation of mold and efflorescence. Applying these products will depend on the climatic factors of a project. In some cases these products can prevent walls from airing out properly and can actually trap moisture within the bricks, causing an array of long-term problems for a project.

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Casa Ladrillo / AZL architects. Image © Iwan Baan

There are plenty of these products on the market that won't alter the bricks' color or brightness and will allow for a variety of finishes. It's important to understand the specific characteristics of each one. For example, the amount of time needed to apply the product and let it dry, the number of people needed for the job, the tools required for the application, and the necessary protective gear.

We want to clarify that the information presented in this article is meant to assist in the maintenance and care of brick surfaces. You should always consider the specific characteristics of every project and these measures should always be done under the guidance of an architect or other professional.

About this author
Cite: Dejtiar, Fabian. "Brick Walls: Tips on Treatment and Maintenance " [Muros y paredes de ladrillo a la vista: consejos y tratamientos de mantenimiento] 15 Aug 2018. ArchDaily. (Trans. Johnson, Maggie) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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