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Tuesday, August 24 2010

Cleaning Brick and Concrete:

Recently I was called on by a potential client to inspect the exterior of their home which was a combination of brick and stucco. This was (50) year old home in downtown Sacramento that was in need of my help. The brick had a faded look, dirty, and had a white powdery substance on it. The client called me because they were interested in restoring and protecting the natural look and heritage of their home.

Bricks are made of either concrete or clay. In order to determine which one you have all you have to do is drop a small amount of swimming pool acid on the surface and if it fizzes it is concrete and if it does nothing then you know you have clay. Clay bricks do not lose their color over time nor do they fade. The appearance of fading is actually EFFLORESCENCE, a french word which means "to flower out".  Efflorescence is a white powdery substance that comes from inside the brick and is a common problem. Because a brick is very porous it will absorb large quantities of water when wet, and because it will dry from the inside out the white powdery substance will be pushed out of the brick onto the surface leaving a white powdery residue. As I mentioned earlier this is a common problem that can be solved.

I explained to my client that simply cleaning the brick would not solve the problem. First we need to remove the efflorescene and clean the brick, second we needed to treat the brick with a special solution to prevent future efflorescence, and third we needed to seal the brick with a solvent based sealer to protect the brick from the elements and increase the longevity of the brick.

Because of the nature of this type of cleaning and restoration the client would not be able to do this on his own. This type of cleaning and restoration requires special tools, chemicals, and experience in order for the solution to work long term. I would caution anyone reading this to NOT use a pressure washer and some sealer as this might make the problem worse. If you really want to clean and restore the brick surface it will require a qualified professional. If you have questions or concerns about this article please contact me at paddle@frontiernet.net.

Have A Great Day!

Michael Hull

Posted by: Michael Hull AT 10:08 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
Hey Mike. I have some old brick exterior around my home too. The brick appears to have faded and the brick is flaking. What can I do?
Posted by George on 08/28/2010 - 07:43 AM
Does power washing hurt, damage, brick? I wanted to clean my brick, but now I am not sure. Help
Posted by Jack on 09/03/2010 - 06:06 AM
Jack - Great question. When using a power washer on brick make sure to use a wide tip sprayer. This will creat a 12-18" pattern and it should be 2 feet from the brick. Avoid using acidic cleaners. You may want to try brushing the chemicals on with a car wash type brush before power washing. Good Luck!
Posted by Michael Hull on 09/03/2010 - 07:39 AM
George. Get the brick cleaned and sealed right away. The proper sealer will increase the longevity of the brick.
Posted by Michael on 09/13/2010 - 08:27 AM

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