Home improvement: how to protect your brickwork against moisture

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Home improvement is important, and we all like to make sure that we're taking the right steps—from DIY to landscaping to building to simple tasks like reducing moisture on a brick wall. 

There's no denying the charm and charisma of masonry and brickwork; whether it's the exposed wall of a mountainous chalet, or a simple country cottage in the woods, bricks exude character and style. Along with their stylistic benefits, bricks also offer a sense of rigidity, stability and sturdiness. They are the basis for many different domestic and commercial constructions, providing a range of different features and options to those who include this material within their property. However, like most things in life, and along with the almost countless benefits, brickwork also unfortunately presents a few disadvantages. Moisture is a key concern to those who employ bricks in their home, and it is important that walls are sealed whether they are on the outside of a dwelling or within the interior. 

Today on homify we are going to take a look at some important considerations when sealing brickwork and protecting it against any moisture. When waterproofing brickwork you will want to take into account their location, style and type, as this will determine the protection needed. Additionally, you may want to look at environmentally friendly options, and those measures that avoid harsh chemicals within the home. For a few handy hints and some stylish brickwork inspiration, read on!

What's causing brickwork damage and moisture retention?

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Whether or not your home appears damp, there is always a level of moisture that your bricks will soak up. During wet conditions, this gets even worse, and if your bricks aren't sealed correctly, can cause a huge amount of damage to your dwelling. Brick is highly absorbent, and for this reason the most common reason for damp is a lack of correct sealing to the surface. Moisture seeps into pores and openings in brick and grout, and due to the inherently porous nature of brick, can saturate the material. Along with moisture, minerals, salt, soil and other deposits can also find their way into your masonry. 

You may notice a white, flaky salt present on your brick surfaces. This is known as efflorescence and is relatively easy to remove. However, you may find moisture also offers the ideal growing environment for less desirable conditions such as algae, lichen and other fungal organisms. 

Unlikely to be an issue in Singapore, frozen water inside bricks can also expand causing the brick to pop open, which leaves chipped surfaces. However, although frozen water might not be of concern, the humid temperature of the city means mould and water erosion is a top priority.

Cleaning and preparing the wall

Cleaning the brick wall is extremely important as it ensures the surface is free from any bacteria and nasty fungus before being sealed. However, it is also crucial that brickwork is clean properly, as improper cleaning techniques can drastically damage masonry. 

There are a few different ways to clean bricks, and each should be investigated related to the type of brickwork in your home, and whether it is external or internal. 

Sandblasting, acid washing, and simple bucket and brush cleaning are some of the most common forms of ensuring brickwork is neat and tidy. Investigate each one before beginning and employ the method that suits your structure.

Impregnation of the brickwork

When sealing brickwork, you want to ensure that the material you are using is able to impregnate the wall and work to its full ability. Additionally, you want to avoid other materials impregnating the walls such as water, soil and other minerals. 

Look into a sealer that will help avoid any undesirable particles impregnating your brickwork, and furthermore, consider the type of sealer you will use and whether it has any initial treatments required.

Repointing and pre-jointing

One of the most common repairs undertaken by masons is repointing, or pre-jointing brickwork. This basically involves cutting out and repointing mortar joints that have become old and in need of repair. If these are left unrepaired they can allow water to seep in between cracked grout, causing interior wall damage. Ensure you check all the joints in your brickwork, and contact a mason if you require assistance in repairs.

What product should I use?

There are many different products to seal bricks, each with their own name and specific advantages. If you need to seal your brickwork against moisture, you probably should take a look at your type of masonry, and what it might require. In this instance it is usually best to speak with a professional. This professional might be a builder, or simply a salesperson at your local hardware store, but they should have good knowledge of how to seal brickwork. 

As there are so many different brand names for various brickwork waterproofers and sealers it is best to do a little research online, and head to your local hardware retailer.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them…

If you are going to seal your brickwork, you definitely want to make sure you are doing it properly. Some of the most common mistakes include:

- Replacing damaged mortar with a different kind or grout or mortar. If your home is historic, ensure you choose an in-keeping grout.

- Neglecting a case of efflorescence. If you see this salt, it is time to remove it. Over time many people ignore this seemingly harmless white powder, but it can create huge issues with cracking and brickwork damage. 

- Improperly installed flashing. Flashing is a waterproof membrane that helps seal your brickwork. If you ignore this step when building, you will have huge moisture issues in the future. 

- Neglecting the maintenance. Even though brickwork is tough and strong, it requires regular maintenance. Speak to a professional and ensure you keep your brickwork well-maintained.

Did this Ideabook give you some ideas on how to protect and seal your brickwork? If you need a little more domestic inspiration, check out Caring for hardwood floors

Do you have any experience with brickwork waterproofing or sealing? Our readers would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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