Maintaining Your Property: House Brickwork
Surface damage on brickwork is caused by water soaking into the bricks on an outside wall, freezing at night as the temperature drops, and then expanding and cracking and peeling off the brick surface.
As with most household repair jobs, the faster you act to repair any damage, the more money you will save in the long run. It is important to repair small cracks immediately before more water gets in and damages a bigger area. Remember to repair the cause of the damage, such as a leaking roof or gutter and allow bricks to dry out, before attempting to fix damp brickwork.
The only repair for surface peeling on brickwork is to replace the damaged bricks, or if large numbers of bricks are affected, to consider a fresh render of the wall surface.
Leaking roofs, gutters or downpipes can cause bricks to absorb water. Signs of this dampness include green algae growing on a exterior wall, or wallpaper that won't stay pasted onto an interior wall, which may also have black mould growing on it.
Water absorption between bricks may be prevented by repointing, which is the process of removing any loose mortar and putting fresh mortar into the gaps. It is important that this pointing layer is in good condition as it holds the bricks in place and protects the wall from water.
Render is a brickwork covering composed of sand and cement. It gives protection to brickwork from rain and provides a smooth finish to exterior and interior walls. Rendered surfaces, both outside and inside, are also often painted to protect them from weathering and to help keep walls tidy and attractive.
If you notice a single large crack or a succession of smaller cracks between the bricks of any wall, you may have a problem with the foundations of your home. In this case professional advice from a house builder or surveyor is absolutely essential.
To prevent water in the soil under your house rising up into the walls, builders use a damp proof course. The DPC is composed of a thin strip of plastic, a course of engineering brick or slate, or a layer of bitumen. You can usually see the edges of this strip sticking out about half an inch on the base of the house walls.
Older houses may not be fitted with a DPC and these are often retrofitted to homes using an injection process. Similarly a damp proof membrane is used under a concrete floor. It is essential to prevent water finding an alternative path from the ground into your walls, so avoid building paving or paths higher than the line of the DPC and don't pile up rubbish or soil against walls.
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