Answers to Your Brick Questions #1

Q. Can anyone tell me the feasibility of using bricks or blocks to basically make a 10 feet high x 20 feet long wall as siding along the house? Will this be some sort of insulation? If I have a cement slab as a base for the brick or block wall, would that be fine as footer for the wall?


Brick has been used for siding for a long time. It has some insulative value, but not much. If the slab for the house has a brick ledge on it, you are in luck. That would be the very best you could hope for.

Q. I noticed some dry, powdery, white stuff at various locations on the brick exterior of my house. It appears both on the brick and sometimes in the mortar. It appears 2 or 3 feet below the top edge of the bricks. Is this an indication of moisture coming out?

A. It is probably efflorescence, evidence that moisture is transpiring through the wall. You should look at the other side of the wall and evaluate any moisture problems, then correct them by ventilation, sealing, drainage, or whatever is needed. The persistent transpiration of moisture through the wall will degrade the mortar between the bricks, requiring tuck-pointing to repair. The moisture may cause other problems, such as rotting wood.

Q. I'm getting ready to build a house. Is it possible to figure out a cost ratio of brick vs. siding?

A. Brick will cost a lot more and last a lifetime or two, while vinyl will have to be replaced down the road. Brick will be valued more if you ever sell. I am not sure what the exact costs would be.

Q. I saw a landscaping program on one of these TV shows where they painted or stained the underpinning brick of a house. I did not, however, see what they used to do it with. I have a very pale shade of brick that that underpins our home. We just painted the Masonite structure and put on a new roof, and the brick just doesn't do much for it. Anything that would help darken this and give it some richness would be great. Should I paint my brick wall?

A. From
"A brick wall may be painted provided the correct preparation is done, the proper paint is selected, and the paint is applied correctly. Generally, new brick walls are not painted. However, if you desire to paint a recently constructed brick wall, it should be allowed to fully cure 28 days and should not be cleaned or treated with acid solutions. Alkali-resistant paints should be used and a zinc chloride or zinc sulfate solution may need to be applied to the wall to neutralize the surface.

"Painting brick does not preclude good construction and detailing practices. Any deficiencies such as surface deposits; broken brick; cracked, loose or missing mortar; or inadequate flashing and weep holes should be corrected prior to painting. In addition, the brick should be thoroughly cleaned and given ample time to dry before application of paint.

"For brickwork to function properly, the wall must resist moisture penetration and be permeable to vapor from the structure. Consequently, any paint applied to the wall must also have these same characteristics. In addition, the inherent features of a brick wall which channel water out, such as weep holes and vents, must not be clogged by paint or caulk to inhibit the flow of water.

"Latex and Portland cement-based paints perform well on brick walls. Oil-based, alkyd, rubber and epoxy paints do not allow any vapor in the wall to escape and consequently should not be applied to brick. Prior to painting, the brick should receive a prime coat suitable for the paint application per manufacturer's instructions."

Q. Problem #1: We have brick patios that become somewhat slimy in the winter because of the wet weather. My wife likes to wash the walks and patios down with chlorine bleach solution. I found that last winter, after she did this for the first time, the grout seemed to chip or "melt" away easily on our front walkway. Is this likely to be a consequence of the chlorine? If so, is there a suggestion as to what should be used to clean the mold off?

Problem #2: What is the most reasonable way to repair the areas in the sidewalk where the grout has "melted" away? Is there any special type of cement mixture that I should use?

A. Bleach can be hard on anything. I prefer a mixture or bleach 25 percent in water to kill mildew. Spray it on a wet surface, let it stand for 5 minutes or so, then scrub or hose if off. Repairing the mortar between bricks is called tuck-pointing. Dig out the damaged mortar about an inch, clean the debris out thoroughly, dampen the surface, and then apply new mortar.

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