Please Help With Brick Maintenance/Cleaning Questions

mydreamhomeMay 9, 2011

I have fallen in love with a sand-faced brick for our new home, Spalding Tudor from General Shale. DH & I were wondering why there was such a variation in the houses with this particular brick that the brick company sent us to look at. I got the answer today from a GC--evidently you don't pressure wash sand faced brick as it removes the sand finish leaving you with a different colored brick than you intended. The result with this brick + white mortar is your house ends up looking like a candy cane vs. having a weathered appearance.

I can deal with not cleaning the brick during/right after construction, but DH is worried about general maintenance & durability of the finish as time goes on--cleaning the brick, spider web removal in the eaves, cleaning the soffits, garage doors, windows, etc. Having never lived in a brick home before (we've always had vinyl siding which we pressure washed every 2 years or so) we're not sure what proper protocol is with brick home maintenance. Are you ever supposed to pressure wash brick in general? And if you are, how often? Would you pressure wash the other exterior areas and if so, how to protect the brick? Is this going to be a major headache? If pressure washing is an issue, how does sand faced brick hold up to the elements (snow, rain, sleet, wind, etc) over time?

Any insight is appreciated. Thanks!

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Brick does not require any routine cleaning beyond a garden hose, and even then only if something gets thrown on it.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:58AM
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You can generally pressure wash lightly if needed. But like brickeye said - you don't really need to. The areas around the brick - if they get bad, you might need to wash by hand or paint. My last house, I pressure washed (although it had red brick) when I went to sell - and it helped. My new house has darker trim (and brick with a coating) so I expect I'll never pressure wash. Spider webs and the like are easy - the mold is tough. That is where hand washing or painting might be an issue. The mold is probably more of a problem in the humid areas of the country.

Truly white mortar is quite expensive. I think we were looking at several thousands of dollars over gray. We did a blonde mortar for much less (but still over $1k).

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 5:45AM
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Thanks Brickeye & David!

Brickeye-any thoughts on what works best on brick for getting rid of spider droppings (black specs that are difficult to remove-at least from vinyl-that tend to accumulate in areas around the webs?) Dad uses the pressure washer, but he has dark red brick without any special finishes. What about the mold David speaks of? Where do I need to watch for that and how to address it should it occur? If this was your house and you were having such a hard time finding brick you liked (we've only found 3 we would consider- the sandfaced that started this thread, a rose that seems to have color consistency problems house to house & even on the same house, and a red that we've only seen on 1 house that looks nice but doesn't give me the warm and fuzzies) what would you choose and why?

David-We are looking at doing federal white mortar with regular sand. The regular sand vs. white sand helps soften the tone of the white mortar and is approx 1/2 the cost white sand. I think we estimated around $1400 more for the white mortar. I would consider gray, but I would have to see a house built with that exact same color combination (that hadn't been pressure washed, obviously.) Would you care to weigh in on which brick you would choose and why? I know the builder must think I'm nuts being so obsessed with making sure the brick is right & the positioning of the house on the lot is right, etc (maybe I shouldn't say "right" but rather "just so".) But, gosh darn it, I'm the one who will be pulling up in front of and living in that house for the next 50 years, not him!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 11:38PM
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If it makes you feel any better, our brick mortar decision was the hardest one. We actually were going with gray because of cost (hate to go over budget on 1st sign decision) and then once they had done a small strip on the back side of the house - we changed our mind.

We probably did the same thing you did - white mortar with regular sand. I remember what we did saved approximately 1/2 the upcharge. I think sometimes we wished we went with white - but paying so much for something like a subtly lighter mortar color just seemed off base.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 6:14AM
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DH has agreed to the sand faced brick. Builder's only concern is cleaning dirt off the brick around the base of the house that inevitably accumulates during construction. We're in central NC with lots of red clay and the sand makes the brick a light color. We may have found a house with that same brick with grey mortar. Waiting for verification. Builder applied for permits Friday. Going to have to have a final decision VERY soon. Any other advice especially on the spider droppings/black specs and/or mold?

Since we know that the pressure washing will destroy the brick finish, should we put up signs on all 4 sides reminding subs that the house is not to be pressure washed under any circumstances or just trust that the builder will take care of it? I only ask because of the story of another homeowner who had specifically told the builder no pressure washing due to the sand finish and builder said he'd take care of their suprise when they drove up to the build site one afternoon, a sub was out there pressure washing away. Thanks for your input!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 2:32AM
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I don't think most subs go around cleaning up after themselves so I don't think that should be an issue.

We had a method for preventing splatters during construction. Once it is landscaped (and gutters), there really isn't an issue but before then a heavy rain will splatter red clay on the brick. It may have been a silt fence put around the base of the house. Or gravel put around the house.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 6:12AM
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Just wondering if your house was complete? I'm starting mine next week and also like the Spalding Tudor from General Shale. I've been negotiating a price and not sure if we got the best price or not... do you remember how much you were charged per thousand? Do you have any pictures?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 11:43PM
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Hi graya--Congratulations on starting your house! Our house is indeed complete and love the brick!!! I want to say contractor price was quoted at 2 different rates--could have been that one builder used GS more than the other--$320 & $365. I have been waiting for the landscaping to be complete before taking more exterior pics, but here's what I have from the construction phase...

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 9:54PM
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mydreamhome - Your new home is gorgeous!

I found this thread while searching Google for Spalding Tudor fireplaces. We built out home 5 years ago and used the same brick mixed with stucco. We are getting ready to add an outdoor room and are trying to decide between using our brick, or using Faux stone. I am not a fan of cultured stone, and real is too costly according to the contractor, but I have my doubts.

Anyway, when we chose our brick, we also saw it on another home. We had no idea that it had a sand finish. Never gave it a thought until we noticed that the finish was coming off in places. Wanted to tell you to watch out for water from your sprinkler system. We had a couple that sprayed the front of the house when it was on. Luckily, the foundation plants have since covered the damage.

I am now a little hesitant about using the brick for our fireplace, as I had forgotten about the sand finish.

graya - I priced the brick today. It is around $360 per 1000, or $156 per cube of 480. I have no idea how many it's going to take to make our fireplace and a grill enclosure.

Here are a couple of pics of our home, and also a mock up of what we want to do in the backyard. Keep in mind that these are old photos and the landscaping was new and young. The photo I used for the mock-up, too!

Finish will also rub off on steps

Mock-up using brick

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 5:20PM
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Thanks for the heads-up newhomebuilder. We are actually in a unique situation where the vast majority of foot traffic is through the garage to enter the house. We are so far back off the road that we don't typically have people coming up to the house that would use the front steps. So far so good on the back steps. No sprinkler system, so good on that front too.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:41AM
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You know what i just noticed? Your brick has a whole lot more brown in it than ours does. Ours is more pink. The house that we wanted to copy (the brick) was even pinker than what we ended up with. I sure hope that the formula has not changed that much. If we used the brick for our fireplace, it may not match at all. Boo

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 9:56PM
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nhb--I really think the color varies slightly by region in addition to what lot the brick comes out of. Additionally, different mortar colors can drastically change the color the brick itself appears--hard to believe, but true. We used GS's Federal White mortar with regular sand. From the pics, your mortar looks like it might be grey. We did notice that the greyer the mortar, the pinker the brick appeared. On some homes, the brick looked orange--again I think it had to do with mortar color. The trick for you will be making sure the lots match up as close as possible for the brick and that you get the matching mortar color & sand.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 10:28PM
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Our mortar is actually a cream color. We used brown sand. Not sure what the mortar color was, but I think it just a regular color.

Yes, you must be correct about region. We are in Tennessee.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 11:15PM
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