1st time poster with a dirty brick house

maryinthefallsApril 7, 2013

We purchased an 1925 brick colonial in NY last fall. Now that spring may be near, I want to address some of the issues the inspector mentioned on the exterior such as getting the chimney repaired and capped, and some of the brick work repointed.

Some sections of bricks are very dirty and we want to clean them. I also want to get rid of the ivy pieces that still remain after I pulled down the stems a month ago. My question is how to clean the dirt off without damaging anything, and do I do this before or after the repointing? We have a reputable old house mason, but I'd like to know what to expect and if I can DIY any of this. Should I be power washing the entire façade? Or use a house wash product (which one)? One post I've read recently suggested using oxyclean. I'm not sure how. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I also need to paint most of the trim in the next year or two.

This forum has kept me from doing irreparable damage to the interior this winter and now I don't want to make a mistake outside either. Thanks for your replies.

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Cleaning should come before the repointing--and make sure the mason knows what type of mortar to use--earlier mortar was softer than the stuff you get off the shelf today. Modern mortar will cause bricks to crack as it doesn't have enough 'give' like the old stuff.

Did you use an herbicide on the ivy? It seems to me that it might start growing back from the stems otherwise....

Do NOT powerwash...the pressure is too high and will damage the brick surfaces, which is the last thing you want--remove the fired surface layer, and you are left with the softer inner brick which will erode and spall quickly from the elements.

Never heard of the oxyclean idea--I'd say you mix it in water and scrub away--I tried it in my laundry once, and wasn't thrilled with it, seemed more hype than help. :)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Thanks Columbus guy. I will check on the mortar.

I was afraid of the power washing too. Why is it the easy things do so much damage? And yes the ivy is coming back, but luckily, it is a single stem and now I will use the herbicide.

So how do I wash the house? Most of the dirt is on the second floor, just below the eaves. Are we talking scrub brush and ladders as the only solution? What type of solution should I use?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 2:15PM
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Ideally, I'd say long-handled brushes or brooms with a ladder, but I'm afraid of heights. :) If you can get one of those wand attachments for your garden hose, try using a soap solution with it...a professional power washer is too strong, but house pressure should be okay.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 5:13PM
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Correctly handling a power washer will not damage the brick.

You spray closer to parallel to the surface, then work the angle closer to perpendicular to clean without damaging the brick while still getting it clean.

My old power washer could write in concrete if held close and perpendicular.

It still cleaned plenty of concrete, brick, and an occasional deck without damage when handled correctly.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 2:56PM
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As I said above we had some men out after home was repointed etc they chemically cleaned our house with bio degradable cleaner this is their job,It was beautiful,Dont sandblast does way too much damage to the brick.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 7:35AM
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