There is more to brick cleaning than meets the eye and common maintenance mistakes can lead to the ultimate error in judgment: painting brick. Put down that paintbrush and learn a few tips on how to get (and keep) your brick clean and looking great.
Brick Maintenance 101: Getting to Know Your Brick
Not all bricks are the typical red square you see in the garden shed and by the side of a construction site. Keeping brick clean means knowing what kinds of brick maintenance tasks are appropriate. This, in turn, depends on the kinds of brickwork used in the home. Possible options include the brick panel that is a veneer-like covering rather than the full sized brick, the raw building brick and also the thinner flooring bricks with one or more coats of sealant. Taking a “one size fits all approach” to brick maintenance is a cardinal error.
Insider Tip: Don’t know if bricks are sealed? Splash a section of bricks with water. If the material soaks up the water and features a dark, slowly drying stain, there is no sealant. Pearling water or minimal darkening indicates one or more coats of sealant.
Brick Maintenance 102: Brick Repair Is a Must to Keep Brick Clean
Basic brick maintenance dictates that damaged pieces must receive a bit of extra attention to avoid spreading problems. Fix chipped brick panels by replacing the affected portion of the panel with a new one. Loose panels must be refastened to the underlying studs with new screws. Patch any remaining gap with paintable cement filler. Neglecting proper brick repair tasks prior to cleaning is a common mistake made by homeowners, who believe in the indestructibility of the medium; bricks are tough, but they do need occasional repairs.
Insider Tip: For small holes, chips and cracks, paintable cement filler is an excellent solution when touching up individual bricks. Place a blue piece of painter’s tape on each treated brick, since this makes it easier to return and apply coloring and coating as needed.
Painting Brick: Finishing Touches to Brick Repair
The ultimate mistake of brick maintenance is painting brick in a color other than the one intended by the brick maker. It is unclear why a painted brick wall is more appealing (to some) than a properly maintained raw brick counterpart. That being said, there is a place for painting brick: the judicious application of touch-up paint after brick repair. Return to the taped bricks and restore their appearance where paintable cement fixes a gash or crack. Paint and seal over the cement in keeping with the brick’s color scheme and texture flow.
Insider Tip: This kind of painting brick work might require multiple color matches, especially to accommodate weathering, natural shading of the material and also color differences. Applying brick paint that is matched to one brick color to an entire wall is a common mistake that leaves an area with numerous repairs and touch-ups look a bit like Swiss cheese. Invest in as much paint as needed; it’s worth it!
Brick Cleaning 101: Keeping It Looking Beautiful
Do not use a wire brush, harsh solvents or the concentrated spray of a pressure washer. All these things will get the brick clean, but they will also cause hairline cracks, scrape off any coatings, lead to discolorations and overall do an extraordinary amount of damage.
Do use a garden hose, bristle brush and diluted dishwashing detergent. Wet down the bricks with the garden hose, apply the soapy solution with the bristle brush, rinse off the bricks with the hose and it’s finished.
Redland Brick, Inc. offers some interesting brick facts that are sure to inspire due diligence during brick maintenance
Behr provides excellent color matching ideas online