About Red Bricks on Old Houses

Written by leigh kelley
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Many older homes feature a brick exterior. Some homes have a red brick fireplace or other interior features. Historically, a brick home was considered the sturdiest option. As time went by, homeowners discovered that the red brick is difficult to care for, especially if it hasn't been properly maintained in the past. However, in most cases, it is possible to keep the red brick in good condition. Restoring the brick is also possible.


Older brick buildings feature lime mortar. Builders chose this type of mortar for two reasons. First, due to climatic changes, homes settle. Lime mortar allows for slight settling without cracking. Second, lime mortar allows the brick to breathe by eliminating moisture in the brick. Cement mortar traps the moisture, which can damage the brick. Mixing different types of mortar can cause irreparable damage to the bricks. As such, only a brick conservation expert should mend mortar or repoint the home.


Adding sealant to brickwork is now commonly done. However, if your red brick home is older, applying sealant isn't recommended. Sealant can trap moisture, which damages the bricks and may cause mildew or mould to form. A better alternative to adding sealant is to rinse the brick with a solution of ten parts water to one part bleach. Doing this every four months rinses impurities from the brick without affecting the mortar or brick.


Modern brick homes that use Type S mortar can be safely washed using hydrochloric acid. However, older homes with lime mortar shouldn't be washed with any form of acid. Sandblasting should also be avoided due to the possibility of damaging the bricks. Pressure washing the brick with pure water using a low-pressure pressure washer is a better alternative. If the brickwork has mildew, algae or mould, mix one cup of bleach and two teaspoons of salt in one gallon of warm water. Apply this mixture to the affected areas with a sponge or spray it on with a spray bottle.

Damaged Bricks

Damaged bricks on older homes present an aesthetic as well as a structural problem. However, attempting a do-it-yourself repair job can harm the affected brick and all of the surrounding bricks. As such, any homeowner who finds that he must repair or replace bricks on his home should contact a brickwork professional who specialises in working with antique bricks. These professionals have the training to correct the problem without affecting the surrounding brick.

Indoor Bricks

Homes with interior brickwork require extra special care, as these bricks can't be pressure washed. Homeowners with old brick indoor features, such as fireplaces, should wipe the brick with a damp towel at least once per month. For bricks near fireplaces, it may be necessary to clean the brick with a mixture of one cup vinegar mixed in one gallon of distilled water. This cleaning should only be done on a sunny day, when the humidity is low. Use a fan, and open windows in the room to ensure that the bricks dry thoroughly.

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