Archive for October, 2011

Winter Home Care: Brickwork

By admin On October 10, 2011 No Comments

Bricks are great – they keep our expensive heat in and the cold out, because they can (and should) be able to withstand all kinds of poor and extreme weather. However, anything that undermines the effectiveness of either can lead to major problems, so use this quick brick checklist to prepare for the coming winter!

One of the main problems with brick work doesn’t initially come from the bricks, but from the mortar (cement) which holds the bricks together. Check that:

• The mortar is still firm and is not crumbling away:
- If it has crumbled this means, at best, that rain and ice can easily be driven into the cracks in high winds, allowing damp to gradually seep into your home. At worst, it can also mean that the whole of your wall is being periodically undermined by the cold, wet weather.
- Mortar on corners of buildings can be particularly susceptible, so check carefully in these areas.
- If mortar is crumbling away, it will need replacing. This is called re-pointing and can either be a DIY job (if you have a thorough understanding of what you are doing) or an easy task for a contractor, but either way, repairs should be scheduled before any seasonally bad weather sets in.
• There are no plants growing in your walls. They may look pretty, but the roots of even the tiniest plants can systematically undermine your mortar and, overtime, bricks.
- Get the kids to help you ‘weed’ your walls carefully by gently tugging them out (don’t use trowels or tools as you could damage the bricks).
- Make a note of where these plants have grown, as this does indicate cracked bricks, spaces in brickwork or missing, inadequate mortar, all of which will need repair.
- Although not a weed, the same can be true of ivy, which can exacerbate problems if growing on walls that are already in a poor condition, remove it to enable wall repairs.
• Check for cracked bricks. It is possible to replace single bricks, or even areas of cracked brickwork, but it is recommended that you get a contractor to assess the extent of any long-term damage from cracked bricks and the repairs required.
• Lastly, remember to check your gutters. Yes, it sounds unrelated but you’ve seen the effect of a blocked gutter that results in a trickle of water down the side of a wall? Well, in the winter, this will be lead to an almost continual trickle which never has the chance to evaporate, but is likely to freeze. Ice on the surface of brickwork can cause cracks through expansion and over the period of a whole winter, a repeated cycle of thawing and re-freezing in the same spot can result in a major repair job – all for the want of a clear gutter!