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The Easy Guide to Maintaining Your Clay Brick Exterior (and Interiors!)

Brick cleaning requires the right approach! Let's explore some easy methods to keep your brickwork looking beautiful. For centuries, clay brick has graced homes with its timeless beauty and undeniable durability. But with any exterior material, questions about maintenance arise.  Here's the good news: brick is a low-maintenance champion! Let's explore how to keep your brick facade looking its best, both outside and inside your home.

Modern Brick: Tough & Stylish

Brick isn't just strong and long-lasting; it can also be stylish! With different finishes like sanding, textured glazes, or even bold glaze colors, brick offers a ton of variety. Keep in mind, some of these finishes might be a little more delicate, even though the brick itself is strong and durable.

In modern buildings, brick acts as the outer layer of a drainage wall that “breathes”. Behind it, there's an open space that allows any moisture to drain down and safely exit the building, keeping your walls healthy and dry.

Before doing anything, contact the manufacturer of your brick, if known, for cleaning product and procedure recommendations. 

Exterior Brick Care:

Cleaning: Mother Nature does most of the work! Rainwater naturally washes away dirt and dust.

However, when required a gentle cleaning with a soft bristle brush (never use a wire brush or metal scraper!) and a solution of detergent and water is generally all you need.  Most brick can be cleaned using pressurized water; however, this should be left to professionals with experience successfully cleaning masonry because the brick finish can be permanently damaged by improper use of power washers.  Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the brick's finish.  Do not use muriatic acid, even diluted.   Specialty cleaning products that use acids include buffers that prevent damage to the brick. See BIA Technical Note 20 for more information.

Mortar: Over time, hairline cracks may appear in the mortar between the bricks. These are typically cosmetic, don't affect the structural integrity or moisture-resistance of the brick, and don’t require action to correct. However, wider cracks could be a sign of an underlying issue. Engage a professional to determine the cause of cracking and to repair as appropriate.  See BIA Technical Note 46 for more information.

Vegetation Control: Keep plants, vines, and tree branches away from the brick façade. Overgrown vegetation can trap moisture against the brick, potentially leading to mold or mildew growth and the roots can dig into the mortar joints as they grow, causing damage to the brickwork. Use of lattice or trellis can allow for vegetation to grow up the wall with less risk to the brickwork.  Trim back any vegetation touching the brick and ensure proper drainage around the foundation. See the BIA Brick Brief on Ivy for more informtion. 

Interior Brick Maintenance:

Thin brick is a popular choice for backsplashes and interior accent walls. Here's how to maintain its beauty:

General: Cleaning or vacuuming followed by wiping with a damp cloth or mild soap and water solution will usually suffice.  Avoid abrasive sponges or harsh chemicals (non-neutral pH).

Stain Removal: Cleaning products formulated for use on unglazed tile or quarry tile are generally acceptable.  For tougher stains, consult the specific cleaning recommendations for the sealer, if used, on your brick tiles.  For deep stains, a poultice can be an effective method for removal.

Frequency of Maintenance:

The frequency of cleaning depends on your environment. In areas with heavy pollution or dust storms, you might need to clean your exterior brick more often. For interior brick, routine cleaning as needed is all you'll likely require.

Additional Tips:

Address any minor issues promptly to prevent them from becoming bigger problems.

If you're unsure about a cleaning method or a repair, consult a professional brick mason or restoration contractor.

Brick's Enduring Appeal:

By following these simple steps, you can ensure your clay brick maintains its stunning good looks for generations to come.  With minimal maintenance required, brick offers a beautiful and hassle-free way to enhance your home's exterior and interior aesthetics. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the timeless elegance of brick!