Don't Power Wash Brick and Stonework

Published by Millennial1 on April 28, 2007 - 3:01am
After installing brick, many masonry contractors will insist on washing it with a mild solution. Washing the brick is not a bad idea, but DO NOT LET THEM POWER/PRESSURE WASH IT. Most of the people who use power washers really get carried away. They keep the power washer wand in one place too long and this removes the brick glazing. See the power washing video to see exactly what we mean. You can see the result, especially the diagonal streak, above the left window. Power washing or pressure washing can actually damage the surface of the brick and and also weaken it. This ultimately detracts from it's natural beauty, which you are paying for to begin with. In our case, we specifically told our contract not to power wash the brick. Of course they assured us that they wouldn't. Then after we went to the grocery store we returned and get what? They were POWER WASHING the brick and really messed it up in several places. The mason assured us that there was no harm, However, the manufacturer, Continental Brick, recommended using a garden hose to wash the brick. This probably would not be as much fun as the power washer though or quicker. Contintental Brick specifically said that power washing could remove the glazing on the front of the brick. The same holds true for stone and brick retainer walls and walkways. Use a garden hose and when in doubt read the manufacturers paper work or talk to the brick or stone supplier and not the mason.

Comments

We just had our house power washed and now it looks like sh-t. The house is a brick ranch. Yellow brick with a textured pattern with little or no glaze. The brick was'nt in bad shape to begin with but now the brick in most areas looks faded and with a white like bleached appearance. It could be efflorescence but I don't think so. Any ideas or any fix would be greatly appreciated

Steven,

You can call Potomac Valley Brick at 301-309-9600 or visit their website at www.pvbrick.com. We used them for our brick source and they actually referred us to a specialist when we had our power washing fiasco.

Tom

Steven,

Sorry to hear about your situation. Here are some tips for solving your problem at http://www.millennialliving.com/content/powerwashing-brick

The previous owners of my house painted the brick in the front of the house white. Why would they do that -- I don't know. So the brick is white and so is the siding. I wanted to powerwash the white paint off of the brick, but I've been reading that powerwashing/pressure washing brick is not a good idea. Any advice? Please?????

I'll get back to you with specifics in a while. In the mean time, can you tell me how long ago they painted it and what kind of paint they used? Also what is your time frame for living in the house/

Thanks

Tom

Kevin Gladd of Potomac Valley Brick in Maryland at http://www.pvbrick.com recommended using Sure KIean Heavy Duty Paint Stripper. He suggested to follow the directions for applying it carefully.

We dug a little deeper and found that Prosoco, a leader in masonry cleaners and sealers, makes this product. From the reading, this is pretty strong stuff. If it's any consolation, Sure KIean Heavy Duty Paint Stripper was used on the Empire State Building to remove gray paint. Seems like the building's owners painted it gray in the 1960s since it was much easy to paint over the years of dirt than to remove it. See the newsletter story "The Bigger They Come" on the product literature page

The details of the Heavy Duty Paint Stripper provide a wealth of information. I'm not so sure that this is a Do It Yourself project, especially if you have a large area. From reading the Heavy Duty Paint Stripper literature. It should be kept away from metal and wood. Air temperature should also be above 50 degree F when you apply it and leave it to dwell. You have to also use a solution to rinse off the stripper.

You may want to buy a can of the Prosoco Heavy Duty Paint Stripper and try it on an inconspicuous part of the brick. You'll get an idea of the time it takes and it it produces the results you want. Your other option is to call a company that specializes in paint removal such as John Lambert at Abstract Masonry Restoration.

Please let me know how it turns out.

Keep in mind that paint stripper itself is highly toxic, and the question of where it goes during/after the job is a crucial health issue. Imagine gallons of methylene chloride (a carcinogen) and methyl alcohol (a dangerous poison if ingested) poured on the soil around your house's foundation wall! Also, the chemicals may be going into the workers if they're not properly protected.

But even more worrisome is the problem of whether the paint contains lead. If the house was built before 1979, it probably does. And even if it was built later, the paint should be professionally tested for lead before attempting to remove it. If it is lead-containing, occupants and workers are at risk of serious health problems if it is removed improperly, and the soil can become permanently contaminated, putting future occupants (including especially children under 4 and pregnant women) at risk for lead poisoning.

Except for small drips and spatters, lead-based paint should probably be left intact on brick and masonry, and stripper should be handled/used carefully on any painted surface. Empire State Building? Please.....

Excellent catch Russell. Homeowners do have to be concerned about lead paint when they apply a paint stripper to it. That includes soil contaminiation of the lead and the toxic chemicals in the stripper that can contaiminate both soil and people who remove it. See the US EPA's webpage on Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.

I think the most important thing is having the right tool for any job. Goes without saying of course, but I have seen many many people try to clean a car with a brillo pad for example. Seems like it could remove sap from the cars paint, right...but what about the the scratches after. Same applies to using the right tools with a pressure washer. A Sandblast attachment for one idea might work very effectively.

we have old vines clinging to brick how should these be removed?

I came across this article in Washington Post. It may do you some good. http://www.ehow.com/how_2105671_remove-ivy-from-brick-wall.html

Sorry this reply is coming late, hope it finds you ;-) I work for an insurance company, and while I can say vines look gorgeous on homes, they actually cause quite a lot of damage to the masonry of the home; vines will grow into the masonry and "crumble" it, causing damage over time.

My company will not insure any home with vines growing on it.

I had the same thing happen to me. Builder powerwashed it right before closing. I didn't know until recently that it was the culprit of my problems.

Some bricks now have a "gritty appearance" as a result where shale particles (formerly in the brick) have fallen out.

Anyone know of any products to restore the glazing and repairing tiny holes (not big areas at all but annoying...looks gritty when wet).

Thanks! Kitt

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