Masonry is an exceptionally durable material and buildings built with brick tend to last for generations. In the absence of a major fire or natural disaster, brick can last for hundreds of years. Brick more often than not survives the duration of a building’s lifespan without needing major structural repairs and it’s one of the reasons why it’s an appealing construction material.
Water, however, is one of the biggest threats to a home’s foundation. While exterior brick walls are typically sturdy and effective, water infiltration and underlying water damage behind masonry is not uncommon. Brick naturally absorbs and leaks water, however excessive water leakage, also known as water seepage, can cause extensive deterioration of your brick walls.
Water coming through your brick wall when it rains can mean your brick’s integrity has been compromised.
As a homeowner, it’s important to recognize the warning signs and causes of masonry wall leakage to determine what repairs are needed before the brick deteriorates.
All porous masonry including brick, block, stone and mortar is susceptible to water damage.
A very common indication of water infiltration is efflorescence on exterior masonry walls.
Efflorescence is a crystalline deposit of salts that forms when water is present in or on masonry, usually because water is trapped within the wall cavity. The white or grayish deposits remain on brick surfaces after water has evaporated and is an indication that the masonry has been soaked with water.
A common cause of efflorescence is the absence or clogging of a drainage plane, forcing water to travel through the masonry.
If you witness efflorescence crystallizing on your brick surface, you should contact a masonry expert for an assessment.
Common Causes of Water Damage Behind Brick Walls
There are several common ways water can penetrate brick including:
Pressure Washing With Too Much Power
The intense pressure of a power washer may be ideal for removing dirt and grime from masonry walls but it can also damage the integrity of your brick. If you power wash too often or if the pressure is too high, you can scare, chip, crack or even break off pieces of the masonry wall.
Most industry professionals recommend using low water pressure between 500-1,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) when cleaning brick walls.
Experts also suggest keeping an adequate distance from the masonry surface to avoid causing unnecessary damage to the bricks themselves. Even a low-pressure power washer can cause unnecessary damage if the wand is held too closely to the brick.
Spraying from the bottom to the top of your home will ensure an even soaking without water running down the wall in uneven streams. It’s a different approach than power washing siding.
When cleaning siding, it’s recommended to spray top-to-bottom to prevent water from getting into the seams.
Landscaping Soil Sitting Too High on the Brick Foundation
Detrimental water saturation can also be the result of piling too much soil around the brick foundation. High levels of water retention in the soil erodes the water-resistant barriers of brick walls.
Improper Water Drainage
Brick saturation can occur when water is not drained properly from a home. Gutters and pipes can drain directly at a home’s foundation so it’s essential that rain water is channeled away from the structure at an appropriate distance.
Natural causes including relentless rain, ice walls, freeze-thaw cycles, and wind-blown rains can damage masonry walls. Similar to erosion, constant or extreme exposure to water will lead to the deterioration of brick surfaces.
During the winter months in cold climates, ice can freeze onto exterior brick walls. Because water expands when it freezes, it can leave cracks in the masonry when it melts. Freeze-thaw damage can occur when the outside temperature drops low enough to freeze water and then rises enough for it to thaw. Similar to ice walls, the expansion of moisture in your masonry can be detrimental.
Additionally, when the ice and snow melt, it turns to water which can come through the brick wall.
Finally, wind-blown rain is a frequent cause of water appearing behind masonry.
This type of water infiltration occurs via the vertical joints between the bricks.
Substandard Installation Methods
A frequent cause of water damage relates to the methods used for masonry installation.
For example, when mortar is mixed with too much moisture, it’s susceptible to shrinkage when dried. This creates holes and gaps in the mortar, resulting in leaks between the bricks.
Another frequent cause of water damage happens when installers do not scrape away extra mortar from the back of bricks. The excessive mortar blocks water from traveling down the weather resistant barrier of the brick, preventing it from properly draining from the home. The barrier will then erode from constant pooling and water will begin to enter the structure.
Water coming through brick wall when it rains (or any other time) can be difficult to identify until significant damage has occurred.
To best identify water damage during its initial stages, have a brick expert perform a routine inspection every few years. In most cases, by the time a homeowner notices a water leak in the masonry, extensive damage has already occurred. It’s also a good idea to regularly perform a walk-around of your home to detect irregularities in your masonry. Once identified, have the damage corrected with tuck-pointing to avoid future water leakage.
You should also routinely inspect your home’s gutters and drainage system to make sure all of the components are connected and void of any leaves that may block water flow.
BrickImaging, the nation’s first masonry staining firm, advises its clients to seal their exterior brick with a breathable sealer. It’s the final step in the brick staining company’s masonry staining process as its matte sealer provides protection against severe weather as well as provides protection against UV damage.
Prevent Water Leaking Through Brick with Brick Staining
Water coming through the If your home’s masonry sustained water damage and is discolored, consider having it professionally stained after repairs are made.
BrickImaging’s exclusive Stayntech® brick stains do not block the natural evaporation process of masonry and provide a natural looking and durable finish that cannot be replicated with paint.
Available in 12 exclusive colors, with custom colors available upon request, Stayntech® masonry stains can refresh and correct weathered or damaged brick.
By staining your brick, you’re protecting the brick while allowing it to naturally breathe. This is a major step in preventing water coming through your brick wall when it rains.