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When it comes to historic homes, the brickwork is not just a component; it's a testament to the historic property's heritage. But like everything else, brickwork ages and deteriorates over time. If you own a historic home, assessing the brick's condition and performing repairs early is crucial to maintaining your home. Failing to do so can result in costly structural damage, decreased property value and even safety hazards. Bottom line: don't put off repairs to a historic home - it can cost you more later!
You might be tempted to prioritize renovations over repairs, especially those that offer more immediate visual appeal. But it's imperative to understand that brickwork is foundational. Unlike modern homes, historic brick homes often have no internal support structure. The brick is laid so that it supports itself, and, if it becomes compromised, the structural integrity of your entire home may be at risk.

Signs of Damage to Look For in Historic Brick

To keep your historic brick home in top condition, you will want to inspect the brick for signs of cracking, crumbling or missing brick and mortar. Addressing these concerns prevents significant complications, such as water intrusion. Water seeping into and behind the brick will deteriorate the structure further. If the water infiltrates your home, you could experience stained walls, damaged carpets and even worse, dangerous mold growth. 

Seemingly harmless issues, like a white powdery substance on bricks, can be an early warning sign. Called efflorescence, it may indicate that water cannot properly evaporate, leading to a dissolution of naturally occurring salts in the brick. When this happens, the salt is brought through the brick's pores along with the water. When the water finally does evaporate, it leaves the telltale salt behind. 

Spalling, which is when part of the brick face "pops off," indicates a water issue. When retained by the brick, the water has nowhere to go; and when subjected to freezing temperatures, the pressure from the resulting ice forces the brick to crack. When the expanding ice generates enough force, it can cause the brick to eject a piece, which damages your house and creates a risk of being hit with debris.

Bulging brick is an emergency, as it can indicate a failure in the structural support of the area. Whether it is from water infiltration, the freeze-thaw cycle of harsh winters or invasive roots from foundation plantings, a historic brick expert should be called in immediately.

Why You Should Work With Historic Brick Experts

Identifying and repairing historic brick homes requires a lot of knowledge and experience. In addition to the stress of catching and fixing problems before they balloon into more significant issues, you’ll need to navigate various regulations and bylaws and obtain the necessary permits before you get to work. Having an experienced contractor on your side can relieve the confusion and stress of identifying issues and repairing your historic brickwork.

However, not all contractors are equipped to work with historic brick, and improperly completed repairs can compromise your home's historical integrity. Incorrectly matched mortar or fillers can worsen historic home problems and detract from its original character. It is crucial to have an expert evaluate the brickwork and surrounding structures and restore them using historically appropriate materials and techniques.

It is always less expensive to repair brickwork when the problems are small, instead of allowing concerns to balloon into extensive and costly repairs. Working with professionals who are experts on historic brick homes will help you prioritize what needs immediate attention and what can wait, offering you not just peace of mind but also a safe, beautiful home for years to come.

Contact Renaissance Development when you need expert advice and solutions for issues with the old brickwork of your historic home. Our team will provide a free consultation that will help you identify signs of damage, so that you'll be able to make informed decisions about implementing a timeline for the necessary home repairs.

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Post by Christina Wilson
9/14/23 8:30 AM