Brick Building Protection! Preserve and Prevent that great structure!

India is the second largest brick producer in the world after China which has more than 50% market share. A survey estimates that India has more than 100,000 brick kilns producing about 250 billion bricks annually. Wow! That’s a big number.

Brick buildings are common because they are considered to be more durable and fireproof than wood buildings. These properties allow brick buildings to have a life expectancy of many many years provided they are looked after with proper care.

Bricks are highly porous and absorb water quickly. Wind-driven rain can hit the exterior of a building with enough force to drive moisture through the bricks’ pores. Water that leaks through roof gutters, plumbing fixtures, or air conditioner drain lines can also get absorbed into bricks. Although brick buildings are constructed to move and breathe, allowing for water to exit, time and the environmental factor both affect bricks resulting in the following.
1. Efflorescence, a nice sounding word that is French for “to flower out,” is when water evaporates and salt comes to the surface of a porous material and forms a greyish whitish sediment coating. These salts are present in the clay from which the brick is made or present in sand used as mortar. Efflorescence could be an outer cosmetic problem only or could also be an indicator of internal structural weakness (migration/degradation of component materials).
2. Biological growth like algae stain, mould, mildew, and organic matter such as the tendrils left after removal of ivy.
3. Erosion/deterioration of the masonry itself – Continued water absorption over time can cause the brick itself to start breaking or crumbling.

So, here is what I have learnt about Bricks!!
· Bricks are not maintenance free – A belief in their carefree longevity is probably one of the biggest misconceptions!
· Unpainted bricks can attract carbons which can result in an ugly blackening of the surface
· However, painted brick is worse!! It traps moisture into the brick which makes it deteriorate particularly when there is snow.
· A brick is like a coconut with the outside being harder and stronger than the center.
This means that

Cleaned bricks should be treated only with products that allow it to breathe so that moisture can escape.

While it is not easy to remove paint from bricks, it can be done using biodegradable, environmentally safe solutions with minimum water and scrub pressure so as not to damage the mortar or allow for excessive water penetration into the brick.

It is important to treat and then prevent the recurrence of the three adverse effects outlined above (efflorescence, algae stains, and erosion) caused by water and the environment so that the brick structures (especially heritage ones) stand tall and proud for our future generations to marvel over.

At my company Killick Guard Speciality Products Ltd, we offer a range of products to clean, protect and embellish building materials. These can help you address the above issues both for preservation and prevention. Here, I will talk about two of our most recommended ones:

ImperGuard SF (special facades) is one of the best high performance water repellent sealers for protecting porous walls and facades from humidity.

Its helps prevent the harmful effects of humidity like infiltrations, acid rain, erosion, freeze/thaw cycle, moss and lichen growth, efflorescence, saltpetre, etc. The water repellent properties develop very quickly (within a few hours). Since it is a deep penetrating sealer and a non-film-forming product, the substrate remains permeable to air and water vapour. Completely colourless after application, it modifies neither the appearance nor the nature of the treated material. Also, it is entirely resistant to UV light and does not yellow with age.
ImperGuard SF can be used both indoors and outdoors on vertical surfaces, making it ideal for the water-repellent treatment of porous materials such as bricks, natural stone, concrete, rendering. It comes in packaging of 5 and 30 litres and gives a coverage of around 30 to 60 sq ft/litre; 3 to 6 m²/litre. The actual coverage achieved depends on the substrate’s porosity.

Guard Hardener W (water repellent) is a water based impregnating sealer for mineralising and treating efflorescence, saltpetre, friable materials damaged by the intrusion of water, damp, frost…
Once treated, materials become more resistant to degradations. Guard Hardener W penetrates friable materials to mineralise, harden and can also be used as an anti-dusting treatment. It’s excellent water-repellent properties help to prevent leading causes of degradation such as infiltrations, acid rains, erosion, freeze-thaw cycles, development of micro-organisms, saltpetre, efflorescence, etc.

Guard Hardener W is a non film-forming water based impregnating sealer. Substrates remain permeable to air and water vapour. It is entirely colourless after application and does not change the appearance or the composition of the treated surface. It is also UV-resistant and does not discolour with age.

Guard Hardener W can be used indoors and outdoors on facades, walls, roofings, floors, screeds and on all porous materials: cement, plaster, concrete, natural stone, brick, rendering… This also comes in a packaging of 5 and 30 litres. The reference guide for coverage is 30 to 70 sq ft; 3 to 6 m² / litre.

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