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Answering Your FAQs: Brick Face is Peeling

Answering Your FAQs: Why does the face pop off of my brick?

Similarly to how your skin might peel due to the harsh conditions of the winter, bricks can get damaged and start to peel.

While it may seem like a cosmetic issue, bricks that are peeling or “popping off,” called spalling can indicate a much deeper problem affecting your brick structure. Today, we’ll talk about how to identify the causes of peeling brick and how to repair and prevent it in the future. 

What causes bricks to peel?

Most spalling is caused by moisture from rain, melting snow, or damp soil penetrating the surface of your bricks. The moisture gets trapped inside, then as a result of dropping temperatures, the water freezes and expands. When the temperature does go back up, the water thaws and contracts. That continual fluctuation in size due to the freezing and thawing of water within the brick’s interior causes the brick to crack and eventually the face of the brick may spall. 

This is not a hard and fast rule, however, brick spalling can also occur in other situations. First, when bricks are not manufactured well, they can sometimes be more soft and porous than is ideal for brick used in outdoor construction. Bricks like these can be used in interior construction because it won’t typically come into contact with water and freezing temperatures but when used in outdoor construction, water is able to penetrate the interior easily. Second, brick that is reclaimed or when used brick is re-layed it can lead to brick spalling. 

How to diagnose the problem causing your bricks to peel?

It’s important that before repairing your masonry you diagnose the underlying problem that is allowing moisture to get into the bricks. There’s no point in replacing the peeling bricks without resolving the problem because it’s just going to keep happening. There are certain factors that can make spalling more likely to occur:

  • Living in a cold climate where moisture can freeze and thaw
  • Pressure washing or sandblasting your home’s brick which can strip waterproofing sealant right off the brick
  • Utilizing used bricks as older bricks tend to be more porous
  • Leaking windows, roof, or gutters allow moisture into the home’s interior

Treating brick that’s in early-stage spalling

If you’re lucky enough to have caught spalling in its early stages, characterized by small cracks in the masonry, then the best solution will likely be to treat the brickwork with a waterproofing sealant. 

Treating brick that’s in late-stage spalling

If you’ve caught the spalling in the late stages, the masonry has likely deteriorated quite a bit so the brickwork will need to be either repaired or replaced, depending on the extent of the damage. Best case scenario you just need to replace a few bricks and maybe a couple of mortar seams. But worst case, you may have to rebuild a portion of the structure. After you do rebuild, it should be treated with waterproofing sealant. 

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