Stories From the Field

Stories From the Field

Post: What's That Haze On My Bricks?

Tuesday August 15, 2017

Because of our commitment to quality restoration work, we get called out to address masonry issues on many very nice homes and buildings in Chicago, the North Shore and the Near West suburbs.

It's a real compliment and not one that we take lightly. So when we start to notice a whitish haze appearing more and more frequently on newer luxury homes and buildings we start to get concerned (and curious).

A brick wall with a milky haze on the top section and no haze on the bottom half

For those of you who know a thing or two about newer masonry structures, you might look at this photo and conclude this wall is suffering from efflorescence, the condition whereby salts and other minerals leach out of porous masonry walls as they dry out. Brick efflorescence certainly would be a good guess.

But look at the lower several courses of the wall. These bricks have considerably less haze on them. (Actually the little bit of haze on the lower section of the wall looks like mortar sloppily brushed onto the face of the bricks by a previous contractor.) Typically, efflorescence does not stop so abruptly with such nicely demarcated boundaries as seen in this photo.

When I rubbed my fingers over the wall, it imparted a greasy film. When I sprayed water on the wall, the haze disappeared and the bricks returned to their bright red color...until the moisture evaporated and the bricks again appeared hazy.

As I later learned, the hazy section of the wall was sealed by another masonry company using an inexpensive water-based product that left the milky haze. Because the previous company did not seal the lower 6 feet of the wall, this was the only section that did not turn hazy. This water-based product appears to have been rolled on to the wall, which helps to explain the stark demarcation between treated and untreated wall. AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing does not use water-based sealants because they do not penetrate as deeply into masonry substrates as our 100% silane solution.

Fortunately, we were able to use a masonry detergent and a hot-water power washer to remove about 75% of the hazy film from the wall.

Some very fancy-sounding masonry sealants do a poor job at repelling wind-driven rain and seem to leave a haze behind (e.g., Master Protect H177 Clear Sealer; and Enviro Double-Seven are two that come to mind).

Before you or your contractor brush, paint or spray any product on your masonry walls, test a small area of your wall with the product and make sure you like what you see. An ounce of prevention might save you a lot of disappointment and cost.

-Rob


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