Seeing a brick stain or discoloration is not just unattractive, they can also be signs of a serious problem. If you notice that the bricks in your building have been stained, you need to take action soon. It helps to know the potential cause of the stain, though. Different types of brick stain require different types of cleaning, and some need to be treated with more urgency than others.
Common Causes of Brick Stain & Discoloration
The different types of stains require different cleaning capabilities. Below will be the most common causes of brick discoloration, and how you can combat it. Cleaning of the different types of brick stain may seem easier than you expected.
Manifestations of Salt and Mineral Stains
Most stains and discoloration on brick walls are the result of salts and mineral deposits. These stains can cover full surfaces, and some require professional masonry repair in order to fix.
Efflorescence is the term for white stains that cover large sections of the brick. Efflorescence is generally harmless, as it is simply a buildup of water-soluble white salt. On occasion, it might appear in the mortar joints. In extreme cases, it can cover the entire surface.
Not all white stains are efflorescence, though. Sometimes they are lime run, a white stain caused by calcium carbonate deposits. Lime run is caused by water flowing through small holes or cracks in the brick, dissolving the calcium carbonate in the mortar, bricks or other construction materials, and then depositing it on the surface of the brick. Lime run will look like it’s dripping down the surface of the wall.
While efflorescence is harmless, lime run is indicative of a bigger problem with cracks and holes in the brick. A professional masonry contractor should be called to come and inspect the brick to see if it needs to be repaired.
Vanadium salts can cause green or greenish yellow stains. These salts come from the raw materials used to manufacture the bricks. As with lime, the interaction with water in the bricks causes these salt deposits to form. Vanadium stains are acidic, which can damage the bricks, and they are very difficult to remove.
Brown or Red Stains
Manganese is the most common cause of brown or red stains on bricks. Manganese oxide is a common coloring component in red and tan bricks, and when exposed to acid, it can form noticeable stains. These stains are extremely common, as acid is often used in brick manufacturing. Exposure to water can dissolve the acid which, in turn, interacts with the manganese to form a stain.
Rust and corrosion can also cause these stains. If that’s the case, there could be structural problems in the wall itself. These stains should be inspected immediately.
How Fireplace Materials Affect Your Brick
On a brick fireplace or chimney, it is very common to see black discoloration from the soot and creosote generated in the fireplace. While this generally does not directly harm the brick itself, it does create a fire hazard and should be cleaned immediately.
Metal pieces such as the flue or the cap at the top of the chimney can also rust and cause rust stains on the brick. If you notice rust stains in your chimney or fireplace, you will want to have that inspected as soon as possible. Those are important components for a properly functioning fireplace, and rust could indicate serious damage.
Stains From Organic Compositions
If the discoloration or stain is green and is occurring in damp areas, it is almost certainly some sort of algae or moss growing on the brick. Algae can create black stains as well. Algae needs moisture, and brick walls located underneath roof drainage or in shady, humid areas can quickly develop algal growth. Different types of algae can create different colored stains. Brick stains can result from black, green or red algae.
The good news is that algae stains of any color are actually quite easy to remove and do not generally present any long-term risk to the structural integrity of your bricks.
These stains should be cleaned with gentle cleaning methods. Simply scrubbing a stain with a wet sponge will tell you if it’s mold or algae. If it is, that should be sufficient to remove them. Using harsher cleaning methods is not a good idea, since it is overkill for algae and can actually cause damage to the bricks. If the stain is not organic in nature, you will need to have a professional handle the cleaning.
Scheduling a Time to Repair and Clean Your Brick Stain
While many of the causes of stained brick are harmless, many are not. Stains can indicate a much bigger problem, and it is very difficult for non-professionals to determine if a stain is harmless or not. In addition, the best methods of cleaning brick require professional consultation. If you have stained or discolored brick on your building, contact Waterproof Caulking and Restoration today to schedule a time for one of our professional contractors to inspect, clean and repair your brick.