She Wants a Brick House


I have always been entranced by red-brick homes. To me, nothing says “quality home” like a well-maintained brick exterior. Brick is fireproof, it’s termite-proof, it’s long-lasting, and on top of all that, brick can potentially add thousands of dollars worth of value to a property. It took me a while after college to finally put down some roots and look for a permanent residence, but as soon as I started looking, I knew that I wanted my home to be made of brick. Even though brick was an “extra-special” selling point every time I was shown a place—-no matter what the current condition of that brick was in—-I had a rich, dark ombre brick home in mind, and I wouldn’t settle for less. When purchasing my home, going with brick was a no-brainer for me. So, I didn’t shy away from a property that would require some fixing up in order to be surrounded by the building material of my choice.


The Allure of Brick


I’d always dreamed of a red brick house mysteriously laden with heaps of romantic ivy and vegetation, secreted away behind a thick hedge or sturdy trellis; a cryptic property that reminded me of the walls that protected The Secret Garden, or a cottage from a storybook. I knew that a brick home would accentuate the kind of “fairytale” ambiance I wanted to eventually curate via my landscaping and gardening, so I kept up the search for the right place for me. I eventually settled on a single-family postwar brick home that had been solidly built to withstand the decades, and would only require a few updates (and mild upkeep thereafter) to improve and maintain it. As far as storybooks go, I still might not be able to pronounce the name Rumpelstiltskin properly, but I think even he would be proud to live in this little house. It’s a classic, mid-century Cape Cod, built almost entirely from brick, but—-durable as I knew that building material to be—-years of exposure to the elements had left a residue of unsightly dirt and grime on all of its surfaces, and unwanted moisture intrusion had crept into the masonry’s joints, threatening to crack the mortar.


When to Call the Experts


While “repointing” to repair the water damage to the masonry joints was an extensive process that I left to the professionals, the relatively simple process of cleaning my brick exteriors myself restored the bricks’ original color. All I needed was a simple cleaning solution, a hose, and a healthy serving of my own elbow grease. Incidentally, as I scoured urban centers for every potentially affordable home with extensive masonry, one drawback I’d found was that these structures did attract street artists—but, there again, professionals can be on call to restore those historic buildings. Luckily for me, my little house was far enough from the city to attract any potential Picassos, but I did look thoroughly for any crumbling bits of brick on the surface, which would have been aggravated by a pressure hose. Once the masonry experts had the repointing done, I really got to work myself.


Rolling Up My Sleeves


Back at my place, before I cleaned the exterior brick, I made sure to protect any surrounding surfaces from debris that would dislodge while I sprayed. I placed a plastic tarp down to shield any landscaping, and a roll of painter’s tape sealed up any trims near the windows and doors. I used a garden hose with a high-quality nozzle that had various pressure settings and began spray off my exterior, spraying the walls from their tops, then working my way across and way down. I simply lingered over any brick that was especially grimy. 


The Right Solution


For any bricks I found that looked as though they might be suffering from significant mold or mildew growth (brick with patches of discolored black or dark green splotches), I mixed a simple cleaning solution to attack the fungus directly. A solution of one cup of chlorine bleach for every gallon of water in a bucket did the trick. I applied the solution directly to the bricks’ surfaces and scrubbed with a natural bristle brush since a wire-bristle brush could have further aggravated the issue by eventually leaving rust stains. If you make this solution for yourself to tackle your own exteriors make sure to use gloves and safety goggles since bleach is involved.


Fairytale Ending

 

As I look at my home now, I could not be happier with my decision to stick with my “dream material” to invest in a historic brick structure. The quality and romantic feel of the red brick, even in such an architecturally simplistic design, adds a vintage vibe that encapsulates what it feels to be home. A little hard work—along with the help of masonry professionals—is all it takes to preserve the charm and beauty of these brick structures.