Excellent General Contracting Corp

A Homeowner’s Guide to Maintaining and Restoring a Brick Facade

Brooklyn may be known for brownstones, but it’s dominated by brick houses.

Regular maintenance is needed to keep the brick in tip-top shape and water out. We spoke with Excellent Contracting LLC about what’s involved in keeping a brick facade looking its best.


A brick house on Hicks Street before restoration

Take a Good Look at the Brick

Brooklyn sits in a location that’s exposed to weather from all four seasons. It’s inevitable you’ll get rain, snow and ice. With that in mind, it’s necessary to ensure your brick facade remains waterproof. This will prevent leaks in your home and also keep mortar and brick from cracking, which is never a good look. A watertight facade will last longer.

“Waterproofing on brick townhouses starts with inspecting existing brick work,” said Jeff Haider, owner of Excellent Contracting LLC and a professional engineer.

Look for cracks on the surface of bricks, deteriorated mortar and efflorescence (a white stain that’s showing signs of water presence), he said.


Painted and unpainted brick on Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Susan De Vries

Don’t Paint Brick

“Brick surfaces should be kept free of paint or any coating, if possible,” said Haider.

Brick should be left in its natural state so the moisture can breathe out and is not trapped inside. Otherwise, the trapped moisture can cause the brick to deteriorate.

That said, if the brick has already been painted, you may have no choice but to paint it again — or have it removed.

“One can explore paint removal options but that depends on the budget,” he said.


Flemish bond pattern brick. Photo by Susan De Vries

Make Sure Your Brick is Properly Pointed

Time isn’t always kind to brick facades. Weathering can take quite a toll on brick and mortar, and can leave the facade looking like it’s seen better days. Pointing is the external part of the mortar joints in a brick construction.

Most brick will need to be repointed every so often — but a good job should last for decades.

Repointing isn’t just cosmetic — it’s important to keep water out. When mortar chips away, it can allow water to enter, and winter frost can do a great deal of damage to a brick facade.

“Repointing should be done when the pointing mortar is starting to deteriorate,” said Haider. When the mortar becomes almost sandlike and it can be removed by running a finger through the joint, that’s a sign replacement is needed.

Leaks are another sign that pointing is missing or has deteriorated enough that water can penetrate.

Pointing can be removed by a hand tool or with a self-vacuuming grinder to control dust. “A pointing job on a typical three to four-story townhouse may take two to three weeks,” Haider added.


A brick house on Hicks Street after restoration

Replace Bricks As Needed

You don’t want an errant brick falling and potentially hurting you or someone else. A brick-facade restoration job may range from replacing bricks to removing and repointing of joints.

Brick replacement is needed if bricks are damaged (surface deteriorating, cracks, settling, etc.). It can range from couple of bricks here and there (localized) to entire floors.


A brick Federal townhouse on Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Susan De Vries

Use the Right Mortar

Selecting the right mortar for the job is crucial, because a mortar that is too strong can also cause brick to deteriorate. Mortars used on 19th century buildings are often different than modern ones.

A professional with experience with historic buildings should find a good match for color, texture and qualities such as permeability and softness.

The new mortar must be softer and more permeable than the brick itself. It also must at least match the existing mortar in softness and permeability.


A building on Washington Avenue during and after restoration.

Power Wash But Be Careful

Power washing can be done to clean the facade as well. Power washing should be done with low pressure by an experienced professional so as not to damage the surface.

A good repointing and restoration job should last for decades, and maybe even longer.

“If the job is done properly, it can be good for over 30 to 40 years,” said Haider

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