For centuries homeowners and builders  have chosen brick as their cladding of choice. Brick meets the balance between beauty and durability. There are hundreds of styles and textures to choose from, and because they come in a wide variety of sizes, there are bricks to meet every homeowners taste and budget.

Historically, bricks are permanent.  Ancient  structures  show  that because bricks are made from natural materials, such as   clay and stone, they are very resistant to natural damage. Most deterioration of ancient masonry structures is caused  by  man, not nature. Bricks are made of various clay mixtures and were once molded by hand.   Today, the clay is forced through   a die, then cut to size with wire. After drying, the bricks are fired in a kiln.  This  results  in  a  very  hard,  permanent  product  with many advantages. Bricks  never  need  painting,  a  good rain is a sufficient wash in most cases, it ages well, and requires minimal maintenance. They are highly resistant to wind, water, fire, sun and pest.  Bricks  can  be  made  of  other  materials  than clay. Concrete brick is made of cement, graded aggregates and water. While these bricks are generally less expensive, and lighter, they are not as color fast or water resistant than genuine    clay brick.


Building Bricks:  Building bricks come in a variety of shapes and colors, but are primary red and rectangular.  They are the most commonly used brick, and are generally the least expensive. There are three grades of red brick available; non-weathering brick for interior use, moderate weathering  brick for use outdoors in warm climates, and severe weathering brick for use anywhere.

Face Bricks: These bricks are used for decorative purposes. They come in different textures and dimensions. Because they are made with more care and are usually rated for severe weathering, they tend to be the most expensive brick.

Fire Bricks:  Fire bricks  are used to line fireplaces and furnaces or any location where protection from heat is required. Because they are made of special clays (usually yellow in color) and fired at much higher temperatures, they can withstand intense heat.

Paving Bricks: These are the hardest of bricks. They are more durable than building bricks and are usually sized for use without mortar. They are used  in driveways, parking areas and sidewalks.


Masonry walls must meet Canadian Standards including the following. Correct mortar types must be used. Masonry units must be laid in a full bed of mortar. An air space must be created between the veneer and sub-structure, and  must  be  kept  clear of mortar excess or other debris. Weep holes  must  be installed with precision and kept clear. Flashing must be installed and sealed at overlaps and must be formed with a drip edge extending past the masonry  face.  Stone  sills  must  be formed  with taper and drip notch at the underside  of the sill unit.  Metal ties must fasten the brick to the wall at  regular intervals.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Efflorescence: This is normally a temporary condition and refers to the appearance of a white powdery substance appearing on the wall. It is caused by the presence of soluble salts that come in contact with the wall or substructure. A source of water in contact with the salts causes them to be drawn to the surface and evaporate, thus depositing the salts. New bricks will always have efflorescence, it is a natural part of the curing process.  By hosing the walls down with water, the salty residue should wash away.

Spalling:  Also referred to as “frost attack”, this is a serious concern in Canada, due to our harsh weather conditions. Where freeze thaw action occurs within the structure of the brick itself, disfiguring occurs, such as small pockets and gouges on the surface of   the brick.

Prevention and Control

To decrease the effects of spalling and efflorescence, be sure that the brick being used is effective against the climate of the local area of use, and meets CSA standards. Prevent moisture entrapment by eliminating the source if possible, and control wall movement.

Cleaning Brick Surfaces

The appearance of brick work can be enhanced with a good cleaning, but this requires patience and the right materials. Be sure to contact a brick cleaning specialist before using any chemicals on brick surfaces. Always select an inconspicuous area of the wall to test the cleaning procedure and solution. Protect windows, doors, trim and  non-masonry surfaces from the cleaning compound and process. For most surface dirt, water and a good scrub brush are effective. Stains that have saturated the brick surface should be treated with a solvent that is appropriate for the type of stain.

Water-blasting can be used to rejuvenate older or heavily damaged brick. By spraying a mild acid solution on to the brick face,  (so mild that it will not harm shrubs), the dirt is removed from the brick. A color brightener is applied next which restores the original luster and color of the brick without effecting the fired surface of the brick. Glazes are seldom required, but can be applied to bricks that have had surface damage from weather or sand blasting. Water-blasting can restore concrete driveways, pool decks  and patios back  to their original condition and is an affordable alternative to resurfacing. Prices vary depending on size and condition of the surface.

Repointing Mortar Joints: Even well-made mortar joints between bricks can suffer damage over time. Cracked or crumbling joints allow moisture to penetrate the wall, where it can freeze and cause even more extensive damage. Brick surfaces should  be  checked every few years to assess any repairs that may be required. Fixing mortar joints is called repointing or tuck pointing. It involves chiseling out the old mortar, and replacing it. Small jobs can be handled by a handyman, but bigger jobs should be left to a professional mason. New mortar  should  match  the  old  mortar  as  closely  as  possible  in composition, color, and joint profile.  Repointing costs on average $3.00 – $8.00 per sq. ft.