Brick Basement: How to Stop Efflorescence
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Estelle from New Jersey on the line who’s got a brick question. What can we do for you?
ESTELLE: Yes, I have a 1937 Victorian-style duplex and I’ve had it about four-and-a-half years and it has a red, clay, brick basement.
TOM: Oh, that’s pretty.
ESTELLE: Every time I go down there, there’s powder on my shoes that tracks the carpet and it’s sort of powdering off and there are piles of red clay dust in corners.
TOM: Yeah, that’s probably mostly efflorescence. You may be getting some moisture that’s getting into those walls and it could be freezing and spawling a little bit at the same time.
TOM: And so that’s kind of what you’re seeing. And I would address the moisture issues on the outside of your house first.
LESLIE: Yeah, Estelle, that’s really easy to tackle. You want to make sure that the house has gutters and that they’re clean and that the downspouts are free-flowing. And you want to look at where those downspouts deposit the water. You want to make sure that it’s not just hitting right next to the foundation wall. You want to go out three feet or more, if you can. You want to look at the grading around the perimeter of your house; make sure it slopes away from the house. Just by maintaining those things, you’ll see a much drier basement.
Now Tom, can she use a vapor permeable sort of coating or painting; you know, a clear coat on top of that brick on the interior?
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. You could use a Thompson’s WaterSeal or a product like that. And what that does is that will help seal in any looseness on the surface but also help prevent some of the normal evaporation of moisture through those walls and out.
ESTELLE: Oh, OK. That sounds great.
TOM: But you can’t do one without the other. You really need to start with the drainage issues first, OK?
ESTELLE: OK. That’s great.
TOM: Alright, good luck with that project, Estelle. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.