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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    3

    Default Weird White Substance on Exposed Brick

    I live in an older apartment building with a wall of exposed brick in the living room. Some of the mortar crumbles off the wall pretty easily, and I recently noticed a weird white substance on some of the bricks. I haven't tried touching it because I don't know if it's safe to or not. It looks kind of like a powder, crystalline substance, as if some snow had drifted onto the brick and stuck (except that it's a blazing hot summer right now and the exposed brick is inside my apartment). I have pictures of it, but I can't post them on this thread since this is my first post to the forum. Can someone tell me if this is safe, or if this is something harmful like asbestos???

    I don't know if this is relevant or not, but my landlord recently sprayed my apartments for ants since there appeared to have been a recent infestation of ants coming out of the walls and cracks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    208

    Default Re: Weird White Substance on Exposed Brick

    That white powder is called "efflorescence" and it probably looks similar to this:





    It is perfectly safe to touch, and even to clean off the brick. The white crystals that make up the efflorecence are water soluble salts that come from the bricks and brick mortar.

    You see, water splashing onto the bricks won't cause efflorescence. Efforescence is caused by water migrating THROUGH bricks or masonary and picking up water soluble compounds as it does. Once that water reaches the outside of the brick wall, the water evaporates leaving those compounds behind as a salt residue on the surface of the bricks. Since that salt residue is soluble in water, you can remove efflorescence from your brick wall by just cleaning it off with water.

    However, to have efflorescence, water has to travel THROUGH the brick wall, and that means that water is getting into the brickwork on the other side of the bricks, perhaps from a water supply pipe.

    Efflorescence doesn't do any harm to the brickwork at all, but your landlord needs to be aware of the problem so that it can be fixed before it gets worse.

    Your landlord spraying for bugs in your apartment is completely unrelated to the efflorescence.
    Last edited by Nestor; 07-17-2011 at 12:35 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,509

    Default Re: Weird White Substance on Exposed Brick

    There are several treatments for efflorescence;

    1- do nothing

    2- vacuum it away

    3- scrub it away

    4- use some sort of acid to wash it away

    5- correct the water infiltration to slow down the formations.

    I can see there is no efflorescence above the eave line. This tells me the roof on the far side of the chimney is not pitched away from the chimney enough to divert the water. The water that is causing the efflorescence is coming from the roof not being sloped properly. That roof needs little hip roofs directing the water away from the chimney, along with the leaves and other debris that is collecting next to the chimney on the uphill side.
    Last edited by HoustonRemodeler; 07-17-2011 at 01:07 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    208

    Default Re: Weird White Substance on Exposed Brick

    Houston Remodeler:

    I can see there is no efflorescence above the eave line. This tells me the roof on the far side of the chimney is not pitched away from the chimney enough to divert the water. The water that is causing the efflorescence is coming from the roof not being sloped properly. That roof needs little hip roofs directing the water away from the chimney, along with the leaves and other debris that is collecting next to the chimney on the uphill side.

    That's not the weird white powder the poster is asking about. That's just a picture of efflorescence I dug up on the Internet.

    Same with the first picture.
    Last edited by Nestor; 07-17-2011 at 03:00 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Weird White Substance on Exposed Brick

    I don't think the ants are related to this, but you could try to pressure wash it if it bothered you that much. Ants will usually have their colonies on land, and are probably boring through the structure for food sources (like carpenter ants). It should not be a big deal though.
    Be sure to use proper Hidden Content on your structures.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    208

    Default Re: Weird White Substance on Exposed Brick

    Those pictures are more problem than they're worth.

    I posted those two pictures of efflorescence to show the original poster what efflorescence looks like. But, everyone wanting to respond is thinking that the pictures show the efflorescence the original poster is asking about.

    Kirsten: Jokcoen didn't know that your efflorescence is on an INDOOR wall when he suggested you use a pressure washer. He wouldn't have suggested using a pressure washer indoors if he did.

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