How do I prevent salt damage at the coast?

FAQ Category: 

  • Maintaining bricks

Please refer to our Technical guides under `SALT ZONES` and salt erosion of clay bricks.

If you have a property situated on the beachfront there is usually some degree of deterioration taking place! All bricks are porous and will absorb salt, and many factors are at play so it is impossible to say how long it will be before deterioration of the façade begins. The softer lime mortar used in external brickwork prior to the 1960's can be substantially affected by salt deterioration. This is more prevalent in the exposed location but  buildings located 2-3 kilometres from the sea can also be affected. The mortar becomes soft and powdery.

More recent Calcium Silicate face bricks can still suffer from surface delamination. This occurs as the salt crystals adhere to the brickwork and are absorbed into the bricks. During rain the crystals will expand and then push the outer surface of the brickwork away. Once the hardened surface of the brickwork is lost, then the rate of deterioration of brickwork will accelerate. It is not possible to prevent the surface delamination of bricks. 

We have however noticed that the higher temperatured bricks like steel blues are holding out better than the reds/yellows and browns. Smoother textures are better than others at resisting the attack in severe zones.

In many cases, the problem is concentrated at ground level due to rising damp or minerals added to soil as fertilizer. The location does give easy access to undertake repairs.

The best solution in my opinion is to remove all the flakes from the damaged bricks, brush them down and then to plaster the ground floor brickwork and paint to a chosen colour, which would best suit your building.

A well plastered smooth finished wall with waterproofing additives would prevent the ingress of salt and would therefore not deteriorate in the same way. Only normal painting at intervals will be required. 

If the decision is to replace the brickwork with a new face brick finish, then it could be done but we would then suggest a low porosity brick with a smoother surface (not rustic textured which holds more salt). This would lengthen the life of the brickwork although it is impossible to say how long before the same type of damage occurs again. Individual bricks can be replaced as well, but this is an untidy solution, as the new bricks will look odd (another colour and size) and it will take an enormous amount of time.

The third concern after mortar and bricks, is the rusting and deterioration of the wall ties, which secure the external skin of brickwork to the main building. With complete rusting of the wall ties, this will allow the external brickwork to bow out as it is unrestrained and in extreme cases can cause complete collapse of the external skin of brickwork. In corrosive environments, stainless steel wall ties are recommended during construction.

Clive Archer
Managing Director

Crammix Bricks