I read an article about winterizing your home and there was a comment that chalky substance on brick can indicate a serious problem, yet they never state the problem. I own a 1940's Georgian and the only area where we can see the brick is in the basement where the water heater and furnace are located. There is a white chalky substance on the brick and floor. What is it, is it dangerous, and who do I contact?
It's not dangerous. (I read about it awhile back in a book about bricklaying.) Now, I don't remember the precise cause, but I believe it has to do with the mortar setting up improperly. I believe the way to get rid of the white stuff is with a very mild wash of muratic acid.
The response I got from a bricklayer was that moisture is pushing salts/minerals out of the brick and/or morter.I believe that there is some concern if you cannot determine why there is moisture.In a basement, I would expect to see these "salts".
This has happened to us over the years and is happening again this year. It seems to be a confluence of reasons: a very cold but dry winter, a new very efficient furnace making the interior of the home even drier, a missed home maintenance (neglecting to reseal/caulk the outside around the fireplace bricks and wall), a wet fall, resulting in the absorption of moisture by the bricks of the rainwater and a new ventless gas fireplace system. The moisture in the bricks is coming out the front of the bricks, called efflorescence and it has created a white chalky dust on the front of the bricks and in the grout lines. if my humidifier could keep up, it wouldn't be as bad. Check the web for ways to deal with efflorescence. I for one won't skip the maintenance again but spraying the bricks with water will only hide the problem temporarily, not get rid of it. Preventing moisture form getting to the bricks once they have dried out will prevent this. For me, Its been 22 years since the last time.
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