Roofing & Siding - Bob Vila

Category: Roofing & Siding

All You Need to Know About Brick Homes

Get the 411 on this sturdy, stately siding to decide if it’s right for your home-to-be or exterior remodel.

All You Need to Know About Brick Homes


Prized for its classical appeal, durability, and low maintenance, brick is among the most desired types of exterior siding. While it’s traditionally found on Colonial, Greek Revival, and Tudor style homes, brick is just as attractive on a ranch or an English cottage. If you’re considering brick siding for a newly constructed home or an existing one—or if you’re just a fan of these striking structures—keep reading. We’ll detail the benefits of brick homes and other considerations so you can make an informed choice.


Federal Style Brick Homes



The earliest known brick structures, dating back to 7000 BC in Turkey, featured crudely crafted blocks of clay left to dry in the hot sun until they hardened. Rudimentary by today’s standards, ancient bricks were valued for constructing strong walls, floors, and bridges. Sun-baked bricks remained the norm until ancient Romans, around 3000 BC, began firing clay bricks in earthen kilns, which greatly increased their structural integrity. Today’s bricks are created through an extrusion process, whereby low-moisture clay is forced into columnar molds, allowed to set, and then cut into smaller sections to form individual blocks. The bricks are then fired at a high temperature, resulting in strong bricks of uniform size.

Houses with thick brick walls were common in Europe from the 14th Century up until a few hundred years ago, when they were gradually replaced with wood-framed walls. Because transporting bricks over long distances was cost-prohibitive, solid brick wall construction was mainly limited to regions were bricks were manufactured and easily accessible.

Early brick wall construction in Colonial America often featured double brick walls, stacked a few inches apart, but parallel to each other, and then the gap between was filled with small rocks and rubble to create a thick wall that was strong enough to support a second story or overhead roof.

As wood-framing techniques advanced in the 1800s, and mass production of wooden timbers and studs began, solid brick wall construction declined. The advent of universal building codes further decreased the use of bricks in solid wall construction, because they were more likely to crumble in an earthquake-prone area.

And so bricks are now reserved for creating a durable and beautiful exterior, rather than a weight-bearing wall. Today’s houses are constructed with wood or metal studs, with brick installed on the outside as siding.


Victorian Style Brick Homes



While brick is no longer used for structural support, it offers a home more than a pretty face!

• Brick homes are fire-resistant and will often have lower homeowner’s insurance premiums.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Pay Less for Home Insurance

• Brick is unaffected by moisture—it naturally absorbs and then releases moisture without damage.

• Clay is one of the most abundant natural materials on the planet, making brick environmentally friendly.

• Strong and durable, bricks won’t dent or break like vinyl or aluminum can.

• Brick helps insulate a home, resulting in more consistent indoor temperatures. Rooms stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer, keeping heating and cooling bills down.

• Sound transfer is reduced through brick wall construction; residents are less likely to be bothered by traffic and other outdoor noises.

• Brick increases property value. In addition to being a selling point, installing brick siding on your home translates into an approximate 6 percent increase in its value.


Traditional Style Brick Homes



Bricks come in a variety of colors, ranging all the way from white to black and including shades of red, orange, tan, gray, rust, brown, and similar earthen hues. Multicolored bricks, featuring two or more complementary or contrasting colors, are also available. The texture of the brick face (the side that faces outward) can be rough, smooth, or somewhere in between. While classic red brick is always in style, in recent years, gray bricks and limewashed bricks that give a house a vintage whitewashed look are popping up in new housing developments. Homeowners can further customize the look by choosing from a handful of mortar colors, ranging from white to deep gray.


Brick is pricey—nearly twice as expensive as other types of siding. Vinyl siding costs $3 to $7 per square foot to install and wood siding runs $5 to $7 per square foot. Professionally installed brick siding will set you back $8 to $15 per square foot.


Colonial Style Brick Homes



The standard residential bricks used for siding, known as “modular” or “face” bricks, are uniform in size; 3-5/8” wide, 7-5/8” long, and 2-1/4” high. Allowing for 3/8” mortar joints, that equals seven bricks per square foot, installed. Unlike the bricks used for paving, modular bricks are not solid; they feature three vertical holes that allow the mortar to seep in and create a stronger bond.

Siding assembly for brick homes typically involves installing a membrane, such as vapor-resistant house wrap, over the home’s sheathing (the plywood sheets that cover the wall studs) and then leaving a narrow air space between the membrane and the bricks. During construction, the brick siding is secured with metal anchors, known as “brick ties,” to the home’s framing. Mortar is used to create uniform joints between the bricks, and small holes, known as “weep holes,” are positioned along the bottom course of bricks to allow any water that happens to get behind the bricks to drain out naturally. Laying bricks requires skill and precision and is a job best left to the pros.


Tudor Style Brick Homes



While brick siding is low maintenance and will last 25 years or longer, good care and maintenance practices will keep it in great shape even longer.

Clean brick siding by spraying its surface with a regular garden hose, fitted with a spray nozzle. A pressure washer isn’t recommended; the intense water pressure can damage older brick surfaces and mortar joints.

• Remove efflorescence (chalk-like stains that develop on brick exposed to high levels of moisture and humidity) with full-strength white vinegar. Spray the stains, wait 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse with plain water from the hose.

• Ensure that your home’s foundation is sound. In older homes and those with foundation issues, settling and movement can stress brick walls, resulting in cracks in the mortar joints. To reduce the risk of foundation movement, install guttering and downspouts that will direct water away and keep it from pooling around the foundation.

• Have older bricks repointed when necessary. While brick is one of the longest-lasting sidings around, after a few decades, the mortar joints can begin to fail and crumble. A mason can repoint the bricks by removing a portion of old mortar and refilling the joints with fresh mortar. Repointing should be done by a qualified mason and can cost $2 to $5 per square foot.

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Tile Roofs

Tile roofs come in many styles, each with its own preferred applications and intrinsic beauty. But there’s more to them than what meets the eye: Learn about what else makes them so attractive to homeowners.

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Tile Roofs

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Santa Barbara, CA

An exotic sense of romance is associated with tile roofs, which commonly appear on Southwest-style and Mediterranean-inspired homes. Whether made of fired clay, concrete, or slate, though, these individual tiles are good for more than looks. Get to know the selling points that make these materials such popular roofing options and weigh those strengths against key considerations to gauge whether or not your own home can benefit from an upgrade.

1. Aesthetic Appeal and Versatility

Most often concrete and clay tiles often feature natural earth tones, a sand-cast or unglazed finish, and a classic curved shape, but their design isn’t limited to such Southwestern and Mediterranean hallmarks. In fact, their casting allows for many style options to suit almost any type of architecture.

Both concrete and clay tiles come in a huge variety of colors and may be offered in glazed or unglazed finishes. The most common shapes include flat, fluted, and interlocking tiles that can be married to an array of home designs. Some tiles are constructed to mimic the look of wood shakes, for use on Craftsman, rustic, or log homes, while others are designed to emulate traditional European structures. Tiles of natural slate are often used to roof Victorian, colonial, and Tudor architecture but also looks at home on sleek contemporary abodes.

Slate tiles impart the distinctive and desirable appearance of natural stone and carry many of the other advantages of clay and concrete tiles, including durability and longevity. Slate tiles are extremely popular in northern Europe and, in America, are often found on Victorian and Tudor style homes.

4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Tile Roofs

Photo: via Adrian Byrne

2. Durability

Clay, concrete, and slate roofs are impervious to fire and resist rot, insects, and other pests. Most tile roofing can withstand extremes of heat and cold, making it suitable for use in virtually any climate, and clay is particularly resistant to the corrosion of salt air, making it a great choice for homes situated in coastal regions near an ocean. Many types of roofing tiles also boast superior impact resistance, making this a good option for regions that experience hail or high winds.

Although most tile roofs are found in warm climates, they can be used in cold regions, too. When installing a clay or concrete tile roof in a cold climate, however, ask for products designed to handle freeze-thaw cycles.

The biggest threat to tile roofs can be people: The tiles typically are not designed to handle foot traffic and are vulnerable to being broken or chipped by careless treatment. Therefore, it is important to hire an experienced professional to handle any repairs or maintenance on or around a tile roof, including cleaning the gutters, maintaining chimneys, and painting the exterior.

3. Long Lifespan

A roof constructed of concrete, clay, or slate may be the last roof you will ever need. Clay or slate tiles may last more than 100 years, while most concrete tile comes with a 50-year warranty. Slate is one of the most durable and long-lasting roofing materials, with a lifespan of 100 to 150 years or more.

4. Savings in the Long Run

Tile roofs tend to be the most expensive upfront for both materials and labor; slate, for example, can range from $1,000 to $2,000 per square (a 10-foot-by-10-foot patch of roofing) installed and a roofing contractor who has experience working with the high-end material may also charge more. Over their long lifespan, however, concrete, clay, and slate tiles can offset their initial expense. Due to a high thermal mass, tiles do a better job of regulating the temperature of your home, thereby helping you cut down on heating and cooling bills. The durability and longevity of clay, concrete, and slate also mean that you save money by not replacing your roof multiple times over the decades. And, all of the materials used are environmentally friendly and can be easily recycled.


4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Tile Roofs

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Centennial, CO


Tile roofs are definitely not do-it-yourself projects! Concrete, clay, or slate tiles should only be installed by professional roofing contractors who are experienced in dealing with these materials and the precision they require during installation. The process involves selecting underlayment appropriate to the specific type of tile and measuring the roof and tiles before purchasing all of the supplies. Then, roof tiles must then be installed in a specific pattern in order to ensure that the tiles will stay in place and the roof will not leak. The pitch of your roof also is a concern, as concrete, clay and slate tiles cannot be used on roof pitches below 4:12.

A structural engineer will also be able to identify whether your roof framing will support the weight of a tile roof in the first place. These materials are particularly heavy: While a typical asphalt installation weighs about 230 pounds per square, a tile roof can range anywhere from 580 to nearly 1,100 pounds per square.

Installing clay, concrete, or slate on the roof also may entail spending more money on additional framing materials to strengthen the roof and allow it to support the added weight. And, installation of a tile roof typically takes longer than a traditional shingle roof, which can hike labor costs.


4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Tile Roofs

Photo: via lo fidelion


Although tiles are extremely durable and will last for decades or centuries, the material under the tiles will need some maintenance, especially when using concrete tiles. The underlayment material will need to be replaced every eight to 20 years, which involves removing the tiles, replacing the underlayment, and then reinstalling the tiles.

Unglazed tiles also have a tendency to absorb water over time, which can make them a growth medium for mildew, algae, or even moss. Glazed or ceramic finishes are virtually mildew-proof, so these are a better choice for areas that receive significant rainfall. In general, concrete roofing tiles absorb about double to amount of water that clay tiles absorb (13 percent versus 6 percent) and therefore are more susceptible to mildew, algae, and moss.


4 Reasons Homeowners Choose Tile Roofs

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Hilo, HI


Clay and concrete tile roofs may achieve similar appearances, but a few distinctions can help you decide between one and the other when building:

• Clay tiles are more colorfast than concrete.

• Clay tiles are also more durable. An installation of clay roof tiles can be expected to last 100 years. (The average lifespan of concrete roof tiles is about 50 years.) Because they wear so well over time, clay roof tiles add significantly to a home’s resale value.

• At $700 to $1,000 per square, clay costs twice as much as concrete. (Both of which cost more expensive than asphalt shingles, which usually run $150 to $300 per square.)


For more on roofing materials, consider:

Asphalt Shingles 101
Should You Repair or Replace Your Roof?
The Basics: Wood Shingles and Shakes

Solved! What to Do About Ice Dams

If your roof is weighed down by the presence of heavy icicles and more in these snowy months, follow these techniques for removing the ice dams immediately—before the damage is done.

3 Methods for Removing Ice Dams (and How to Save Yourself the Headache in the First Place)


Q: After a recent snowstorm, a large band of ice formed above the edge of my roof and created some heavy icicles as well. The weight of the ice is starting to pull the gutter loose and I’m afraid it will pull it off entirely. Is there anything I can do to get rid of the ice before it tears up the gutter or falls on someone?

A: What you’re describing is an “ice dam,” and, unfortunately, it’s very common on homes in areas that experience cold and snowy winters. An ice dam is the result of snow that has melted and then refrozen, and the culprit for that thaw-and-freeze cycle is an abnormally warm roof. When the air inside an attic is warm, that warmth can transfer through the roof and begin to melt the layer of snow, which in turn causes droplets to run down the roof. When those droplets reach the edge of the roof, they refreeze, because the part of the roof above the overhang (the eaves) doesn’t receive warm air from the attic. As additional snow melts, runs down, and refreezes, the layer of ice continues to build, creating a literal dam—a barrier that prevents water from running off the roof.

You’re correct, it’s dangerous to people (and pets) walking beneath, and it poses a risk to the roof and gutter system. As the ice dam builds it gets heavier. When the weather warms enough for the ice to melt, the dam can loosen enough to come crashing to the ground—sometimes taking your home’s gutter with it. Ice dams can harm the roof in other ways as well: As water seeps between shingles and freezes, it expands, loosening the shingles and penetrating through the layers of the roof until you have a leak and/or interior ceiling damage.

Since you’re dealing with one (or more) already, we’ll share some of the best techniques for removing ice dams. But keep this in mind for future winters: The key to long-term protection lies in preventing ice dams before they occur.

3 Methods for Removing Ice Dams (and How to Save Yourself the Headache in the First Place)


Melt the ice dam with calcium chloride socks. Calcium chloride is the same stuff used for melting ice on driveways and sidewalks, but don’t just sprinkle it on the ice dam. Instead, fill long socks or the legs of pantyhose with the granules and then tie off their ends with string. A 40-lb. bag of calcium chloride costs around $10 and will fill approximately 10 to 12 tube socks. By pouring calcium chloride into this tube-like form, you can position it vertically over the dam—with the sock’s end hanging an inch or two over the roof edge—and melt a tube-like channel through the ice dam, which will allow additional water that melts to run safely off the roof.

A word of caution: Do not substitute rock salt for calcium chloride, as rock salt can damage shingles and kill bushes and foliage beneath. Make sure the ice melt product you buy contains only calcium chloride, which is safe for shingles and vegetation.

Break an existing ice dam into small chunks with a mallet. Breaking an ice dam can be dangerous and, if you’re not extremely comfortable being on a snowy and icy roof, better left to the professionals. Breaking an ice dam is usually done in conjunction with melting the ice in some fashion, such as with the use of calcium chloride socks as described above, or with roof steaming (below). First, a cautious homeowner or professional hire should clear the roof of excess snow and melt drainage channels in the dam. Then, as the ice is beginning to melt, the edges of the channels can be carefully chipped away with a mallet to widen them and hasten drainage.

Breaking an ice dam can result in large swaths of ice crashing off the roof, breaking windows, damaging bushes, and injuring anyone below, so extreme caution must be taken. The person breaking the ice dam should do so from the vantage point of being on the roof, not from the ground where the heavy sheets of ice will fall.

Have a professional steam your ice dam away. Steaming away ice dams is a professional-only task because it requires the use of commercial steaming equipment that heats water and dispenses it under pressure. The roofing professional will first remove excess snow from the roof by shoveling and then steam channels through the ice dam to help it melt. He may chip away parts of the dam as he goes until the roof is clear of ice. Hiring a professional ice-dam removal crew can be pricey, running approximately $200 to $300 per hour.


3 Methods for Removing Ice Dams (and How to Save Yourself the Headache in the First Place)


Escape the damage caused by ice dams by preventing them from forming in the first place. Some prevention methods require removing snow from your roof, while others entail lowering your home’s attic temperature to prevent heat transfer from the attic to the roof. Try one or more of the following steps to help prevent ice dams from forming.

Rake the lower three to four feet of your roof after a snowfall. You can pick up a lightweight roof rake, with a 20-ft. extension, for less than $30 at many home improvement stores. Immediately after a snow, when the snow is still soft, rake the lower part of your roof (the eaves) clear of snow. This will help reduce ice buildup.

Add attic insulation. The idea is to stop the transfer of heat through the roof, which triggers the thaw/freeze cycle. An extra 8- to 10-inch layer of attic insulation will not only help prevent heat transfer, it will also help retain heat inside your home, so you’ll spend less to keep your house warm in winter.

Seal all interior air flow leaks in the attic. No matter how much insulation you add to your attic, if warm air from your living space is entering the attic through gaps and vents, your attic will still be too warm. Eliminating interior air flow involves sealing all gaps around sewer vent pipes with insulating foam and having bathroom and dryer vents rerouted from the attic through an exterior wall of your home.

Ventilate your attic to keep it cool. Intake attic vents should be installed along the underside of the roof eaves, in the soffit, and exhaust vents should be installed at the top of the roof. Cool air will naturally enter the soffit vents and, as it warms in the attic, rise and exit through the exhaust vents at the top of the roof. Because roofs vary in size and configuration, developing an attic ventilation system is a job for a qualified roofing professional.

Install deicing cables. You can find roof de-icing cables at home improvement stores for $125 to $250 that install directly on top the shingles, via clips, over the eaves of the roof. Those will work in a pinch to keep ice dams from forming, but they are visible and raking your roof can dislodge them.

Invest in a professionally installed deicing system that connects beneath the shingles. A professional system should be installed by a qualified roofing company at the same time they install new shingles on the roof. These systems will not mar the look of your roofline and they are designed to last for years. Depending on the size of your roof, a professionally installed system could add an additional $2,000 to $4,000 to your total roofing cost.

All You Need to Know About Tuckpointing

Do you want to upgrade the appearance of an interior or exterior brick structure? Get the lowdown on tuckpoining, and learn some tips for proper installation.

All You Need to Know About Tuckpointing

Photo: via David Hawgood

Bricks provide durable cladding for interior and exterior walls, chimneys, and fireplaces. But the mortar used to fill joints deteriorates over time—even if the bricks themselves are still in good shape. That’s where tuckpointing comes into play.

Used to cosmetically enhance the appearance of masonry, tuckpointing involves removing a portion of the deteriorated mortar, filling the joints with new mortar (that closely matches the color of the brick), and then applying a thin line of putty in a contrasting color down the center of the joint. This creates the illusion of well-maintained and narrow joints. Although tuckpointing can be applied to any type of brick construction, it’s most commonly found on historical brick homes, where the owners want to recapture the appearance of the home’s original thin joints.

Are you interested in protecting your worn bricks from mortar deterioration while giving them a new sharp look? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tuckpointing, including tips for proper installation.


To better understand the tuckpointing process, it helps to learn the following masonry terms:

• Pointing: The process of filling mortar joints during new construction. Pointing also refers to the actual mortar joints—or the spaces between the bricks—in a finished wall.

• Repointing: The process of removing old mortar from joints and replacing it with new mortar.

• Tuckpointing: The process of removing old mortar from joints, replacing it with mortar that closely matches the color of the bricks, and then embedding narrow lines of putty in a contrasting color (called “fillets”) down the centers of the new mortar joints.

While the terms “tuckpointing” and “repointing” are often used synonymously, the final products are aesthetically different. Both involve removing and replacing deteriorating mortar with fresh mortar, but repointing does not involve the additional step of applying contrasting lines in the centers of the joints. Some homeowners choose tuckpointing because it creates a crisper visual illusion. That’s because the mortar matches the color of the bricks; unless you examine the wall closely, you won’t notice where the mortar ends and the brick begins. The fillets further fool the eye into thinking the perfectly straight lines are the actual mortar joints, which makes the entire wall look as if it were constructed with crisp new masonry. On the other hand, repointing results in a soft and wavy appearance on the new mortar joints. The edges of the bricks won’t be perfectly square, and the repointed mortar highlights those discrepancies.


All You Need to Know About Tuckpointing



Before repairing the mortar, it helps to understand why mortar joints fail. The deterioration can have many different causes, including faulty workmanship, erosion from extreme temperature and moisture, or pressure from the overhead weight of the bricks. While bricks often last a century, the lifespan of mortar is typically 25 to 30 years—meaning it typically needs replacement or repointing more than once during the life of a brick building.

Since mortar joints are the weakest parts of a brick wall, it’s common to see cracks running through the joints, even if the bricks themselves remain whole. A few hairline cracks do not signify the need to repoint or tuckpoint, but when mortar begins to crumble and fall out of the cracks, homeowners should repair it before any additionally lost mortar affects the structure of the wall. What’s more, if the deteriorating mortar isn’t repaired, it could eventually cause the wall or chimney to collapse.


While homeowners can tackle tuckpointing as a do-it-yourself project, they should consider leaving it to a professional. The labor-intensive method requires extreme precision to create the illusion of level mortar joints. If the fillets used to create the finished joint effect are even slightly off-kilter, the whole project will look sloppy. Professional tuckpointing usually runs around $9 to $15 per square foot, depending on the height of the wall and the standard rate for mason services in your area. In contrast, if you decide to take the DIY route, the materials needed to tuckpoint (mortar and lime putty) will run less than $1 per square foot, and you can rent the necessary tools for around $45 per day. In any case, repointing and tuckpointing must be left to the pros if entire bricks need to be replaced—especially when dealing with exterior brick walls, which are often load-bearing. Installing or resetting new bricks is a more complicated process than repointing or tuckpointing on a structurally sound wall or chimney.

Whether you decide to get your hands dirty or hire a professional, here are the steps involved in tuckpointing.

To start, remove the existing mortar joints to a depth of approximately one inch. Masons often use an angle grinder to remove the mortar, which is a messy job requiring a respirator mask. As an alternative, you can rely on the old-fashioned yet effective hammer and chisel, but this method is more time-consuming.

Brush dust and debris from the ground-out mortar joints with a masonry brush or high-pressure air nozzle.

All You Need to Know About Tuckpointing via Les Chatfield

Mix the new mortar to match the existing brick color. This entails blending with mortar pigment, and it often takes a bit of experimentation to get an exact match. Make sure to jot down the exact ratio of pigment to mortar in order to blend subsequent batches of the same hue.

Fill the joints with the new mortar, working with the horizontal joints first. It’s a good idea to observe a mason at work before attempting the job yourself since they employ tricks of the trade avoid getting mortar all over the bricks.

After applying the wet mortar to the joints, smooth it to resemble a flat surface or slightly indented curve (depending on your desired look).

When the new mortar begins to harden but is still semi-pliable, use a straightedge and a handheld tuckpointing tool to scrape straight lines in the centers of the newly filled joints. Try getting the lines as straight as possible

Carefully apply lime putty to the scraped lines to form contrasting fillets, then cut away the excess. A mason typically uses a straightedge and a small knife for this task, which results in uniform contrasting lines in the centers of the wider mortar joints.

7 Things to Know Before Choosing a Metal Roof

If your current roof is the root of your headache (and maybe even a long list of costly home repairs), consider these metal roofing pros and cons before you patch it. You may find that these highly efficient, low-maintenance materials are just right for your home.

Metal Roofing Pros and Cons


Rain on a tin roof proves so soothing that it can be found on white noise machines and meditation apps alike, but that’s not the only reason (nor one of the top!) for its popularity among today’s homeowners. Growing numbers of people are installing metal roofs in both new construction and roof replacement projects. In fact, McGraw-Hill Construction and Analytics estimates that 750,000 U.S. homeowners chose metal roofing for their residences as of 2015. That number indicates an 11 percent share of the roofing market—second choice only to asphalt shingles.

Curious why this construction material has won over so many homeowners? See the complete list of metal roofing pros and cons below. Weigh them carefully, and you may find that you, too, could benefit from this reliable roofing overhead.

PRO: Metal roofs are durable and long-lasting.

At the top of the list of metal roofing “pros,” the material’s long lifespan is why most homeowners make the switch in either a re-roofing or new construction. Indeed, that recent McGraw-Hill survey found that 26 percent of homeowners cited longevity as their primary reason for investing in metal and another 22 percent said they were swayed by its strength. A properly installed metal roof typically will last as long as the house, with an expected lifespan of 40 to 70 years and, often, a 30- to 50-year manufacturer’s warranty to boot. (By contrast, traditional asphalt roofing typically lasts 12 to 20 years.) Thanks to the material’s unique durability, you can count on it to withstand the elements—including gusts of wind up to 140 miles per hour—and not corrode nor crack thanks to rust-proof coatings.

CON: Metal roofs are expensive.

The many years of service that a metal roof promises come at a high cost. This material can run from $120 to $900 per 100 square feet (or one “square” of material), according to Home Advisor’s Guide to Roofing Costs. Though this range is comparable to the costs of other premium roofing products, higher-end metals run as much as 10 times the cost of asphalt shingles. Then, not only do materials come with high price tags, but the installation labor is also more expensive than what you’d pay for other types of roofing because of the specialized training, knowledge, tools, and equipment it entails. That’s not to say that homeowners won’t recoup money on your initial investment, though. While you might have to pay for replacing a conventional asphalt shingle roof several times over the lifespan of your home, a high-quality metal roof could very likely be the last roof your home will ever need. It’s as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

7 Metal Roofing Pros and Cons to Consider


PRO: Metal roofs are environmentally friendly.

Traditional asphalt shingles are a petroleum product and, as such, increase dependency on fossil fuels. Plus, they require replacement every 15 to 20 years, which means that nearly 20 billion pounds of old asphalt shingles are sent to U.S. landfills every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Metal roofs, on the other hand, are considered a more sustainable alternative for a number of reasons. For starters, they consist of at least 25 percent recycled materials and are 100 percent recyclable themselves. (Steel roofing can be recycled repeatedly without loss of strength!) Metal roofing also provides an ideal platform for homeowners who want to embark various eco-conscious initiatives, including solar panels and systems for harvesting rainwater. Finally, in some re-roofing projects, a metal roof is so light—roughly one-third the weight of asphalt—that it can be installed directly overtop asphalt shingles without overburdening the roof’s structural support. This strategic move saves the effort and sheer waste of ripping off the old roofing and sending it to a landfill.

CON: Metal roofs can be dented.

Although today’s metal roofs are designed to withstand decades of abuse from extreme weather—including heavy snow and ice, both of which slide right down the slick metal slope rather than linger and cause leakage—some metal can still be dented by large hail or falling branches. Depending on the type of roof, you may not even be able to walk on the metal shingles without damaging them. If these drawbacks sound more like dealbreakers, rest assured that they can be sidestepped altogether if you choose the right shingle (preferably one that comes with a guarantee to never dent!). Some types of metal are just stronger than others. Aluminum and copper, for example, are both softer and therefore more prone to this type of damage than, say, steel.

PRO: Metal roofs are energy-efficient.

Money spent on the installation of a metal roof can be recouped from the savings in monthly cooling and heating costs thanks to this type of roof’s reflective properties. Metal roofs reflect solar radiant heat instead of absorbing it, which—yearround, but especially during the long days of summer—can reduce cooling costs by as much as 25 percent, according to the Metal Roofing Alliance. Furthermore, some metal roofing comes coated with special reflective pigments to minimize heat gain, keeping occupants comfortable without having to crank up the air conditioner.


7 Metal Roofing Pros and Cons to Consider


CON: Metal roofs can be noisy.

Though listed here as a “con,” this particular drawback doesn’t need to be a given. Sure, metal could be noisier than other types of roofing, especially during a heavy rain or thunderstorm, but extra layers of solid sheathing or insulation installed beneath it will typically minimize the sound heard inside. (That said, these layers will need to be factored into the overall cost of the roof.)

PRO: Metal roofs are stylish.

Today’s metal roofs are a far cry from the corrugated tin barns of the bucolic past—indeed, now you can choose from tin, zinc, aluminum, copper, or galvanized steel, in a dizzying array of colors, finishes, and even shapes! Their variety surpasses that of the much more conventional asphalt shingle. While asphalt might offer 15 to 20 color choices, modern metal roofing comes in more than 100 different colors, including standard, premium, and custom hues. Steel and aluminum, the two most common metals used in residential roofing, are both designed to hold paint finishes well.

Seven out of 10 homeowners living under metal roofs designed theirs with the traditional vertical ribbed panels or “standing seam” construction, but metal roofing is not short on style options either. Fans of more traditional profiles can opt for a metal shingle manufactured to resemble wood shakes, slate or clay tiles, or any other number of designs instead. The metal doesn’t have to stand out like a sore thumb to do its job; rather, it can mimic nearly any look using multiple-layer factory finishes that ensure that the appearance is not only beautiful but long-lasting and durable.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

3 Steps to Remove Mildew from Your Home Exterior

Don't let mildew spoil—or, worse, damage—your home's exterior. With the right tools and routine cleaning, you can banish mildew from your siding and deck, and get back to using the outdoors for relaxing, not working.

How to Get Rid of Mildew on Your Home Exterior


Are mildew streaks tarnishing your home’s curb appeal? Houses in regions with high humidity are prone to exterior mildew, and the sooner you remove it, the better. If ignored, mildew, a whitish surface fungus, can quickly turn into a full-blown mold infestation that can damage wood and siding. While there’s no shortcut to removing exterior mildew from your home, you can get the job done a whole lot faster when you’re armed with the right tools. Then you’ll be free to sit outside with a cool drink and admire the newly pristine, rejuvenated exterior of your home.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
HYDE PivotPro™ Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand
Garden hose
Allpurpose mold and mildew cleaning solution
Commercial deckcleaning solution


How to Get Rid of Mildew on Your Home Exterior


STEP 1: Clean Out the Gutters
Gutters collect decaying leaves and small twigs, making them natural breeding grounds for mold and mildew. When decomposing debris is left in the gutters, it can clog downspouts and cause water to run over the edge of the gutter. When this runoff drips down your home’s siding, it spreads the mildew to other areas.

Optimally, you should clean your gutters at least twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. But because no one wants to balance atop a wobbly ladder to scoop out the decaying accumulation, many homes don’t get the gutter-cleaning they deserve. Equipped with the HYDE PivotPro™ Outdoor Cleaning Water Wand, however, homeowners can tackle the chore with less worry. With its 46-inch wand and a pivoting head that rotates a full 135 degrees, the PivotPro easily extends up and over the gutter to blast away the leaves and debris that contribute to mildew growth. Simply connect the PivotPro to an ordinary garden hose, turn on the water at the spigot, and spray. Push or pull the handy slide grip on the wand, and you can easily rotate the pivoting head to strategically direct a jet of water into the gutters—and potentially save yourself a trip up a ladder.


How to Get Rid of Mildew on Your Home Exterior


STEP 2: Spray and Scrub Exterior Siding
Like a vampire, mildew shies away from strong sunlight, so it’s most likely to develop on the north side of your house and under eaves and windowsills. All types of siding can develop mildew and mold, but wood and wood-fiber siding can see the worst damage and may be subject to rot and decay if the mildew isn’t removed. You may be tempted to try to combat mildew with a power washer, but that would be a big mistake: The high-pressure spray can blast through wood siding, peeling off paint and forcing water beneath the siding, where it can damage sheathing and insulation. Because it produces less force and offers even better precision than a standard power washer, the PivotPro is a safer and more convenient choice. Its wand attachment delivers a robust jet of water to make cleaning easier, but you can be confident that the spray won’t overpower paint or eat through wood siding.

Before you begin, fill the PivotPro’s built-in mixing reservoir with an all-purpose mold and mildew cleaning solution. Adjust the dial to regulate the water-to-cleaner ratio according to the cleanser’s instructions, and hook up the PivotPro to a garden hose attached to the nearest spigot. Spray away mildew starting at the top of an exterior wall, and work your way downward.

In many cases, the mildew will spray right off. If you run into stubborn mildew accumulations, though, use the stiff adjustable brush on the end of the PivotPro wand. By flipping the brush down, you can scrub away mildew stains, both high and low, while dispensing cleaning solution at the same time. Reaching every inch of siding has never been so easy! No need to crawl behind thorny foundation plantings; PivotPro’s long wand lets you stand to the side while scrubbing behind them. Similarly, the wand also makes it easy to clean other spots that are typically just above reach, like fascia boards. When you’re done spraying and brushing away mildew, set your cleanser-to-water ratio to zero in order to rinse off the siding with plain water.


How to Get Rid of Mildew on Your Home Exterior


STEP 3: Spruce Up the Deck or Porch
Most decks and porches will develop mildew at some point in their lifespan. During the rainy season, decking and railings can stay damp for days, setting the stage for mold and mildew growth. Covered decks, as well as those in generally shady areas, are even more susceptible to mildew because they slow down evaporation after a rain, even when the sun finally reappears from behind the clouds. To avoid further growth and possible wood rot—or, in the case of composite decking, simply to stave off unsightly surface stains—remove mildew at first sight.

Old-fashioned treatments for mildew on wood decks and porches required scrubbing the surfaces down with bleach. Not only was all that elbow grease and squatting hard on the back, hands, and knees, but the bleach was damaging to the outdoor structures. Bleach breaks down the organic fibers in wood that give it strength, causing the wood to weaken and deteriorate more quickly. Instead, it’s best to clean away mold and mildew on porches and decks with water and a commercial deck-cleaning product. And with the PivotPro, once you’ve selected the right product, there’s no need to lug around a heavy bucket of cleaning solution or bend over to scrub every inch of your deck—instead, you can clean up from a comfortable standing position.

Choose a warm, sunny day so your deck has plenty of time to dry after being cleaned. When the forecast is right, fill the mixing reservoir on the PivotPro with deck-cleaning solution, set the appropriate water-to-cleanser ratio, and spray the entire deck thoroughly. Use the sliding grip on the wand to swivel the pivoting head and direct spray on the underside of railings and around the back of balusters. Allow the solution to remain on the deck for 5 to 10 minutes to give it a chance to neutralize the mold and mildew. Spray again, this time using PivotPro’s adjustable brush to scrub the deck surfaces at the same time. Once you’ve scrubbed away all the mildew (it should come off easily if it hasn’t been there too long), follow up by rinsing the entire deck with plain water and then let the deck dry completely.

While the PivotPro makes it easier to get rid of mildew all over the exterior of the house, you still don’t want to have to clean too frequently. A little maintenance can have a big payoff: Reduce the recurrence of mildew growth on wood decks and porches by applying a deck sealer that contains mildewcide. In addition, sweep your deck often to remove bits of leaves and debris that can lodge in corners and hold moisture after a rain.


This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

Solved! What to Do About Woodpecker Damage

Fix woodpecker damage to trees, siding, and shingles—and keep it from happening again—with these proven repair and prevention techniques.

What to Do About Woodpecker Damage


Q: Woodpeckers recently swooped in on my property and did a number on my cedar tree, siding, and roof. How do I plug up the holes they’ve left behind, and is there a way to prevent them from returning and creating more?

A: If you plug up the holes left by woodpeckers on outdoor structures without first ridding your property of what is attracting them, the winged backyard pests are liable to return to peck at the same or nearby sites. Therefore, repair always should start with eradicating the insects that woodpeckers feed on. After you’ve followed strategies to first get rid of potential food sources, use the methods below to effectively repair woodpecker damage in trees, siding, and roof shingles as well as prevent future attacks.

Eliminate insect infestations. Investigate and remove any of the following insects from outdoor structures to reduce the likelihood of woodpecker damage from birds drilling for food on your property.

Carpenter ants commonly burrow into moist, decaying, or dead areas of trees or exterior siding and roofing on wooden houses to create nests. If you have a carpenter ant infestation, locate the entrance to the ant nest—typically a small hole or series of holes in trees or siding accompanied by nearby ant trails or sawdust piles. Fill the nest entrance with a dust insecticide containing carbaryl or pyrethroids to kill the nest along with the egg-laying queen. If you can’t locate the nest entrance, or if ants are seen on roof shingles or other areas where it is difficult to locate the nest entrance, set bait stations near the ant trail, which contain poison that ants will carry back to their nest.

Carpenter bees bore small holes in moist or rotting wood that then turn at a 90-degree angle into lengthy corridors with chambers where they deposit eggs. If you have a carpenter bee infestation, you’re most likely to spot their one to two-inch-deep burrowing holes on the underside of siding, eaves, or soffits of a wooden house. Once you locate a hole, eliminate the infestation by hanging a carpenter bee trap directly over the hole or filling it (along with any accessible chambers of the burrowed corridor) with residual dust insecticide, preferably one with a curved applicator to easily reach the chambers.

Termites can be spotted via discarded wings, termite droppings, hollow spots in the woodwork or foundation (which can be found out by tapping the area with a screwdriver), nests in dry wood, or subterranean mud tunnels. If you suspect a termite infestation, call in a certified pest professional to eliminate it through soil treatments like Termidor, bait and monitoring systems, or physical termite barriers.

What to Do About Woodpecker Damage on Cedar Shingles


Repair the damage. Plugging up holes left by woodpeckers in the following outdoor structures can prevent further woodpecker damage to your property.

Trees with woodpecker damage primarily confined to areas of dead wood are often salvageable. Start by spraying a solution of one to two teaspoons of liquid dish soap and one cup of warm water into tree holes to flush out pathogens from the woodpecker’s beak, then rinse the holes out with water from a garden hose. You can dry small tree holes in open air, but larger holes should temporarily be nailed shut with a window screen or piece of hardware cloth to prevent additional woodpeckers from doing more damage to the area. Tape any dislodged living bark back to its original position on the tree with duct tape. Remove the tape and window screen or hardware cloth once the tree has healed completely.

Note: More severe conditions like girdling, a ring of woodpecker damage around the full circumference of the trunk, may require the help of an arborist to prevent tree death.

Siding holes can be filled with epoxy putty, a two-part adhesive of epoxy resin and hardening putty. On a warm day, mix the two materials with a putty knife, then spread the mix over holes in the siding until the opening is completely covered. Use the putty knife to scrape away the excess, then air-dry and sand the putty before painting the patched area to match the rest of your siding.

Roof shingles with cracks or holes can be filled with wood putty, then painted to match the rest of the shingles as a stopgap measure to prevent further shingle damage. However, replacing the damaged shingles or even the roof itself (if the woodpecker damage is extensive enough) is generally more effective than patching up a structurally compromised shingle. New shingles are free from the visual traces of former pecking sites that make woodpeckers more likely to return.

Prevent future attacks. A variety of woodpecker deterrents are available to keep woodpeckers away from outdoor structures after you have repaired them. For starters, protect trees by mounting bird-repellent tape to tree trunks or hanging old mirrors from limbs: Their shiny, reflective surface will scare off nearby woodpeckers. You can also opt to hang DIY wind chimes or plastic owls or hawks from tree limbs or siding or eaves of the home to frighten encroaching woodpeckers. Finally, if you have a dead tree in the yard, consider hanging a suet feeder (a wire cage with high-calorie bird food) from it to lure the birds to the dead wood and thus preserve living trees.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

Bob Vila Radio: 3 Simple Solutions for Sagging Gutters

Besides being an eyesore, sagging gutters put your home at risk, as runaway stormwater plays a role in everything from pest problems to structural issues. Here's what to do if your drainage system isn't holding up its end of the bargain.

Sagging gutters: Sort of a good-news-bad-news situation. The bad news is that they’re a common headache for homeowners. The good news? Fixing the issue often takes nothing more than a little readjustment.

Sagging Gutters



Listen to BOB VILA ON SAGGING GUTTERS or read below:

A note of caution: If you’re going to be standing on a ladder, don’t attempt any work until you’ve recruited (or hired) a helper. Handling unwieldy gutter sections on your own can be awkward and potentially dangerous.

Here’s what to know…

One: If your gutters are made of metal—and if the metal in the sagging section appears to be torn or bent—replacing the entire section may be the quickest and most cost-effective solution, given the complexity of the repair options.

Two: If the problem stems from a failure in the screws or stirrups holding the sagging gutter in place—and if tightening and/or relocating the hardware doesn’t do the trick—use a pry bar or locking pliers to remove the screws and stirrup before installing replacements.

Three: If a screw has loosened due to its screw hole being stripped, remove the screw temporarily. Next, insert a small wooden shim, along with a little epoxy. Finally, drive the screw into the hole and through the fascia board, into a rafter end.

Along the way, remember that in order to operate as designed, gutters must slope slightly toward downspouts. So while you certainly don’t want your gutters to sag outward, you don’t want them to be perfectly horizontal either.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

4 Ways Your Roof Can Save You Energy

Maximize your investment in a new roof or roof repair by paying attention to these four elements of an energy-efficient roof that can significantly lower your energy bills, not to mention extend the roof's lifespan.

How a New Roof Can Curtail Your Energy Costs


For many of us, our attitude toward the roof is pretty much “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s only when something big happens—say, a storm causes damage, or a home inspection uncovers previously hidden problems—do we pay the roof the attention it deserves. But even in the absence of a crisis, the roof deserves a closer look, particularly because a roof offers great potential for conserving energy and, in turn, holding down utility bills. Are you taking advantage of all the ways in which your roof can save you money? To find out, contact the professionals at Sears Home Services with a roofing inquiry, and arrange for a qualified representative to perform a detailed assessment of your roof’s condition. Any number of issues can contribute to high cooling and heating costs, but you can start bringing those costs down by installing a new roof or repairing an existing one, keeping in mind the four important factors outlined below.


How a New Roof Can Cut Down Your Energy Bills—with the Right Insulation


1. Insulation
The best time to address a roof’s efficiency is during a reroofing project. But as roofs cost many thousands of dollars in materials and labor, homeowners often put off replacement until it’s absolutely necessary. If, however, you’re just not ready to spring for new shingles, you may still be able to improve the energy health of your existing roof by upgrading your attic’s insulation.

“Not only will adequate insulation extend the life of a roof,” says Jim Eldredge, Product Manager for Sears Home Services, “it is the number-one thing that translates into energy savings for that roof.” This layer of insulation creates a barrier that reduces the amount of thermal transfer between a toasty attic (or a frigid one, depending on the season) and the temperature-controlled air in the living portion of the house. Sears Home Services will bring an attic’s insulation up to code when necessary during a reroofing project, but you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to install new shingles to make this energy-saving improvement. You can add insulation to your attic at any time.


How a New Roof Can Cut Down Your Energy Bills—with the Ventilation


2. Ventilation
It may seem counterproductive to go to the trouble of improving attic insulation only to then add vents that admit outside air into the attic, but fresh air plays a vital role in roof health. While insulation serves as a thermal barrier between the living space and the roof, the attic itself can become extremely hot during summer months. Without some sort of ventilation, excessive attic heat can warp roof decking and shorten the useful life of the shingles. It can even pass through the insulation to the rest of the house, forcing your air-conditioning system to work harder.

Intake vents, which draw fresh air into the attic, are placed along the lowest points of the roof, often in the soffit beneath the eaves. When paired with exhaust vents, which are positioned higher on the roof, a natural airflow circulation process occurs. Cool air enters the intake vents, warms, and then rises to the top of the attic, where it exits through the exhaust vents. This natural process keeps extreme heat from building up in the attic. “During a reroofing project, we will inspect the existing ventilation and, if necessary, install additional vents to provide adequate ventilation for that home,” Eldredge says. With proper attic ventilation, the roof will last longer and help keep home cooling costs down.


How a New Roof Can Cut Down Your Energy Bills—with the Right Color


3. Shingle Color
If you’ve ever put your hand on a black car that’s been sitting in the sun on a hot day, you know how blistering hot its surface can become. A similar thing happens to dark roofs—they absorb more heat from the sun than light-colored roofs, and as a result, more heat is transferred to the underside of the roof deck and to the attic below.

To remedy this problem, Sears Home Services offers energy-efficient shingles in solar-reflecting colors that help reduce heat transfer to the attic (and the rest of the house). “These shingles, manufactured by Owens Corning, are Energy Star–approved, tested and rated to be more efficient at reflecting heat away from the roof than other colors,” Eldredge says. Better yet, highly reflective shingles last longer because they remain cooler, so their asphalt base does not age as quickly. But Eldredge advises homeowners to keep in mind that an energy-efficient roof isn’t simply a matter of shingle choice: “Reflective shingles will work best in combination with these other energy-saving aspects we’ve covered.”


How a New Roof Can Cut Down Your Energy Bills—with a Radiant Barrier


4. A Radiant Barrier
Another energy-saving option that can help reduce heat transfer from the roof to the attic is the use of a radiant barrier. “It looks a little like you painted the underside of the roof deck with silver paint,” Eldredge says, “But it’s actually a coating that helps reflect the heat away from the attic.” The result? Less solar heat gain. A radiant barrier is usually applied during a reroofing project that requires the replacement of the roof’s deck, or sheathing. Used in tandem with any or all of the other practices listed here, a radiant barrier can help your roof play a part in lowering heating and cooling costs and reducing your energy footprint.


This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

All You Need to Know About German Smear

Are you looking for a way to update your home’s dated bricks without painting over them? Check out one of today’s hottest design trends: German smear.

All You Need to Know About German Smear

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Carrollton, TX

Worn-down bricks make any home look unfashionable and outdated. Instead of shelling out big bucks to repaint their exterior, homeowners can consider an affordable DIY upgrade: applying German smear. As a type of mortar wash, the trendy design treatment is achieved by spreading wet mortar over the bricks, then removing some before it dries. The result is charming exterior siding reminiscent of the Old World. Read about the details of German smear to determine if the technique is right for your home.

The German Smear Look

German smear mimics the look of irregular stones and heavy mortar joints, a style often found on centuries-old cottages and castles throughout northern Germany. The technique is akin to whitewashing bricks, but instead of using diluted latex paint, homeowners coat the brick with a layer of wet mortar. The mortar adds a rough texture, thus creating a rustic and distressed appearance. It also gives the bricks partial coverage, which softens the harsh straight lines that exist in traditional brick siding and creates an irregular pattern. Although traditional German smear involves white mortar over red brick, homeowners can experiment with various brick colors and mortar tints. What’s more, German smear isn’t confined solely to home exteriors; some people update their interior brick walls and fireplaces using the technique.

The Pros and Cons of German Smear

While the actual laying of brick requires a skilled mason, a handy DIYer can apply German smear with professional-grade quality. The process is labor-intensive, but it’s also relatively inexpensive: 1,000-square-feet of brick siding requires about three 80-pound bags of premixed mortar (about $10 each), which brings the total cost of materials to approximately $30. By comparison, hiring a masonry contractor to apply German smear could cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500, depending on the going rate for masons in your region. If you decide to apply German smear yourself, be prepared to dedicate a few days to completing the project on a small- to medium-sized home. Also keep in mind that German smear is a permanent treatment that can’t be removed easily, and it only works over bare brick. The mortar won’t adhere to a brick surface that’s already been painted.


All You Need to Know About German Smear

Photo: Zillow Digs home in New Orleans, LA

Get the Look

Mortar, which is used to bind and seal pieces of building block, often consists of blended Portland cement, lime, sand, and water. If the first three ingredients aren’t mixed with the correct ratio, the mortar can fail and crumble. Therefore, instead of trying to mix your own mortar, we recommend purchasing a premixed blend, to which you’ll only need to add water. Mortar comes in two basic color choices: white and gray. Coloring additives are available for creating brighter white or earth-hued shades.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Premixed mortar
Stiff bristle brush
5gallon plastic bucket
Heavy duty drill
Concrete paddle bit
Water hose
Stucco sponge
Heavy rubber gloves
Protective eyewear
Grout sponge
6inch taping trowel
Wire brush

First, you’ll need to prep the brick for German smear. Remove dirt, grease, and mildew by brushing the brick with a stiff bristle brush or spraying it with water. There’s no need to remove hard water stains from the surface of the brick, because these won’t impact the adherence of the mortar. Next, create your mortar slurry by combining water with the mortar mix in a 5-gallon bucket. A standard ratio is 70 percent mortar to 30 percent water, which will create a peanut butter-like consistency, but you can change the proportions to your liking. To create a heavily textured German smear, try adding less water. For a thinner and more translucent texture, add more water. Consider making some test batches of mortar and applying them to spare bricks before you start on the main project. Blend the mixture using a heavy-duty drill fitted with a concrete paddle bit.

Before applying the German smear, you’ll need to dampen the bricks to prolong the drying time of the mortar, allowing more leeway to perfect the finish. Spray the bricks with water from a garden hose if you’re outside, and wipe a wet stucco sponge over the bricks if you’re working on an interior wall or fireplace.

All You Need to Know About German Smear

Zillow Digs home in Concord, NC

Put on old clothes, heavy rubber gloves, and protective goggles. Then smear the wet mortar over the bricks with a gloved hand, a grout sponge, or a trowel.  Work from top to bottom in small areas, approximately five feet by five feet, and make sure to spread the mortar into the joints. Before the mortar begins to set (which can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the temperature and humidity) use the trowel and/or a wire brush to remove some of it from the surface of the bricks. How much you remove depends on personal preference. If you take off a small amount of mortar from random bricks, you’ll end up with a softly muted look,  since merely a hint of the original brick color will show through. On the other hand,  if you remove a large amount of mortar from the bricks, the final result will appear as if irregular-sized bricks are set in wide mortar joints.

Maintaining the Look

Mortar adheres strongly to masonry, so your German smear will be permanent once dry. When necessary, spray exterior brick with a garden hose to remove built-up dirt or dust. Eradicate soot deposits on interior brick fireplaces with any brick-cleaning product, or an equal mix of vinegar and water. Don’t worry about the mortar washing off over time; it’s very difficult to remove dried mortar from brick, and the process usually involves extensive scrubbing with a chemical like muriatic acid. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your German smear for years to come!