Just Breathe. Breathing is a necessary component to all life. The masonry at your home needs to be able to breathe as well. In order to provide breathability to your masonry structures and still protect against the consequences of invasive moisture, chimney professionals use “water repellents” rather than “sealants.” The professionals from Oosting Custom Masonry & Chimney Service in Midland Park, New Jersey, know that while often used interchangeably, the terms “water repellent” and “sealant” represent two totally different products and do not produce the same result. Furthermore, if a sealant is used rather than a water repellent, it may cause more harm than good.
It’s important that you understand the unique aspects of brick in order to best understand why you want to use a water repellent rather than sealant. Structures, including your chimney, are comprised of brick and mortar for their stability, insulation, fire resistance, and fire protection. “Porosity is an important characteristic of brick”, explains international brick manufacturer Claybricks. “By virtue of the capillary effect, moisture is released during day-time and re-absorbed during night-time. The ability to release and re-absorb moisture (a “breathing” process) by capillary effect is one of the most useful properties of brick that helps to regulate the temperature and humidity of atmosphere in a house.” This is an important balance that every homeowner must be mindful of and protect when addressing water leaks.
Masonry experts caution novices not to confuse sealants and repellents when trying to correct or avoid moisture issues. By confusing the two products, you may actually be exacerbating rather than curing the problems associated with water leaks. Award winning builder/contractor Tim Carter explains, “Film forming sealants create a continuous barrier on the surface of the brick and mortar. They block the tiny passageways in the brick and mortar. Not only will they stop water from getting into the brick, but they also stop water from getting out. Water repellents work in a different way. These products are designed to penetrate deeply into the brick and mortar. Some can reach as far as 3/8 inch into the surface. They coat the insides of the tiny passageways in the brick and mortar. However, the passageways remain open allowing the brick and mortar to breathe.”
In the construction process and as brick structures age, there are small unavoidable gaps between the mortar and the brick. Water can seep in these openings and invade walls, basements, foundations, and even cause erosion and mold. To prevent this water damage from occurring, water repellents are recommended. When sealants are used on the brick, the sealant blocks the capillary effect and traps moisture and water inside the bricks and their surrounding structures. In contrast, water repellents allow the capillary effect to work while protecting the brick from the elements and maintain the brick’s breathability. Trapped moisture and water lead to water damage and mold.
If you have experienced water damage, Jeff Erdly, President of Masonry Preservation Services, Inc., advises, “I often tell clients that the time to put on a clear water repellent is after we have repaired all of the deficiencies that make the wall leak. Once you have a wall that doesn’t leak, there are certainly good arguments to apply a clear water repellent.”
The last thing you want to do is cut off the breathability of your masonry. Whether you are trying to prevent a leak or correct leaking, it is important for homeowners to consult a masonry professional who can evaluate your circumstances and repair using the proper products under the right weather conditions to make last and effective repairs. If you live in and around the Bergen County, New Jersey area, Oosting Custom Masonry and Chimney Service Co has over 30 years experience repairing and preventing leaking from your chimney and other masonry and will be happy to share our expertise with you.