If you’ve ever noticed patches of white, powdery crystals lining the edges of your brick or concrete walls, you may have wondered what it was. What causes it? Is there any way to protect against it?
An Efflorescence Definition
That white, crystalline substance is called efflorescence. Efflorescence is a salt deposit that’s left behind when water evaporates from a surface like brick or concrete. Since the salt is too heavy to evaporate with the water, it sticks to the surface of building materials and hardens into a crystal deposit. Generally, it appears white or gray in color, leaving your stone, stucco, brick, or concrete looking patchy and unattractive.
But What Causes Efflorescence? Moving Beyond a Definition…
Efflorescence can happen indoors or outdoors, though it’s more common outdoors. Depending on the weather, the intensity and rate of occurrence can vary dramatically. Remember, it’s caused by moisture that has a significant salt content. So, if it’s raining often, you’ll likely have to deal with it more regularly than you would if you lived in a very dry climate.
Water (whether from a hose or some other source), rain, and snow are the most common causes of efflorescence. And though builders and contractors normally include protective measures to keep efflorescence from taking over the exterior of your home and walls, it can still happen – especially if any of the following are true…
- Improper Through-Wall Flashing. Builders use through-wall flashing to move moisture from inside a wall to outside before it can wreak havoc. Unfortunately, if it isn’t installed and maintained properly, it can leave unwanted moisture in your walls and eventually lead to efflorescence.
- Joint Material Malfunctions. If the joints in your masonry work have cracks or other imperfections, water may get into them and lead to efflorescence instead of running off.
- Improper Ground Storage. Water can actually work its way up from the soil into the masonry work of your wall. When that happens, the increased moisture can eventually lead to unwanted efflorescence.
- Insufficient Ventilation in Masonry Work. If your masonry work isn’t properly ventilated, it can allow moisture to stay within, leading to efflorescence when it begins to evaporate.
- Insufficient Moisture Barrier in Masonry Work. Moisture barriers are essential for any masonry work because they can keep moisture and water from working their into places where they don’t belong.
Since efflorescence depends on water with a higher salt content, there are a number of different factors that can lead to it becoming more common around your home. Very often, it’s a seasonal issue because humidity can play a big part in how much soluble salt is available. You’ll normally see a higher incidence of efflorescence during the winter months, in conjunction with higher levels of rain, snow, sleet, and other inclement weather.
With that said, don’t assume that it can’t happen during the spring, summer, or fall months. The reality is that efflorescence can hit whenever. It doesn’t depend on a particular season. Instead, it simply depends on moisture with high salt content getting into and around your walls. Whether that happens through rain or faulty ground storage, efflorescence can happen at any time.
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