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What is Efflorescence?

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What the Heck is Efflorescence?

Since its first appearance on masonry walls thousands of years ago, efflorescence has been an eyesore plaguing property owners.

Efflorescence is the fine deposits of water-soluble salts and minerals which are pushed through porous masonry surfaces and left behind on as water evaporates. It is normally a fine, white, powdery substance and is commonly mistaken for being a type of mold or mildew. Efflorescence can appear brown, green, yellow, or white in color depending on the salt type or minerals involved. The color of crystals seen most often is white.

You never know when it might appear. Sometimes efflorescence can be caused by the initial moisture and salts left behind from the concrete or masonry used during the construction of a new building. Usually, efflorescence appears about a month or so after a building is constructed, but it may not appear for a year or more. If the area is properly waterproofed and quality materials are used in its construction, then efflorescence should not be a problem.

There are 3 elements required for efflorescence to occur, and they are:

  • The presence of water-soluble salts within the wall, floor, or masonry;
  • The presence of moisture in the affected masonry, wall, or floor; and
  • A path for the dissolved salts to move through the masonry to the surface where the moisture can evaporate

Without the presence of one element or another, the efflorescence cannot exist. If the water cannot infiltrate the masonry then the minerals and salts cannot dissolve and cannot be left behind as deposits where efflorescence crystals can grow. It is virtually impossible to completely eliminate a single element all together. But, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of the elements occurring together and therefore reducing the ability of efflorescence to appear.

Where does the salt come from?

The efflorescence crystals that appear can spawn from a number of salt sources like soils, cement, grout, mortar, and even the sand or contaminated water used to make the mixes for the masonry materials. Clay bricks are also another holder of salt and soluble alkali sulfates. Fortunately, most fired clay bricks will not greatly contribute towards efflorescence problems. No matter the source, the main point is that the water-soluble salt exists somewhere within the masonry walls and floor.

Is it Harmful?

Although it may be ugly, it is not hazardous in the way that mold can be. But, if left untreated, efflorescence can cause deterioration and spalling. Spalling is the term used when surfaces such as paint, sealants, or other protective layers peel, crack, and flake away from the masonry. The salt pushes from the inside of the masonry outwards and this can eventually cause the masonry to become crumbly. The presence of efflorescence is a strong indication that there is a more serious moisture problem that needs attention.

Solutions – Removal & Prevention

Seldom will homeowners find a completely effective way to keep efflorescence at bay. Preventative measures are the first and best line of defense. If efflorescence does make an appearance it should be removed. Once removed, efflorescence can quickly return if the three elements continue to occur together. To prevent efflorescence, moisture and water need to be stopped from penetrating the masonry. Once the source of moisture can be blocked, then the clean-up can begin.

In order to rid basements of efflorescence, a home owner may spend a great deal of time, money, and energy trying to clean up the mess. And let’s face it, in today’s world a homeowner seldom has one of these, let alone all three. One removal option is sandblasting the affected area. Sandblasting should be used with caution. It is highly recommended that the masonry be properly sealed with waterproofing materials to prevent the problem from reoccurring after the sandblasting is completed. There are also special chemical cleaners formulated to remove efflorescence, but it’s not an easy feat. Generally, the area affected by the efflorescence will need to be presoaked or saturated with clean water. This reduces the masonry’s natural porous quality and does not allow the chemical cleaner to penetrate the masonry too deeply. After applying the cleaning solution the area must be thoroughly washed to removal the cleaning chemicals. If the chemicals penetrate too deeply or are not removed from the area they will erode the masonry. Thankfully, your friendly local waterproofing team at Garrett’s is ready and willing to get that dirty, frustrating job done so you can focus your time and money on more important things.

Removal of efflorescence is only a temporary fix. The problem will continue to reappear if the element of moisture is not addressed. Garrett Basement Waterproofing has the ability to remove efflorescence and correct the conditions that enable its growth. With attention to details, the use of only high quality materials, and incomparable expert skill, Garrett can get the job done quickly, effectively, and at a reasonable rate. If you’re sick of seeing efflorescence crystals in your basement, then give Doc Garrett a call, we’ve got the cure you’ve been looking for!

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