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Brick and mortar “eating” ivy

Ivy can be a beautiful thing. It adds color and character to a property if used property and offers a great way to cover up ugly or boring architecture. Just look at the lush ivy in this picture. Very nice. Too bad it’s literally eating away the walls of the building.

Ivy and other climbing plants are a bit of a two-edged sword. They might be nice to look at in the summer, but in order to fight gravity and scale the walls of a building, they have to literally root themselves into the brick and mortar. These roots do not penetrate very far into these substances, but as the years go by they increase the natural decay of the brick and mortar. Tuckpointing isn’t a cheap or easy enterprise and anything that increases the frequency of its application should be avoided.

Another problem with ivy is what it looks like in the winter. Its really ugly. Most climbing plants loose their leaves in the coldest part of the year so they have almost no beneficial effects this time of year. Worst of all, when you try to pull the ivy off a brick wall, this jarring just increases the damage done to the brick and mortar. Since these plants are generally very aggressive growers, their removal will become more and more necessary over time in order to keep them in control. More removal means more damage.

So what am I getting at here? Simply that you shouldn’t let ivy or any other climbing plant grow on your brick buildings. Whether the property in question is a single-family or a multi-family; a rental property or owner occupied; it will be much better off without the presence of these plants. The red brick structures found throughout St. Louis are like candy for these things. Don’t feed the beast.

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2 Responses to Brick and mortar “eating” ivy

  1. MH July 7, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    The claim the ivy hurts brick buildings is a myth. Or, more precisely, the claim that ivy hurts properly maintained brick buildings is a myth. Ivy only will pull out broken, crumbling mortar; it will do nothing harmful to a properly tuckpointed building.

  2. Matt Kastner August 26, 2008 at 1:19 pm #

    You’re probably right in regards to the actually plant doing the damage. But pulling the vines of a wall can hurt the mortar. Those little suction cups are pretty tough and it takes a lot of force to get them off. But in the end you don’t have a lot to worry about if your building is properly maintained.

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