Efflorescence is a kind of flowering, but it doesn't have roots and it sure doesn't make your yard look good. Test your knowledge of this structural phenomenon with this quiz.
Many materials used in construction contain traces and even substantial amounts of salt. Water carries that salt out with it, where it dries into the unsightly patches you may notice discoloring the outsides of buildings.
Materials like brick, mortar and concrete naturally contain the soluble salt that creates the deposits we know as efflorescence. Wood and linoleum have their own challenges, but efflorescence isn't one of them.
A common culprit for efflorescence is concrete or mortar mix that contains too much water: Even though the material may appear dry, an overly wet mix can leave water inside the structure.
Believe it or not, your sprinklers could be causing those ugly blotches on your backyard stucco. Any water that sprays directly on your walls regularly and for extended periods can ooze into the concrete or mortar; excessive groundwater can also seep up into the structure.
You won't find enough moisture in your walls to fill a cup, but you may notice its presence on a piece of plastic sheeting. Even though it may not look like much, the condensation that excess moisture can cause in this test is a good indication that you may be at risk for efflorescence.
Primary efflorescence is caused by factors inherent to the structure, such as the excessively wet cement mix we discussed in question number three. Secondary efflorescence is environmentally based; one example would be the extra-enthusiastic sprinklers in question number four.
Believe it or not, a simple soap-and-water mix can be very effective in removing efflorescence -- just make sure you're ready to scrub. Power washing, sand blasting and chemical cleaning can also be used for more severe cases.
Although the methods mentioned above can be very effective in removing efflorescence, they can also exacerbate the problem if used incorrectly. In general, gentler methods are always better to begin with.
Sand and gravel play an important structural role in concrete and mortar, but they can also contain excess salt that may cause efflorescence. Ensuring that they are washed thoroughly in salt-free water before mixing can help reduce risk.
When he was painting the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo ran into a problem he wasn't expecting: unwanted discoloration on parts of his work. Let's face it: Efflorescence can be ugly, but at least you're not dealing with it on the surface of a historic masterpiece!