Brick and Concrete Cleaning

Published: 17th August 2009
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Over time, the sun, rain, snow, mold, mildew, algae, smoke, and bird droppings can make brick and concrete surfaces unattractive. But they also pose a threat to the structural integrity of brick and concrete: these substances, when left unattended, could actually start eroding these materials.

Old, spotty paint and graffiti also make brick and concrete surfaces unsightly.

What do you do when you want your building to look nice, respectful, professional, and inviting, and you've got problems like these all over the exterior? Calling up a brick and concrete cleaning contractor could be the beginning of a solution for you.

But what do these cleaners do, and how do they do it?

Brick and concrete cleaners will use what's called abrasive blasting. It's the process of harnessing pressure to propel abrasive material directly at the brick and concrete surfaces, in order to remove the contaminants, and to make the surface smoother and more handsome.

Here's a list of some of the abrasives the contractor will use: glass bead blasting, sand blasting, soda blasting, or shot blasting.

Compressed air or liquid propels these materials onto the target surface. In the case of compressed air, the materials are propelled dry; in the case of liquid, they are propelled in a concentrated jet of water.

Some of the abrasive materials used are silica sand (this is the most common one); coal slag; metallic, synthetic, or mineral abrasives; and organic materials. The organic materials are comprised of ground nut shells, fruit kernels, and baking soda. They tend to be the best abrasives for cleaning brick, stone work, and for removing graffiti. That's because they pose the lowest risk of damaging the contact material.

When it comes to equipment, brick and concrete cleaning contractors will bring in highly specialized tools and protection because of some dangerous health hazards associated with this type of work.

The basic components to the abrasive blasting mechanism are the mixer, an exhaust hood, a nozzle, and a gas supply line (for compressed air, the dry blasting technique).

The brick and concrete cleaning specialist will contain the area within a blast room. In here all the blasting goes on, and the blasting system is housed inside, too. They'll place a dust collector in the containment area.

What's called a "blast cabinet" is similar to the blast room but with one addition, a "closed-loop reclaim" system that recycles the abrasive blasting materials.

Talk with your brick and concrete cleaning service about how it plans to treat your surfaces. You should know that brick requires a significantly lower pressure than concrete: between 500 and 1000 pounds per square inch (PSI). The brick and concrete cleaning contractor should know that blasting on brick should not exceed 1500 PSI, and that 5000 PSI would ultimately damage the brick, possibly causing much more harm than the substances you're trying to blast off of it.

Here's a partial list of the services brick and concrete cleaning can provide:

Building exteriors; brick restoration; monument and statue cleaning; mold, smoke, and water damage cleaning; graffiti and paint removal; sidewalk cleaning; and oil-stain removal.

Who should hire a brick and concrete cleaning service?

If you want to clean up the weathered look of your property, business, or manufacturing facility, a brick and concrete cleaning contractor can definitely help.

Then there's the question of erosion. Are those materials that stain your building doing more than aesthetic harm? It's very likely. They could erode the materials, and a brick and concrete cleaning service can help you determine if this is the case.

How about the benefits and drawbacks to brick and concrete cleaning?

Let's start with the drawbacks. They mainly have to do with health hazards. Silica and sand blasting creates huge clouds of dust. Exposure to silica dust can cause Silicosis, a nasty lung disease.

Heat exhaustion and excessive noise are two other threats to abrasive blasting workers.

But some of the abrasive materials available pose much lower health risks, and if the work environment is treated correctly, and the right precautions are taken, health hazards are greatly diminished.

Coal slag contains very low silica levels, so it doesn't contribute to the risk of developing Silicosis. (The con with coal, though: it can release other pollutants into the air.) Metallic, synthetic, and mineral abrasives cause much lower dust and waste levels than sand and coal. And the organic abrasives won't damage the contact material.

Consider the safety equipment available to the workers: Blast hoods and helmets; an air hose that filters out hazardous gases like carbon monoxide; special lenses on the helmets; ear muffs and body protection (gloves, overalls, leather coats, leather pants, a canvas blast suit).

Here's the bottom line with brick and concrete cleaning:

The elements - and graffiti artists - can make your brick and concrete building surfaces unattractive (or can threaten to erode them). Brick and concrete cleaning can bring these materials back to their brand-new look, and can protect against erosion.

Jon Ellowitz is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a cleaning service or more business services articles at Yodle Consumer Guide. Brick and Concrete Cleaning

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