“Look at Every Option When Cleaning Masonry”
Published in the February March 2018 Edition of Pro Masonry Guide
By Hank Johnson
HJ's Stone Artistry Restorations
When cleaning masonry, how much water is too much water? That’s the question many masons find themselves asking when cleaning masonry platforms. The dicey part is that water, and how you use it, can have a huge effect on the outcome. If your platform is not sealed tightly or is open, you run the risk of having efflorescence appear on structures like chimneys, walls, decks and stairs.
During the last 30 years, Hank Johnson, owner of HJ’s Stone Artistry Restorations, has borne witness to some of these outcomes. His company repairs, restores and builds stone walls, retaining walls, steps, patios, dry stone walls, stone veneers and more throughout the Yorktown Heights, N.Y., area.
Johnson remembers the nasty battle he had with efflorescence when cleainng masonry on a residential job he did in Stamford, Conn., last year. He cleaned the home’s brick and flagstone walls with a high-velocity pressure washer as he normally would, but the efflorescence stains came back with a vengeance nearly a month later.
After revisiting the jobsite, Johnson discovered that the pressure washer had saturated the brick to its core. The moisture seeped out and brought the nasty white stains back with it. While brick is a porous, manmade product, wall stone and granite are natural.
“The high velocity pressure washer wasn’t the answer,” Johnson says. “On some applications, you can use high-velocity washers, but on others you need to use good old-fashioned elbow grease. Depending on what type of masonry it is, hand work can be more efficient.”
As Johnson has learned, when cleaning masonry you have to take each job on a case-by-case basis to find out what options are the best to employ. That’s why he believes in working tirelessly to find those options.
And, sometimes, as Johnson will tell you, you help create these opportunities on your own. For example, in 2006, while walking a construction show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, Johnson met with several members of the Fine Organics team. The Clifton, N.J., company develops a range of specialty additives for a wide variety of applications. Fine Organics is a producer of specialty additives for foods, plastics, rubbers, paints, inks, cosmetics, coatings, textile auxiliaries, lubes and several other specialty applications.
“They asked me if I was interested in sealers,” Johnson recalls. “I told them I was looking for an acid that could clean efflorescence off of masonry surfaces – something that didn’t have hydro-chloric acid, which can be harmful.”
Fine Organics provided Johnson with a cleaner that he used on and off for several years. During that time, he worked closely with the company to refine it. Through trial and error, they eventually created FO 3024-SV, a ready-to-use, heavy-duty, odorless liquid that contains a salt that acts like an acid. FO 3024-SV helps remove and prevent the formation of efflorescence stains on a wide variety of stone, concrete and masonry surfaces.
“when cleaning masonry I came across several jobs with bad efflorescence problems – mostly on stone, granite, limestone, flagstone, concrete pavers and brick – that came out without a flaw nearly 99 percent of the time using FO 3024-SV,” Johnson says.
On one job, Johnson helped a masonry supply yard in Connecticut clean the panels on a stone display that several other mason contractors had failed to fix using some of the top-selling brands on the market. Fine Organics even produced a lighter dose that Johnson could use on manufactured stone.
“When cleaning masonry you have to look at your other alternatives,” Johnson says. “When you do the job the way you say you’re going to do it, other jobs will follow suit with 100 percent results. It is what people expect.”