Learn to maintain properties -both inside and out.
Property maintenance can involve a very wide variety of work tasks. No one person can be an expert at everything; but a good property manager needs to understand the scope and nature of work to a point where they can make good decisions and take action where appropriate, either doing the work themselves, or where it is beyond them, finding and engaging an appropriate expert to do the job.
Note that each module in the CERTIFICATE IN PROPERTY MAINTENANCE is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
What Can Property Maintenance Involve?
Nothing ever stays the same on a property. Soil erodes, plants grow, surfaces discolour, timber and metal will often deteriorate. Stone and brick deteriorate too, but most often just more slowly than timber and metal.
Things get damaged on properties, both interiors and exteriors of buildings as well as surfaces in a garden, walls, fences and other things.
Property maintenance can reduce the quantity and rate of deterioration; or identify, repair or replace things when needed.
Routine maintenance will often stop the escalation of damage that can occur as a result of neglect. Consider stains for instance. If a surface stain is removed when it is minor, it is easy to remove; but when ignored, it can become worse and eventually so embedded onto a surface that it is costly or even impossible to remove.
Brick and stone walls can become damaged in a number of ways such as staining, surface damage, and structural damage.
Many masonry materials are porous and may absorb chemicals and colours into the surface making removal of discolouration difficult. Brick and stone walls can become stained by various things, and some examples are as follows:
- Fumes - surfaces may be tarnished by petrol and oil, particularly if adjacent to roads or driveways.
- Paint - paint may be spilled onto surfaces or may have been applied and is no longer wanted.
- Chemical residues - sometimes stains emerge from oxidation or rust from metal reinforcement or service pipes. Rust can sometimes appear on a wall from any metal above or near to the wall (e.g. roof spouting, downpipes, or balustrades).
- Salt damage (efflorescence) - salt damage is common in brickwork. White powder or crystals can form on masonry when moisture soaks through the masonry then dries on the surface. This is prevalent when dampness comes through a retaining wall or rises from the soil below a wall made from a porous material such as concrete blocks or clay bricks. This process is called 'efflorescence'. The process begins with salts dissolving in water and finishes with that water evaporating from the surface of the masonry, leaving the residue of salts behind.
Cleaning efflorescence - efflorescence is a caking or coating of salts that forms on the surface of bricks (commonly white powder, but sometimes green, yellow or brownish). These salts are water soluble and can be removed by brushing and washing with water, however it's best not to attempt to do this with regular tap water since it can contain chemicals that may in fact cause salt deposits to return faster. If you must use water, test a small sample and wait to see if the efflorescence returns.
If the masonry is made from very hard, properly-fired brick, it is unlikely to damage the brickwork; but if the brick quality is poorer, the bricks can be damaged. Regardless, it can look unsightly e.g. on the red brick facade of a prominent city office building.
To clean salt damage, avoid using a wire brush or any excessively harsh treatments that might damage bricks or cement mortar. A more effective treatment involves using a solution of 15% calcium chloride solution brushed over the wall (not too harshly). Apply a coat then leave for 2 hours before brushing over a second coat of the same solution. Leave for a day then redecorate the wall if needed.
If the problem keeps happening, it indicates water is still entering the brickwork. The source of water then needs to be found and eliminated.
Vanadium stains - these sometimes occur on bricks made from lighter coloured clays. They can be green, yellow or red-brown. They don’t harm brickwork. They may wash off naturally if exposed to rain, or may be removed faster using hydrochloric acid. Alkaline or hypochlorite treatments may also be used.
Manganese stains - manganese dioxide is sometimes added to grey or brown coloured bricks. The manganese can occasionally lead to dark brown staining. It may be removed with hydrochloric acid or another brick cleaner.
Iron stains - rust can stain brickwork. If it comes from within cement mortar, remove (rake out) the problem cement and re-point those sections of the wall with fresh cement. If it is coming from elsewhere it will only go away temporarily if painted over and the source of the discolouration is not treated or removed first. Remove and replace rusted metal if feasible. If not, there are many ways to remove rust e.g. a hand held compressor, emery paper or sandpaper, or a wire brush or brush attachments in a drill.
Chemicals can also be used which are usually strong acids or alkalis that react with the rust. They are usually painted on and washed off but should be used cautiously. For example, you could remove by washing with a solution of 250ml oxalic acid with 5 litres of water. Others include 95ml sodium fluoride, or 65ml citric acid in 5 litres of water.
Other 'rust-eating' paints can be used. These actually convert rust into other compounds and provide a seal against rust. Metal paints can be applied which generally take the form of a primer which protects against rust and a top coat. Hammered finishes can look attractive depending on the location.
Timber stains - timber stains may be removed with a mix of 95ml of oxalic acid in 5 litres of water; or with a solution of bleach (sodium hypochlorite).
Oil stains - oils can be very difficult to remove, especially once they've 'set'. They need to be removed as quickly as possible. Different materials can be tried. The best technique can be a small poultice of an appropriate material applied to the affected area only. Diluted household bleach may remove some stains but it very much depends on the colour and porosity of the wall materials. As with paving there are some proprietary chemicals which could be applied.
Vegetable oils - vegetable oils may be removed using methylated spirits or turpentine.
Mineral oils - mineral oils (e.g. lubricants) may be treated with petrol or benzene).
Foliage stains - sap from trees may attach to walls. Leaves and other plant parts can also discolour masonry. If they are relatively new stains they can usually be brushed off. Sometimes chemicals may need to be applied first and then washed off with pressurised water.
Other stains - there are some other things that may stain bricks including bitumen and different chemicals. Treatments vary, and brick manufacturers will often be the best source of information.