Efflorescence, often confused with mold, is a white, powdery salt deposit that forms after water evaporates. Efflorescence can appear on brick walls or cement floors, or anywhere masonry materials are used. Although it may not seem like a big problem, it’s a sign of a moisture problem that should be addressed quickly. Unfortunately, efflorescence can lead to issues like mold and mildew and steals value from your home.
Occurring both indoor and outdoor, efflorescence is dissolved salt deposits on the surface of porous masonry materials like brick, concrete, pavers, and more. Efflorescence will only occur if moisture is present. After heavy rain, the clay-based soil surrounding your Charlotte crawl space becomes saturated with groundwater. Porous masonry materials, like the concrete blocks your foundation is made from, absorb, or wicks water through what is called capillary action. Capillary action is the process of liquid flowing into a narrow space without aid. These blocks, which are hollow inside, fill up with water. During dry periods, the surrounding soil, as well as the water inside the blocks evaporates, leaving salt deposits behind. That is efflorescence.
You can notice efflorescence both inside and outside however it can vary in intensity as moisture levels ebb and flow throughout the year.
Often, efflorescence is the first sign of a foundation water management problem for Charlotte homeowners. It’s best to address the problem as soon as possible before the efflorescence breaks down the building materials. The damage resulting from the deterioration efflorescence causes is called spalling. It’s imperative to look for any other water intrusion problem signs in your crawl space or basement like damp walls, cracks in brickwork, high humidity levels, and of course, any leaks.
Efflorescence or Mold?
Knowing the difference between mold and efflorescence is important. Mold testing, however, can be expensive, but there are a few simple steps to differentiate between the two.
- Add Water: Efflorescence will dissolve in water, mold will not.
- Color Matters: Efflorescence is typically white, but can appear white, yellow, or light brown. It is not efflorescence if the material is black, pink, purple, or green.
- Pinch Test: Efflorescence turns powdery when pinched, mold will not.
Prevention & Removal of Efflorescence
Removing efflorescence isn’t especially difficult, but preventing the problem from occurring again can be more complicated. Since water-soluble salts make up efflorescence, the solution to remove it may be to use pressurized water. This system causes a huge mess, especially if used indoors, and you may be adding more water to the problem.
A simpler way to remove it is to wipe the surface down with household vinegar. To do so, dilute the vinegar with water and apply it to the wall. Regardless of the method, be sure to thoroughly dry the area when finished, as added moisture can cause more salts to appear. Using a dry brush will usually help with removal. Unfortunately, to completely solve this from happening again will require a functional water management system to be installed.
When performing an inspection, it’s best to start with the outside of your home. The first thing to do is assess your gutters and downspouts. Gutters in good condition should both be free of debris and large enough to handle the water capacity. Roof slope, rainfall intensity, and gutter design are all part of the equation when deciding what size gutter can adequately handle the amount of water your home experiences. Next time it rains, look to see if any gutters are dumping water over the edge. If so, this could be a sign the gutter is clogged or can’t withstand the flow of water.
When it comes to water flowing away from your home, it’s essential to have properly fitted downspouts. Downspouts should extend 10 feet from your home’s foundation, but it’s important to have the proper number of gutters as well. Typically, downspouts are installed every 30 to 40 feet of gutter, but more or less may be needed due to the surrounding conditions.
Another thing to be considered is the slope of your yard. Ensuring the landscape of your yard is positive, meaning water flows away your yard, not towards, is vital to eliminating efflorescence. It is also best to place sprinklers away from your driveway and other concrete structures around your home to prevent efflorescence.
Unfortunately, these steps alone do not eliminate efflorescence altogether. For this to happen, a sump pump and interior drain are typically needed. A high-quality vapor barrier installed on your basement walls can also be helpful.
An interior drain system helps drain the porous cement block or cement walls into a system installed at the basement perimeter. The collected water is then pumped out of your home using a sump pump. Another option to consider is insulated panels for your basement walls. These ExTremeBloc™ panels are durable and fully washable. With the core being fiberglass insulation and a reflective foil back, it creates an energy-saving thermal break between your cold, potentially wet walls and your living space. This will improve the appearance of your basement while adding insulation.
DryPro Can Help You Improve Your Foundation
Noticing efflorescence on your foundation walls is concerning for any homeowner in the greater Charlotte area. There are several options our experts at Dry Pro Foundation and Crawlspace Specialists can suggest to keep your crawl space or basement efflorescence-free. The professionals at DryPro offer a free, no-obligation inspection. All our solutions come with long-term warranties to provide the ultimate peace of mind for you and your home.