Our brick home was built in 1904 and has had many external repairs that are visible in the brickwork. We’d like to use climbing vines to improve the appearance, but we’re concerned about ivy damaging the mortar in a house this old. -Heidi
By themselves, vines don’t really damage well built masonry, other than leaving tendrils that can be hard to clean off. However, the problem with homes built before 1930 is that the mortar may not contain Portland cement, which means that it is more likely to erode over time. And if the structure is covered with ivy or vines, you may not notice it.
As the mortar wears away, aggressive vines such as English ivy can infiltrate cracks and weaknesses. And if it’s ever pulled away, it may bring the wall down with it. Granted, some ivy covered buildings have been standing strong for over 100 years, but eventually you have to wonder if the ivy is actually holding up the structure! If you’re planning to add vines to your older home, it’s best to choose wisely.
Here are some tips to help you use vines to improve an older home’s appearance:
- Consider Non-Attaching Vines: Another solution is to plant vines that don’t attach directly to the masonry. Climbing roses, jasmine, clematis, and wisteria are all beautiful vines that twine up supports, rather than clinging to surfaces. You’ll need to install trellis, lattice, or wire to hold up these vines, but the advantage is that they can be pulled away from the house to inspect or repair the masonry behind them.