Ivy creeping up the walls of a home’s exterior is a beautiful look. It adds character and charm, but many worry that ivy on brick can also cause serious damage to the brick.
In fact, ivy itself isn’t necessarily the culprit of damage to brick. While ivy does take hold in cracks and crevices, the plant isn’t actually strong enough to create them. This means that ivy won’t cause damage to a solid brick wall. However, the ivy roots, which can be extremely invasive, can certainly damage other surfaces, including old brick and brick that is showing signs of weakness and cracking.
Other surfaces that should be avoided by homeowners wanting to plant ivy include: Siding, stucco, dry-stacked walls or mortar-less stone walls, wooden walls and fences, painted surfaces and any structures that are generally unsound. This is because the invasive roots of ivy can penetrate weak points, but the real damage is caused when the ivy is removed and the roots are pulled away, pulling the wall material with it.
In places like England where many castles, old estate homes and college buildings are covered in ivy, it is the ivy that is actually keeping the structures together. It has been there so long, the roots are as much a part of the building as the actual structure and to remove said ivy would be detrimental to the structure of the buildings.
Despite that, some people say that ivy can actually protect walls by creating a thermal shield that insulates brickwork from the very causes of cracks: temperature changes and moisture. Furthermore, the thick ivy leaves can also protect the brickwork from pollution damage that can deteriorate the structure.
When looking at homes with ivy coverage, or considering planting ivy at your home, it is still best to proceed with caution. Ensure the brick is sound before planting, and never pull away at existing ivy without first assessing the stability of the brickwork.