Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Can Ivy Damage Brick or Wood on Your Home?

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Take care when planting ivy on your house.

I like the look of ivy growing up the side of my house, but I’ve heard that it can damage brick and other structures. Is that true?

The answer is both yes and no, depending on the type and condition of the material the ivy is growing on. Ivy roots take hold in cracks and crevices, but they generally aren’t strong enough to create them. This means that solid, well-constructed masonry walls usually can handle ivy (and the ivy even helps keep it cool and dry), but the invasive roots can cause considerable damage to other surfaces.

Where to Avoid Growing Ivy

Surfaces and materials to keep ivy away from include:

  • Weakened Brick: Crumbling mortar, cracks, and loose bricks can be invaded by ivy roots, which can widen existing cracks and allow moisture to penetrate.
  • Dry-Stacked Walls: Mortarless stone walls naturally have plenty of cracks and crevices for ivy to take hold, and if you pull off the ivy, you run the risk of pulling down stones or even destroying the wall.
  • Old Brick Homes: The quality of mortar has improved over the years, so the older the home, the greater the risk of weakened mortar. Homes built before 1930 need particular caution, as older, lime-based mortar is softer than modern, cement-based mortar.
  • Wooden Walls and Fences: Ivy can easily work its way between boards, opening the joints and damaging the structure. The roots can also penetrate small weaknesses and cracks in the wood grain, increasing the risk of rot. And, if that’s not enough, ivy can harbor wood destroying insects and other pests.
  • Siding: Any siding or shakes with seams are vulnerable to penetration by ivy roots, which can cause damage both as the ivy’s growing and when it’s pulled off.
  • Stucco: The main problem with stucco comes when the ivy is pulled off, because it can pull off paint or even chunks of stucco, and the tiny roots can permanently discolor the surface.
  • Painted Surfaces: As with stucco, the ivy roots may damage your paint when pulled off.
  • Unsound Structures: Ivy is very heavy, and it can pull down weakened or improperly-built structures.

Tips for Growing Ivy on Your Home

If you want to add ivy to your home or landscape design, it’s best to:

  • Grow on Masonry: Limit ivy to well-built, solid masonry walls. Make sure there are no cracks or loose bricks.
  • Avoid Invasive Species: The common English ivy is so invasive that it is banned in some communities. Look for less invasive species (or even alternatives like climbing roses) that won’t threaten neighboring trees, woods, and houses.
  • Protect Wood: Keep ivy pruned away from wooden trim work, gutters, and windows. If you’re growing ivy on a wooden structure, keep a close watch and remove any invading stems.
  • Keep Contained: Remember that the tiny, hairlike tendrils will take firm hold on textured surfaces and leave a hard to remove residue behind, so keep ivy trained only where you want it.

Further Information

Julie



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3 Comments on “Can Ivy Damage Brick or Wood on Your Home?”

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  1. Roughton Says:
    September 8th, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I want to grow ivy around a paladin window on the front of our newly built home ,there is a brick edge around the frame of this window so it will be easy to keep the ivy neatly trimmed . Since this is a new home there is no wood framing around the windows . my daughter’s professional lawn and garden people advised vigorously againced any ivy growing on a brick wall , she too wanted ivy on a new construction in one spot ..No,NO cautioned this man it will destroy the brick and do massive damage to the housen. I am a Gardner and this seemed a little alarmist to me ,I am growing my ivy ,but she is inclined to let this man pull all of hers out ..please advise…I think that he is well meaning but wrong ….I know that ivy can do some damage but with current building materials I have understood that there is little danger to a new building ….all climbers ,of course need to be kept neat ….thanks

  2. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    September 19th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Roughton,
    Your question about whether ivy will damage brick was answered in the first hour of our September 15th Homefront home improvement radio show. You can listen to the show on our website at http://www.todayshomeowner.com/homefront/2012/09/15/homefront-radio-show-for-september-15-2012/

  3. Suanne Says:
    December 23rd, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I am growing a Knome Ivy indoors in a large wooden pot with a companion plant of brown clover. To those of you not familiar with Knome Ivy, I think it is the smallest Ivy grown. I have been growing these two tiny plants side by side for a couple months now in full sun from South window and they are doing great! It is Winter here…a full foot of snow received last nite.
    Anyway, both the Ivy and the Clover are in a hugh, very solid wooden pot.
    My question…do you think being planted in this wooden pot will cause problems for the plants somewhere own the road?

    Suannez from Interlochen MI

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