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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10 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,
    As noted in the article above, whether growing ivy on bricks will damage them depends on the age and condition of both the bricks and mortar joints. If new bricks were used in the construction and the mortar joints are tight, growing ivy on it shouldn’t damage it.

  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

  4. William Burke Says:
    July 3rd, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    How do i remove the mechanism growing ivy uses to hold on to painted surfaces and keep from leaving marks

  5. Tink Says:
    November 21st, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I have a large indoor heartleaf philodendron. She lives in my sunroom which has unfinished pine walls. She clings to and is growing up the wall. She loves it and so do I, but I’ve been told she will eventually damage the wall. Is that true and if so, in what way? Thank you for your advice. Tink

  6. jovanka egic Says:
    January 21st, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    I am purchasing a home that has ivy growing on the siding. Should the ivy be remove?

  7. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 22nd, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Jovanka,
    While ivy is OK on newer brick walls, I would remove ivy from all types of siding, including wood, vinyl, and fiber cement. Before you buy the house, I would take a close look at the siding that’s under the ivy to see if it has deteriorated over time. If it has consider having the current homeowner fix it or take the price of repairing it off the price of the home.

  8. Seth Says:
    February 26th, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Hello,

    I have a stone wall on the side of the house i would like to grow ivy or wintercreeper on. The stone goes from the ground to some windows, and is perpendicular to a wood wall. Stone is in good condition, not old, and is held together with mortar. As long as I keep the ivy pruned from the windows and the wood wall, is this safe?

  9. Valerie Lamom Says:
    June 11th, 2015 at 2:58 am

    Will climbing roses and clamatis damage the paint on my garden wall? I want to paint it but am not sure if spraying the roses will damage it. I will have to move the plants away from the wall to paint it, but I would like to put them back on the side trellis which I will also paint.

  10. lee Says:
    August 5th, 2015 at 10:39 am

    hi,
    i have ivy growing on a concrete wall in my backyard, and i’d love to know how to take care of it. it should look better than it does and i just want it to flourish.
    much appreciated

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