How to Remove Vines and Ivy from a Home's Exterior
On brick, stucco, or stone home exteriors, climbing vines can produce a pleasing appearance that unifies the look of the landscape and softens the edges of the home. The problem with this approach is that many of these plants, such as Virginia creeper or English Ivy, pull the lime out of the mortar, creating entry points for water. Vines also hold moisture against walls, which can seriously damage wood clapboards by slowing their ability to dry out after a rain and promoting rot. The vines can also grow in between the boards pushing them apart and even find their way into the home. Rodents and insects can follow these gaps into the home as well as unwanted moisture. Climbing plants also limit access for inspections and repairs.
Ivy and other similar climbing vines growing on chimneys can quickly reach the top and block the passage of flue gases out of the chimney from appliances or fireplaces. This can lead to inefficient combustion and the accumulation of carbon monoxide inside the home.
How to Get Started
You first need to determine where the vines are rooted, what type of exterior façade you have and if any damage has already occurred. For newer, smooth surfaces the suckers and tendrils of the plant will adhere to the surface of the brick, mortar, stucco, or siding which can be problematic to remove.
You also need to decide whether you want to completely kill the plants, or just remove them from the home.
Tools and Materials
Commercial brush killer, such as Brush-B-Gon or Round-Up
Small paint brush
Garden hose and nozzle
Soft bristle brushes (non-metallic)
Wood scrapers, such as popsicle sticks or wooden spoons
Check to see if the vine roots have penetrated the stone or masonry. If the mortar is loose or deteriorated you should consult with a masonry restoration contractor or conservator before attempting to remove any of the plant material.
Use lopping or pruning shears to cut the vine trunk 4 to 6-inches above grade and remove a section of the stem to create a gap between the stump of the trunk and the stem of the plant.
On the stump, peel the bark back slightly to expose about 1-inch of the inner wood and paint the brush killer directly on the surface and sides of the stump. Be careful not to get any on the stone or masonry surface or the ground surface. This will kill the root system and help prevent the vine from growing.
If you have time, allow the vines to whither for a few weeks so they will be easier to remove. The leaves will start to droop after a few days, but may remain green for a week or more depending on the plant. Don’t allow the vine to dry completely as it will snap when removed and the tendrils will be harder to remove from the siding.
Alternatively, you can work from the top down and gently pull the vines away from the exterior of the home. If working from a ladder, never yank the vine away from the wall as you can lose your balance. Gently pull the vine away from the façade in small sections. After removing as much material as possible, gently scrub the surface with a soft, non-metallic bristle brush and clean water. Rough brick and stucco will have many tendrils and suckers remaining so you can try scraping them off with a wooden spoon. If is usually impossible to remove all of them.
Inspect for any damage to the siding, stucco, brick or mortar before continuing. Any damaged wood or cracks should be repaired before washing the walls to prevent water from entering the wall.
After the vines have been removed you can clean the surface with trisodium phosphate (TSP), dish soap, or an exterior siding cleaner formulated for your façade. Use a bucket with a few gallons of water and soft scrub brush on an extension handle. Spray the wall with water from a garden hose and gently scrub the wall.
To remove any residue left behind on wood siding, you can lightly sand the surface with an orbital sander. Wood or aluminum siding will most likely need to be repainted after removing the plants; vinyl siding may be able to be cleaned completely.