Poison Ivy

Dear Dr. Cooper: I own an Italianate style home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is a framed house with painted clapboard siding. My question to you is this; “Are vines such as ivy damaging to my wood structure?” I have had conflicting answers to this question by local landscape people, but as a subscriber to your wonderful magazine, I trust your advice. Help! Jim in Halifax.

Well, Jim in Halifax, the definitive answer to your question is simply that vines are bad for your structure whether brick or stone, and are particularly damaging to painted wood siding. Vines that attach themselves to your siding use pads or root-like anchors and should never be allowed to cover painted surfaces because the attachment to your paint is permanent.

When the vine is pulled away for touching up paint or when repainting is necessary, literally thousands of little pads and anchors will remain fixed to the paint and will pull the paint away from the surface when the vine is removed or even as the vine grows. The biggest problem with any type of vine, however, is that it holds moisture and will encourage the growth of moss and fungus which will eventually lead to rot and will attract insects to the rotting organic material.

To remove existing vines, cut them off at the base of the plant and allow the vine attached to your house to wither and die. This may take several weeks or even months, depending on whether or not the side of the house has direct exposure to the sun. After the vine is dead, carefully pull the vines away from the painted surface (or masonry) using a ladder (do not just yank it off from the base). Inspect damage done by the vine, scrape the pads and anchors off the surface, repair any and all rot and then spot prime with an oil-based primer, finally top coat the area with a high quality 100% Acrylic Latex Paint. I hope this helps!

Cheers, Dr. Christopher Cooper | Director of Education | Editor-in-Chief


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One Comment Add yours

  1. kristarossinteriors says:

    Excellent advice Dr. Cooper! I used to love the ideal and romantic “look” of vines climbing riotously on homes and walls. To me, and I am sure to many it added character. When I bought my first home ( circa 1921), one of the first things I did was run out and buy ivy and a trumpet vine, planting them both against my largest exposed brick wall. Years later, the ivy had become incredibly invasive, covering windows, working itself into my eaves, gutters, and even loosening downspouts. Needless to say – removing it was difficult, and it left suckers as you described and also permanent damage to the soft brick. Never Again!!!

    Krista Ross

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