Fireplace Update: Brick By Brick

by Josh on November 17, 2005 · 1 comment

in Fireplace,Living Room,Projects

I continue to make progress stripping paint from the brick fireplace. In past posts, I have written about the general process I am following, which you can read about here, here, and here.

Today I want to narrow the focus a bit to show what I am doing on a brick-by-brick basis. I am working on the right half of the fireplace and removed the Peel Away 1 stripper several days ago. When scraping off the Peel Away, most of the paint comes with it. This particular formulation of Peel Away is supposed to be used when the base layer of paint is not latex. I assumed this was true for me, but I’m now convinced that all the paint I’m removing is latex. Whether Peel Away 7 (designed for latex paint base layers) would have worked even better, I’ll never know. My approach has required a lot of elbow grease and attention to detail, but I think some amount of detail scraping would be unavoidable.

Here’s what a brick looks like when the Peel Away has been removed and the surface has dried:
Brick with stripper removed

The pink color is paint dust residue (the top coat of paint was faux red brick) that will mostly wash off with water and some wiping or light brushing with a wire brush. I have a spray bottle of water that I use to soak the brick before I use the wire brush. Wetting the brick eliminates the dust the brush would otherwise create. I have also begun using warm water in my bottle because I think it softens the paint better than cold water. After a good washing, the brick will look like this:

Brick after washing

At this stage, the pink chalky haze has been mostly removed and the surface of the brick is showing through well. Specks of white paint– the first coat applied to the brick– remain in the nooks and grooves of the surface texture and joints between the brick and mortar. This paint is soft and rubbery, like a latex glove. It isn’t “stuck” on the brick, it just fills deep or awkward texture and is therefore less responsive to the brute tactics of brushing and scraping. Still, I have been able to remove a good amount of this paint with the wire brush by angling the brush to the brick surface or brushing in a circular motion over the paint. When brushing falls short, I use some clay modeling tools to pick out the paint bits. When all the brushing and picking and cursing is done, the result is a beautiful clean brick:

Clean brick

Here’s another close-up photo of a clean brick photographed with some raking light to highlight the surface texture:

brick texture example

After the paint removal, I’m planning to treat the surface with the Peel Away neutralizer and then spray and rub the brick and mortar with 50/50 Boiled Linseed Oil and Mineral Spirits to even out the surface color and deepen the color of the mortar. Before I can get to that, I’ve got to deal with the roughly 40 bricks that still look like the first picture.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim February 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm


Did you have any trouble stripping the bricks immediately next to the wood trim without getting any of the Peel Away and/or water on the trim itself?

My fireplace, like yours, has wood trim immediately next to the brick on the sides, and given how the globs and water tend to fly during scrubbing, i am a little worried about it getting on the trim even after taping.

Any tips would be appreciated by this fellow Minneapolis bungalow owner!



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