Brick houses have a timeless and traditional look that appeals to your neighbors and passersby. However, a painted brick house is not to everyone’s taste. How do you remove paint from the brick without damage affecting its looks? Read on for answers.
Using chemical-based solvents and scraping paint off the brick with a combination of water, neutral detergent, and bristle brush remains the best form of removing paint from brick without causing significant damage.
Performing a test is crucial to determining the most appropriate paint removal method.
Sand blasting is a fast and effective method of removing paint as seen in the above image.
There are different methods for removing paint from brick. The main techniques include:
- Moisture-based removal methods.
- Chemical removal methods.
- Abrasive removal methods.
- Other removal methods.
In this section, we shall look at each method and examine its efficiency and practical applications in removing paint from brick.
Moisture-based removal methods
These are techniques that use water as a primary tool for removing paint from brick. It includes the following:
- Water washing: you can combine warm water with liquid detergent to soften certain emulsion paints, which you can subsequently remove through gentle scrubbing or scraping. Also, you can remove glue and chalk or limestone-based distemper from brick with warm water and a good scrubbing.
- Steam stripping: you can apply low-pressure steam to remove water-based paint from brick using a mix of heat, moisture, brush, and water. Combining methylated spirits with steam is also an effective means of removing multiple layers of old paint from large brick surfaces. Steam stripping is a more efficient means of removing paint from brick compared to water washing.
- High-pressure cleaning: using high-pressure water to remove paint from brick is a fast paint stripping technique. However, experts do not recommend this method because it can cause cracks and damage the masonry due to enormous quantities of water deployed.
Chemical removal methods
The two primary methods of chemically stripping aunt from truck include:
- Solvent (non-caustic)
- Alkaline (caustic)
Solvent (non-caustic): typically consists of methylene chloride-based commercial grade paint removers. These are more appropriate for removing oil-based or latex paint types. Using solvents does not damage the brick substrate when used correctly. However, chemical solvents contain hazardous compounds which produce toxic waste, which makes them unsuitable for DIY projects.
Alkaline (caustic): is based on potash, caustic, or washing soda which can severely damage masonry. Alkaline-based paint removers produce toxic deposits that penetrate porous surfaces, particularly brick walls making it difficult to remove or wash off thoroughly.
Abrasive removal methods
Abrasive removal methods can be divided into two. Namely;
- Manual methods.
- Mechanical methods.
Manual methods: this is an inefficient and slow process involving scraping and sanding brittle or peeling paint by hand. Standard tools used for manual methods include plastic or metal scrapers, putty knives, and sandpaper.
Mechanical methods: abrasive mechanical methods are highly prone to damaging brick surfaces. And experts rarely recommend them for stripping paint from brick surfaces. The methods include sandblasting or air abrasive pencil methods.
Other removal methods
These include the following:
Poulticing: professionals recommend poulticing for cleaning hard-to-reach sections of brick paintwork like grooves. For best results, use powdered clay (attapulgite or sepiolite) mixed with sawdust or whiting and non-caustic chemical stripper followed by a thorough cleaning.
Burning off technique: hot flames are used to burn the paint off brick in this method. This method is not an effective paint removal method because the melted paint tends to leave patches and stick to crevices within the brickwork. Also, this method is not recommended for DIYers due to the potential fire risks.
Hot air paint removal method: uses high temperatures from an electric filament to soften paint which you can scrape off. It is an excellent method for removing oil-based paint from brick walls.
How to remove paint from brick
You can successfully remove paint from brick in a few easy steps, provided you follow the proper paint removal process and use the appropriate removal method. Nevertheless, you may hire a professional for better results. Ensure the brick is completely dry, and avoid removing Blaine during frosty conditions to avoid brick damage when removing paint.
Below are the steps involved in paint removal:
Step 1 Clear and prepare the area
Properly preparing and setting up the work area can help minimize your clean-up efforts.
- Remove all objects and outdoor furniture pieces from the work area.
- Place (or tape) plastic sheets around the brick wall to collect paint residue.
- Assemble your tools within easy reach.
- Wear the required protective gear. This is important when using chemical strippers.
Step 2 Test the paint
Perform a response test to determine the “best method” of paint removal with minimum damage to the masonry.
- Test paint striping agents on inconspicuous areas of the masonry following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Evaluate the success of each stepping technique after testing is complete to select the best method.
- Examine the proposed methods for the collection of waste materials produced during the striping process.
Step 3 Apply the paint stripper (chemical method)
You can begin the process of removing paint from the brick, depending on your removal method.
- Apply solvent or compound to the brick with a brush or specialized tool.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions as you cover the entire brick surface.
- Place peeling strips on the solvent/chemical compound. Ensure to overlap each peeling strip and press firmly until it is secured against the brick surface.
- Allow the strips to remain in place according to the manufacturer’s recommended time limits.
- At the appropriate time, begin lifting the peeling strips to remove paint from the brick.
- Use a putty knife or trowel to remove solvent/compound or paint residue left after lifting the peeling strip.
- Scrub the residue with a brush and water where appropriate.
Step 4 Dispose of waste
Chemical paint removal generates toxic residues that must be appropriately disposed of to prevent health and environmental issues.
- Dispose of all the used strips. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines during the process.
- Add chemical neutralizers to solvents or compounds that do not
Removing paint from indoor brick
The techniques and tools for stripping paint from interior brick walls are essentially similar to those you use when removing paint from brick walls in other areas of your home. The only difference is that you can’t use paint removing methods like sand or water-pressure blasting because of the confined indoor conditions.
A common question asked by most homeowners is the best paint removal method for removing paint from indoor brick walls. Most experts agree that using interior-safe masonry gels and chemical stripers are the most acceptable paint striping technique for interior brick due to the following reasons:
- It is cleaner and generates solid residue, which you can quickly dispose.
- It eliminates paint dust and debris from getting into other parts of your home, which happens with sandblasting.
- It prevents homeowners from inhaling airborne particles containing toxic paint dust and brick substrate. This is especially dangerous in older homes that may have paint containing lead.
- It eliminates the threat of fire hazards, which you get when you use the burning off technique.
Using masonry gels and chemical stripers may produce fumes or odors that irritate the eyes and skin. As a precaution, ventilate the work area by opening all windows, doors and setting up fans. Additionally, wear protective clothing and observe all manufacturer’s instructions on the use of the products.
Removing graffiti from brick
You must remove graffiti immediately to prevent the paint from settling into brick and discourage vandals from painting other graffiti. Graffiti can be painted with various materials ranging from chalk, markers, spray paint, female lipstick, and even wax shoe polish. You must perform a test to determine the type of paint used and how long the graffiti has been in place before attempting to remove it.
Experts recommend gentle cleaning techniques when removing graffiti from brick. The best methods are a mix of chemical and non-chemical cleaning materials and processes.
- Moisture-based cleaning methods, such as low-pressure power wash with water and neutral liquid detergent for water-soluble graffiti paint.
Avoid methods that can cause significant damage to the masonry or leave stains on brick. These include:
- Wet and dry blasting.
- Power sanding or grinding.
- High-pressure washing (over 300 psi)
- Chemical solvents that leave stains or marks on the brick.
It is best to hire trained professionals when removing graffiti from brick because improper removal or cleaning methods may cause irreparable damage to the brick surface.
Removing paint from historic brick structures
A good number of historic homes do need a coat of paint for protection. And it would help if you considered hiring a professional paint stripper who can tell the difference between historic brick buildings that need a paint removal job and the ones that do not.
Before the mid-nineteenth century, people built houses with weak and porous handmade bricks that required protective sealing or a coat of paint to withstand the destructive effects of rain and snow. However, advances in technology after the 1850s meant people could build houses with durable machine-made ‘historically unpainted brick’ which was waterproof and hardened with decorative patterns to provide aesthetics and eliminate the need for painting.
Here are some tips for restoring brick on historic brick homes to their initial state:
- Apply light pressure and gently scrape the paint by hand to preserve the integrity of the brick surface.
- Use masonry gels or non-caustic solvents and paint stripers where necessary.
- Perform response tests to determine the most suitable removal methods.
- Always consult a preservation specialist and related professionals.
Tools and materials to remove paint from brick
You need a variety of tools to remove paint from brick without damaging the masonry substrate successfully.
- Dropcloth: place drop cloths or plastic sheeting beneath the wall you are working on catch debris and keep your work area clean.
- Paint stripper: non-toxic masonry gels and chemical paint strippers are available at hardware stores. Ensure you use products from reputable brands.
- Safety gear: protective clothing and safety gear such as goggles, arm length gives, and respiratory protects your eyes, lungs, and skin from irritants when using chemical compounds to remove paint.
- Ladder: a ladder is excellent for accessing tall calls and other hard-to-reach areas, helping you complete your job faster and easier.
- Scraping device: a plastic scraper or putty knife is required to get flaking paint off brick. Metal scrapers are fantastic, but they damage the brick surface.
Yes, you may hire a professional and enjoy the benefits associated with having one strip paint from your brick building. Professionals generally work faster than DIYers and cause minimal brick damage. They also have more experience handling complex paint types or brick surfaces, especially historic buildings.
You can use WD-40 to remove paint from brick by spraying it over paint and wiping it with a piece of cloth or a stiff brush.
You can remove/strip paint from any brick structure to reclaim the original look. But, it is not an easy task because, unlike drywall, brick is a porous material that absorbs paint, making it impossible to scrape off.
The paint removal process itself is pretty straightforward. However, using efficient paint stripping methods that won’t damage the brick is time-consuming and labor-intensive. It is vital to identify the paint base or type (latex, acrylic, cement, or polyurethane) on the brick before choosing the best removal method because not all paint bases or types respond to the same removal method.
DIYers and professionals can select the most appropriate removal method for each paint removal job by performing a ‘response test’ over a tiny area to determine if the paint will come off the underlying brick wall with minimal damage. Using the wrong removal method for a particular paint type can complicate the paint stripping process and significantly damage the brick surface.
Please note that No removal system is 100% effective, and using chemical strippers to remove paint from brick can result in severe health issues.