How to Strip Fireplace Brick
We spent a lot of time canvassing google and the houseblog network to learn more about stripping brick before we started. We ended up doing a lot of trial and error and finally succeeded with a hybrid approach. One of the most helpful series of fireplace stripping posts are from Bungalow ’23 and Westview Bungalow
We tried a number of stripping products, the first pass of which was with SoyGel and CitriStrip to cut down on the causticity that are present in most hardcore stripping products. Both products had similar results. They cut through the first 2-3 layers of paint, but the problem was in the horrific clean up as shown below.
Our fireplace had really pitted, rough surface bricks, which presented the main challenge. We had to use many types of brushes to get into the crevices. We did a second pass with CitriStrip to get closer to the brick. Heat guns and the Silent Paint Remover had no effect on the brick as they just absorbed the heat, so we figured we had to do this the “hard way.”
At this point, we sort of gave up for well over a year because of the intense amount of elbow grease necessary. Taking some time to step back actually gave us the opportunity to come up with a more efficient process, that actually gave us a breakthrough technique… well, at least, we think so.
During our hiatus, we saw the blog posts about using Peel Away on fireplace brick. We heard Peel Away 1 was carried at Sherwin Williams with the peel off sheets with the decided it was worth a try. We did a test brick and decided to try a bigger sample. In general, with our pitted brick, the “peel away” part of Peel Away didn’t really work (which we expected), but the product definitely sucked the paint out of the brick better than we expected!
Peel Away progress:
Where our new technique came in, was with the stripper product clean-up. This could be utilized with any liquid product, although we are partial to Peel Away as we felt it would’ve been quicker to use from the get go.
First, we purchased a small paint spraying gun from Harbor Freight that we used with our air compressor*. We followed these steps to finish off our project, which you could follow from the get go.
- Mask off the area around the fireplace to control overspray.
- Put plastic down to protect the flooring from any moisture.
- Over the plastic, lay down a few layers of canvas drop cloths and large old towels (make sure you don’t mind that they will be ruined).
- Do a test area with stripper product of your choice. Follow manufacturer instructions and wait the allotted time before removing.
- Fill a large bucket with water to have on hand.
- Depending on your type of brick, use wire/plastic brushes and paint scrapers to remove initial layer(s) of paint and stripping product gunk.
- Use wet rags to do an initial rinse of the brick.
- Dispose of used water in the toilet or as your municipality recommends and refill as necessary.
- Fill the paint sprayer with water and turn on the compressor.
- At close range, begin spraying the brick to remove the remaining stripper and paint gunk remnants.
- You may still need to get in with some brushes or dental picks, but the time spent scrubbing will be much less.
- Dispose of paint gunk according to your local regulations.
Using pressurized water to clean the brick at close range was beneficial for a number of reasons:
- More spray control vs. other pressurized methods.
- Decreased overspray
- Less water use overall to get on the floor. Just make sure you have absorbent drop cloths and towels to catch any of the runoff.
- More crevice-cleaning power which greatly decreases the amount of time you need to scrub or use dental tools.
*Note: We don’t think that a homegrade stand-alone paint spraying gun would work, but if someone tries it and it works, let me know.
Our next step after we get all the woodwork finished, we plan on cleaning up and darkening the brick using the technique given at 1912 Bungalow, using a mixture of 50/50 boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits.