Some homeowners pay to have their homes outfitted to look like brick, so you may wonder why anyone would paint over beautiful brickwork. Many older homes will feature painted brick and mortar; such paint may have been applied for numerous reasons, including covering damaged or discoloured bricks or giving brick the look of stone or other facades. Regardless of the reason, removing paint from brick can be a tricky process; some types of brick can be extremely susceptible to damage from chemicals or intense cleaning. But you can try several techniques to remove paint without harming the brick surface.
Peel away any loosened paint with your fingers, or scrape loosened areas with a wooden scraper. Scrub at the surface with a stiff bristle scrub brush to loosen or remove flaking paint. Remove as much paint as possible with these methods alone.
Lightly spray the surface with clean, cool water from a hose; do not use a high-pressure hose or nozzle, as this can damage the brick. Repeat scrubbing and scraping to remove any paint loosened by water; older water-based paints may come loose with just water application.
Mix 480 ml (2 cups) of trisodium phosphate cleaner into 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of warm water. Dampen the bristles of your scrub brush in this cleaning solution and scrub at the remaining paint. The TSP cleaner will help to dissolve some of the paint.
Paint a thin layer of commercial paint stripper onto the remaining paint. Use as little thinner as possible because some of the chemicals in the thinner can damage a brick surface. Allow the thinner to sit on the paint for five minutes, and then scrub or scrape away loosened paint.
Apply a gel or paste paint-removal system, available at some hardware and home improvement stores. Follow all specific product instructions for your paint removal system; most involve applying the gel, followed by strips of fabric to peel the paint away.
Rinse the brick surface with clean, cool water after all paint-removal efforts to wash away residual paint stripper or removal chemicals.
Spot-test all paint-removal solutions on an inconspicuous area of the brick to ensure that the solution will not damage or discolour the brick. Remove the paint from your bricks at least three months ahead of the first predicted frost date; this will allow time for all moisture to evaporate from the bricks and mortar before freezing. Freezing and thawing moisture can cause serious damage to the bricks.
Sandblasting and pressure-washing can remove paint, but will easily damage any old, weak or soft bricks. Do not attempt these cleaning methods unless you are sure of the sturdiness of your bricks. Paint on older brick buildings may contain lead, which can be harmful if not disposed of properly. If you suspect that the paint on your brick was applied before 1970, consult a professional painter for advice.