Exposed brick walls and fireplaces are considered by many to be an aesthetic asset. If your home or apartment contains interior brick walls, it's worth the sweat equity to restore them instead of covering them up with a new coat of paint or plaster. Whether your brick walls are dirty, the mortar is crumbling, or they are covered with peeling paint, it is possible to restore them to their original glory. Brick walls can add warmth to a room and create a look that is at once rustic and modern.
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Things you need
- Plastic tarp
- Paint scraper, heat gun or chemical paint remover
- Matching replacement bricks
- Matching mortar
- Shop vacuum or dust brush
- Clean cloth
- Brick sealant and brush
Remove old paint. At one point in time, someone thought it was a good idea to paint that brick wall a drab shade of beige, but now it's peeling and you'd prefer to see the natural, rich red shade of the brick beneath. Removing paint from brick can be a challenge, but there are several methods from which to choose, depending on the age of your home and type of brick. These methods include scraping the paint, stripping it with heat, or applying chemicals that dissolve the paint. Each method has its risks, so take necessary safety precautions. Whichever method you choose you should place a plastic tarp to protect the floor beneath the wall before you begin stripping the paint, and be sure to wear a respirator.
Replace missing bricks. If your interior brick wall is missing a few bricks, matching new ones may prove a challenge, especially if the brick is consistent in colour. It's much easier to replace new brick, though you may have to search hard for historic replicas. Try visiting an architectural salvage yard to find a close match or consult a professional who specialises in historic restorations.
Re-point the mortar. Over time, the mortar between bricks cracks or falls out. Re-pointing brick is a process that involves clearing out damaged mortar with a paint scraper or Dremel attachment and filling it in with new mortar to form a stronger bond and preserve the integrity of the wall. Mix mortar to match the wall's original construction, which may require a little research into the history of your home to determine the mortar's material composition. Fill in the gaps between the bricks and allow to harden.
Clean dust and debris from the wall. The process of removing paint and repairing the mortar likely generated a lot of dust, if the wall wasn't already covered with it. Use a vacuum attachment or dust brush to remove debris from the wall. It's a good idea to leave that plastic tarp in place to save time on cleaning the floor. Finish by wiping the wall down with a clean, slightly damp cloth.
Seal the brick and mortar. You may consider using a clear, epoxy-based sealant to seal your brick wall and prevent the grout from giving off more dust particles in the future. Sealant is easily applied with a brush, but keep in mind it will likely darken the colour of the brick and add some sheen.
Tips and warnings
- Consider hiring a professional to replace bricks and re-point the mortar if you lack experience to ensure an attractive, historically accurate result.
- Muriatic acid should not be used to strip paint from some types of older brick, as it may discolour them.
- If your house was built before 1978, take care when removing paint as it could contain lead. Use protective equipment to avoid distributing harmful dust into the air.
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