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Removing Paint from Brick Fireplace
Q. My daughter just bought a house in which the former owners painted the fireplace bricks "fire engine" red and the motor between the bricks white. (Yes, they really did this) My question is, How can the paint be removed (besides sand blasting) and restored to the original brick?Gloria W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- La Habra, California
Q. I have the exact same problem. Previous owner painted the mortar white and the brick surface red. As a bonus, they only painted above the mantel to the ceiling. The area below the mantel is still plain brick.
I would like to either remove the paint and have it all natural brick or cover everything in one color. One twist is that the gas logs put out a lot of heat, so I can't use just any paint.Rick H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Cary, North Carolina
A. One method of paint removal from bricks and mortar is to use grit blasting as is done to remove graffiti from building and walls. The key is to find the correct media to use- something like sodium bicarbonate, wheat shells, pecan or walnut shells. I know these materials are used for grit blasting plastic molded parts. I'm sure there are companies that specialize in this technology. There are companies like Clemco Industries that sell the equipment and other companies that sell the media. There are also companies that do the work. Using sand would be too cutting and remove the finish from the bricks and remove mortar.
Hope this information helps.James T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Overland Park, Kansas
Q. I've got the same problem. The previous owners of our house painted an entire, beautiful brick wall white! I've spent six hours stripping away the paint and only uncovered six bricks. AUGH!Danita B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Atlanta, Georgia
A. I stripped a brick fireplace once using a standard stripper and it took weeks. I bought a 100 year old home back in 1999 and it had the same problem only worse. Not only was the fireplace painted but so too was the exterior entrance way and chimney. I decided to try the fireplace first before tackling the exterior brick.
I am using a new product (new to me anyway) called "Peel Away [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]". It is a goopy white stripper you trowel on to the brick and then cover with a fibrous paper which supposedly stops the chemicals from evaporating allowing it to slowly eat away 30 layers of paint or more. You then peel away the paper and it is supposed to pull the paint right off, even from out of the porous surface of the brick. Since my bricks are decorated with striations or grooves cut in to the surface, I thought this would be just the thing.
Well, the product works but not nearly as well as claimed. It really did eat through right to the brick in just one application but when I pulled the paper off it came off with little or no goop adhered to it. It left the putty like stripper on the brick which I then had to scrape off by hand leaving paint in the pores and the grooves. Although that paint was loose, I couldn't get at it with anything.
I just finished scraping and washing and scraping and washing the first application. I am going to try it again hoping the "peel away" aspect of the product will work when there is hardly any paint left. I really think the problem was that although it loosened the paint right down to the brick in most places, it did not loosen the lowest layers all that much so that the tension holding those layers to the brick was stronger than the tension holding the goop to the paper that you peel away. I am hopeful that a second application will pull that last paint out of the pores and grooves.
If your brick is smooth faced, this product will work a lot better for you that it has for me because you can scrape a lot easier over a smooth, uniform surface than a jagged one. The scraper on my bricks "catches" on all the grooves and raised textures. Smooth bricks could be easily scraped clean.
The stuff is way faster than the standard stuff I tried on the first fireplace so although it did not work as well as I hoped, it did work way better than anything else I tried previously.
- Syracuse, New York
Ed. note: letter 15743 was on a similar topic and we have summarized there a number of suggested ways to remove paint from brick.
A. My boyfriend and I recently bought a house that has a brick fireplace that was painted. We really enjoy the warmth of a fire all winter long and want to put in a wood stove insert. We had a chimney inspector come and among other things flagged the paint on the fireplace as a fire hazard for the wood stove! I couldn't believe it. So I did a search for removing paint from a fireplace and here I found some great solutions.
I have to tell others what worked for us. After the removing process, we learned that there were 5 layers of paint on the fireplace! White, Mint Green, Creamy Yellow, Brown and another new layer of white paint.
I got Soy Gel [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. It is a non-chemical solution to removing paint. We did a test spot first to see how long we could leave this gel on before it hardened. Well it still hasn't hardened and the longer we leave it on the easier the paint comes off.
The first layer wrinkled up and peeled off just like a layer of latex. The next 4 layers were easily removed with a small putty knife by scraping the brick.
Then we took a wire brush and brushed our hearts out to reveal some really nice red brick with a few black bricks throughout.
The process went much faster than I anticipated and we did apply the gel every time we were done peeling and scraping for that session. The more you put on the more effective it was.
It is very messy so make sure you have everything well covered.
Hope this helps.
- Manchester, Connecticut
Q. We just found out that some of the antique brick used to build our 4 year old fireplace is coated in lead paint. Does anyone have any experience with this - should it be removed and, if so, how can we best minimize the lead danger? Can or should it be sealed in some fashion to prevent lead dust from entering the room as the paint deteriorates over time? Its beautiful brick, but I never would have chosen it if I'd known about the lead.
- Sturbridge, Massachusetts
A. I am not understanding whether this fireplace was built from old bricks, some of which had paint on them, or whether it was built with new bricks of an "antique look". Because in the former case it seems funny that only some bricks are painted, and in the latter case it seems highly improbable that lead paint was used in their manufacture.
Although it is true that contractors are careful to capture the paint flakes and dust when they sandblast an old bridge that has lead paint, I've personally never heard of interior paint spontaneously "dusting" such that it is dangerous to breathe. The only lead poisoning I've heard of in a home setting is an infant chewing on paint. If others know differently, enlighten me. Pending that, I'd leave it be and worry about something else. If I disliked it, I'd remove it with solvent, but I wouldn't sandblast it.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
As a home stager, this is a problem where we often use brick-anew. We don't have to blast; there are a variety of colors; and you can even get it too look like real brick. Getting paint off of brick is just too costly and time consuming. Try them: www.brick-anew.com
home staging - Atlanta, Georgia
Thanks, Britt, but as you home stagers always say: "The way you live in your home, and the way you sell your house are two different things". Some readers like Danita B very obviously don't want to live with painted brick whether painting it is the cheapest way to dress it up for sale or not.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
As profound as your adage is, the bottom line often comes down to what a consumer can afford. A complete overhaul of a fireplace is an expensive and time consuming endeavor. Brick-anew offered me an alternative to a big investment so I could spend money on things like my child. So, if one tries to live by the caprices of the world, they will always be seen as poor in the eyes of some people and unhappy, but if one lives within their means they will always be happy.Britt Bergman
brick - Atlanta, Georgia
The post above by "Britt Bergman," I have seen this before on a few other forums, such as Bob Vila's website. He or she says they are a home stager, when in reality they work for brick-anew. On Bob Vila's page, Britt Bergman says he's the web master for Brick-anew. Red flags going up over here.
I want to try this product, but it's this kind of stuff that scares me. I don't want to drop $200.00 on something that is going to turn out badly. Has anyone who doesn't work for the company tried this product? I cannot find one single response that doesn't sound like they work for them.Dena Klein
- Chicago Illinois
October 4, 2007
I found the posting that you referred us to on Bob Vila's website, Dena, and apparently you are reading correctly. Unfortunately the anonymity of the internet makes testimonials pretty much worthless so we discourage them. How can you ever know the vested interests of a stranger unless you catch them at it? Testimonials are better from friends & neighbors, and evaluations may be better from organizations like Consumer Reports [link is to product info at Amazon].
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 23, 2008
I read the first few questions and immediately thought about redoing my fireplace three years ago. My fireplace was a terrible yellow color and I looked for a solution for months. I ended up using Brick-ANew and painted my brick an off white color. I saw that they apparently had an employee posting on this forum which caused some problems, but I do have to say that you can't beat it for fireplace decorating.
- Birmingham, Alabama
Q. How do you remove paint from brick "outside" the house? I am doing the Arts and Crafts look on my 1914 wood bungalow. The only brick on the house is the porch and the chimney of which only the chimney is painted (white like the house). I really want to take it back to natural brick. My contractor just said "no." I had assumed it was not that big of a deal. How does one remove paint from chimney economically time-wise and money-wise? I can't bare to paint this chimney green!Shirley Tomlin
hobbyist (home owner) - Birmingham, Alabama
A. My husband and I bought a home that had a brick fireplace that was painted white with the mortar painted black - EEEK. We used the Peel Away [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] compound mentioned above, and then followed up with lots of elbow grease (and a few choice words). We used wire brushes and paint remover liquid we purchased at Wal Mart to remove the paint from the mortar. The finished result was a distressed brick look (we could have gotten it totally clean, but that was the look we were going for). We were quite happy with the results, but be prepared for a mess. I would advise drop cloths for any item/floor near the fireplace if they will not be later replaced. We used the Peel Away twice in some places. To the post above - the wire brushes and liquid paint remover did a great job of getting those last bits of paint from the faces of the brick grooves. Best of luck to those brave enough to undertake this project. - Just a do-it-yourself home remodeler.Imo Jean Douglas
- Amarillo, Texas
Q. Has anyone had to remove drywall from a brick fireplace? We chipped the drywall off, but we are left with blobs of glue/epoxy. We have tried paint remover, wire brush, etc., but hope for a quicker and easier solution. Thanks for any help.Peggy Atwood
- Medford, Oregon
April 3, 2008
Q. I used "Peel Away" to strip layers upon layers of paint off the brick fireplace in our 1896 home. I am mostly down to the bottom layer now, but I can't stand to use any more "Peel Away." It's so caustic! I got the knees of my pants wet, and it made "burned places on my skin. You have to be very, very careful with it, and it's messy.
After all this work, I think I'd rather just put a fresh new white coat of pain on the fireplace than use Peel Away again.
Also, I didn't cover my hardwoods well enough. You need to make sure your "wash" water doesn't get on the floor or it will mar the wood. You need heavy plastic around the area where you are working.
I'd like to try the Soy Gel [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] paint remover. I was wondering if anyone knows: Can I use this on top of Peel Away? Or am I stuck with Peel Away now?
- Baltimore, Maryland
May 19, 2008
A. We used Soy Gel [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] relatively successfully to strip white paint off our our fireplace:
Unfortunately our fireplace was so tall that it would have been ridiculously difficult to try and do the entire thing, so we eventually settled on leaving it white. If you have a smaller fireplace I highly recommend the soygel, but it'll still be at least a weekends worth of work.
- Lake Forest, California
April 1, 2009
Q. I recently bought a house , the whole inside is pink, and yes the whole wall along with the fireplace is Pink, the problem with the paint jib is that I think they used a rag and patted it down , it sort of raised , I want the original look back, I hope its brick(real brick) My thought was The whole inside of the house was Pink including the bathroom tiles, the toilet and the Bath tub My question is they don't make pink Brick custom ? do they? I have tried putting a gouge in the brick , it seem too be a thick pink. I will try the soy gel I just read about, any advise would be appreciated.Gerard con
home owner - Highland Michigan
May 1, 2009
Q. Hello: I have a painted brick fireplace. I wanted to know if anybody knows the original color of this type of brick. It is 15 1/2 inches long and 2 1/4 inches wide. It has a rough front. I would like to strip the paint, but won't if the original color is orange. The brick on the outside of the house as well as what is in the fireplace is your standard brick. The house was built in the 1950's.
- Los Gatos, California
June 29, 2009
Q. I've been working on stripping the paint from my cabinets and the masonry in my kitchen for some time now. I was wondering whether Soygel or Peel Away is better for masonry? What about the mortar? What product is best for the mortar?Mary Hart
- Tucson, Arizona
July 6, 2009
A. Several years ago I bought an arts and crafts bungalow c.1912 with beautiful natural woodwork throughout but a white painted fireplace ruining the effect. There had obviously been some problems with the brick as there was a badly patched crack and I guess the last owner didn't want to deal with it and took the easy way out. I considered stripping but in the end decided to call in a mason. I'm sure glad I did. I took several photos and then we took the fireplace apart brick by brick (it was easy as old mortar is quite soft). While I knocked off the old mortar from each brick (also easy) the mason turned them around paint side in and rebuilt the whole thing (150 bricks)in about six hours. It cost $600. and looks great. I'm sure glad I didn't try to strip paint! This might not work for every situation but it's something to consider.Gordon McQuinn
- Vancouver BC Canada
July 17, 2009
A. Yes I too have a problem with painted fireplace! I thought I'd reface it with brick layers, but I think I'll try soy gel or peel away. I could choke the idiot for painting it - color? Sh*t yellow! Like the rest of the house. Now I have re-painted the house, and am looking forward to a re-covering the fireplace.
Wish me well.
- Calgary Alberta Canada
September 29, 2010
Q. We needed to remove paint from our fossil Texas sandstone fireplace, just two bricks. We used Soy Gel [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. The product worked well; however, application and paint removal took approximately 2 hours over two days. The key to success is to leave the gel on the paint for several hours. We left it on one brick over night. Our fireplace is gorgeous again; however, if we had to remove lots of paint, we would find another method--if there is one.melissa sols
- Monroe, Washington, USA
October 8, 2010
A. I tried to remove white paint from some otherwise beautiful brick exterior walls. I tried so many products: Citristrip (left orange residue on the bricks), Ready Strip (hard to remove after application), Klean-Strip (worked better than most). Finally I settled on Behr Concrete and Masonry Stipper #992. Apply, let sit for several hours -I went 5-6 hrs and then powerwash. I do not work for any of these companies but spent a good deal of time and money exploring them all. Good luck with all your projects.Margo Davis
- Denver, Colorado
January 14, 2011
Oh gosh after reading all the comments, I think I'll leave my 120 year old fireplace alone. It has been heartbreaking when so many people in my city have lost their homes. My fireplace is now going to remain mottled. I really feel sorry for you blokes but there is nooooooo solution. Happy renokris gordon
- brisbane australia
March 2, 2011
Q. I wish to remove the brick face of my fireplace and replace the face with a narrower and shorter cement fireplace. Do I simply remove the brick as far back in to the wall as I wish and then reface with cement the size of my liking? Any suggestions?Tristan Mennell
teacher - Penticton, BC, Canada
April 9, 2013
Q. I am putting a fireplace insert into my 100 year old painted firebox in my Victorian home. I want to remove the paint. I don't care what the end product looks like since it will be covered. I just don't want it to smell when the heater is on as it will be sealed. Suggestions?Bill Blount
- Portland, Maine
February 14, 2014
A. I, too, bought a house with a painted brick wall. I tried a lot of things that worked so-so. I was thrilled when I discovered Peel-Away. Unfortunately, neither the paper nor scraping picked up much of the gooey mess. Tried a wire brush--ended up with hard to remove goo caked on the bristles. Switched to solvents with no success. The company says to wash off the residue with water. Water just smears the product so you end up with a surface coated with a thin chewing gum-like substance. I've tried everything, including peanut butter (which actually does work on chewing gum).
Got a phone # for the Peel-Away rep. Still waiting for him to get back to me.
I'm thinking that the only fix is to hang drywall.
I'm really disappointed because that wall was a major reason I bought the house in the 1st place.
- Denver Colorado usa
March 20, 2015
A. Spray the surface with water/soap mix and after few days, the paint will come off; then use your hand to peel it off like cooked potato skin. Or, buy light weight dry wall board $6 for 4' X8' to cover it up and you have a nice flat wall. This project will cost $50 max.Homer Simpsom
home - Vancouver, BC, Canada
March 24, 2015
Q. Could you tell me what proportions you used for the soap/water mix?Susan Matchett
- Coeur d Alene, Idaho, USA
May 17, 2015
Just remember; Where there's a will,there's a way. Never give up if it's that important to you. I have an older home I bought and the fireplace is painted black. I will find something to remove it and I don't care if it takes all year.Deborah F Corwin
- South Hill