Before demoing, you never really know what you’ll find. Will you uncover a giant headache or complete awesomeness?
This house tends to favor the “giant headache” side of those odds but that’s probably pretty typical for a house pushing 130ish years old. Certainly the whittled joist I uncovered in the bathroom fell in the “giant headache” category. The stupid pipe ended up only being a minor headache but I certainly waffled my way through that decision. Sort through the archives, I could go on & on.
One thing that this house really delivers complete awesomeness on though is some exposed brick. It’s really super good at it.
Being that it’s an interior home in the row (I have houses on both sides), the only windows are on the front & rear of the home. The 2 side walls top to bottom & front to back are 100% old school brick with plaster parged on top.
The only room that came with exposed brick was the back room on the 2nd floor. Here’s how it looked at inspection:
The previous owner told the tale of exposing the brick like it was the most arduous thing he had ever done. THE MESS! THE DUST! SCRUBBING IT WITH ACID! I stared wide-eyed at the horrid undertaking exposing brick must be and thought exposing any more maybe just wasn’t worth it.
And then I actually tried it.
And wondered what the EFFHOLE (sorry Mom) he was talking about.
Dust? WITHOUT QUESTION!
Acid? Completely unnecessary.
Worst, hardest project ever? Not even a little.
My first go at exposing brick was cleaning up the back of the closet I made for my roommate last year. The room had no closet and we all know girls need closet space. So with 3.5 weeks before she moved in, Dad & I built her a closet. It didn’t get blogged. She’s since moved out and half my kitchen has since moved into that space, so no photos.
My second try was in the 2nd floor bathroom. The plaster parged on that wall was too bad to bother repairing and - let’s be honest - an exposed brick wall in a bathroom is kind of awesome. Down came that plaster.
It’s not rocket science folks. Here’s basically how it goes:
- Scrape plaster off wall. I find a floor scraper or spackle knives and a hammer for gentle encouragement work well.
- Bag plaster (in lots of small batches, practically using an entire box of heavyweight construction bags. Sh*t is heavy).
- Scrub the brick. I like a combination of grill brush & drill attachment (see below).
- Vacuum & clean the brick (and everything else; you’ve made quite the mess by now).
- Seal the brick. I prefer a low lustre sealer like the one by Behr in the paint section at Home Depot.
Here’s the bathroom wall after it’s been scrubbed & sealed:
I haven’t bothered to repoint anything thus far. You certainly could, if you cared to. The walls under the plaster were never meant to be exposed. The joints are often uneven, with gaps & holes. Bricks are various sizes; some are cracked. None of my walls look perfect but they weren’t also ever supposed to see the light of day. I like this look. You might not. Personal preference.
In the kitchen, most of the plaster was already gone, with the previously framed wall sitting right against it.
While not scrubbed or clean, it was definitely one of the more awesome demo discoveries. It’s in solid shape, no cracks from settling or gaping holes. Instead of reframing the kitchen, I’m going to reclaim that 4″ (2×4′s studs + 1/2″ drywall of a framed wall) and mount my upper cabinets directly to the brick.
This also gives me an exposed brick wall in my kitchen. Which is kind of totally awesome.
The old framed wall came down easily. I saved the 2×4′s to repurpose.
And I was left with one very dusty (& blurry) brick wall.
After scrubbing though, it looked pretty good!
To clean up the face of the brick, I used a combination of wire brushes.
I find the traditional wire brushes are too stiff for my unfired brick. They leave scratches & gouges in the face which I find unsightly. A grill brush, however, works great! The bristles are thinner & softer and the big square face covers a decent amount of space (as far as wire brushes go).
I also like the wire brush attachment for my drill. It’s much faster & easier than scrubbing by hand and VERY thorough. You have to be a bit careful though! While these bristles aren’t as stiff as my traditional wire brushes, I find they do mar the face of the brick a little.
Sometimes I would get all the heavy stuff off with my drill brush and go back over everything with the grill brush to smooth out any swirl marks left by the drill brush.
After scrubbing, vacuum the ENTIRE WALL and the floor. And yourself.
You have to get off all the dust & debris you just created, otherwise it’ll be sealed to the brick forever and all your elbow grease will be for naught.
And because it was there, I also used the compressor with the compressed air attachment to blow off the wall. That worked great! I’m not saying you should run out & buy a compressor just for this project. But, if you own one, it’s probably worth dragging it up from the basement for this.
After sucking & blowing (that’s what she said) all the dust I sprayed the entire wall down with water and let it dry.
The I filled the garden sprayer with some low lustre sealer.
Sealing the brick is crucial.
Is the natural texture of the unsealed brick awesome? Yes.
Do you want to be cleaning up crumbling mortar & brick-dust every day from now until eternity? NO.
Unless you do. In which case, by all means stop right here and go grab yourself a cocktail with one of them little umbrellas. But I, personally, don’t enjoy cleaning so I’ll be using the sealer thankyouverymuch.
Sealing the brick will also make it easier to clean splatters off of. It is a kitchen, after all. Sure the nooks & crannies will always be there but at least they’ll be more wipeable.
And while you’re at it, grab yourself one of these little garden sprayers. They’re not expensive and they make sealing the brick pretty painless.
I tried using a brush for the sealer up in the bathroom. That wall was about 8.5′ x 9′. It took me 3 hours to do HALF of it (so roughly a 8.5′ x 4.5′ area). I wanted to kill myself (hyperbolically speaking of course).
It took me 20 minutes to spray this entire kitchen wall. The spray gets in an all the nooks & crannies. If there’s a deep hole you can shoot it right in there. The sealer absorbs into the brick & mortar and dries very hard. While not structural, it completely stops all of the crumbling that tends to happen with old mortar.
As I spray, I use a paint brush to even things out and spread the drips so nothing dries blotchy or drippy. The process typically goes:
- Spray a section
- Use paint brush to back brush
Seriously, that easy. I did 2 coats, although I’m not sure I really needed the 2nd one. Better safe than sorry. I used less than 2 gallons of sealer on the kitchen wall.
After you’re done spraying, you can pour the excess sealer back into the jug to reuse. Remember to flush the sprayer out with water right away. Dried sealer would ruin it.
To clean, I fill the sprayer up with water, pressurize it, and spray through all the water. My sprayer has a lock on it so you can set it up to continuous spray. I set it up in the bathtub and let it continuous spray while I clean my paint brush. Just SET IT and FORGET IT! You only have to repressurize it a few times for the whole jug. I run 2 full sprayers of water through it before leaving it disassembled to dry. Turn the shower for a few minutes on after you’re done to rinse any residual sealer out of the tub.
Tools I used:
- Garden sprayer, similar to this one (for sealer & water – for the pre-sealing wash-down)
- Low Lustre Sealer
- My favorite paint brush (although any paint brush would be totally fine)
- Grill brush (I think mine was $2 at the grocery store.)
- Drill attachment brush
- Shop vac & compressed air
Here’s a pic of the sealed brick vs. unsealed brick:
The sealed brick looks a little glossy up close but overall, it reads as a very matte finish.
I should note that this is what I do on interior walls only. Exterior walls are completely different and should be handled differently.
The wall is ready! Consider my backsplash officially complete. CHECK!
Now I just have to, oh…I don’t know, build the kitchen.
What your thoughts on exposed brick? Love it? Hate it? Classic look or too played out? Ever expose a wall of your own? I’d love to hear!