There is a common misconception that painting over the brick on houses only happened in the 20th century. In fact many historic brick houses were painted early on in their lives and there were several reasons for this. Bricks were painted to conceal alterations like repairs, bricked up windows or door openings. Another reason was to cover up years of coal soot, grime and graffiti. Painting over bricks was also done to seal protect old, spalled bricks or to disguise and protect poor quality bricks. The last reason was simply as a design feature.
You can remove paint from your brick work successfully as long as the bricks were in good condition before they were painted. Removing paint properly can be an arduous task, but it does need to be done properly. Sandblasting and power washing are probably the quickest methods, but to be honest aiming equipment like this at old buildings is something that should be avoided. Sandblasting and pressure washing are quick ways to erode the surface of the bricks and the chemical solutions used can sometimes cause surface failures or can change the colour of the bricks. Even using low-pressure washing or gentle chemical solutions can force moisture into the brick and also cause damage. This damage is especially likely if the bricks do not dry out before freezing weather. In such circumstances, a paint removal service can be the only option available to clear the paint from your walls and floor at work.
Because clay bricks are heat fired and a hard outside skin is produced, paint removal often damages this hard surface and leaves the soft and porous inner part of the brick more susceptible to moisture intrusion, erosion and freeze damage. Once any of these things happen rapid deterioration is more than likely to occur and this will call for major repairs. Older bricks are the most likely to be damaged by paint removal as before 1870 bricks were moulded by hand and the final quality of the brick depended on the type of clay used and the skill of the brick maker. Modern bricks are harder in the centre but even they can be damaged by harsh methods of paint removal.
The best Paint Removal system is to use a gel or paste to dissolve the paint. This way is less likely to cause damage to historic bricks. Also, most paint before 1970 contained lead which makes paint removal a potential safety and environmental hazard. There are now products available that can be applied to large surfaces and contain the removed paint for proper disposal. Some paint removal chemicals are now biodegradable or non-toxic making them safer for people and the environment and the less caustic chemicals are less likely to damage the bricks.
Before you strip any paint from your house it is best to test on a small area first. Doing this can help you determine the effectiveness of the paint removal system, the condition of the bricks under the paint, how the chemical will affect the bricks and also how much work will be involved in removing the paint.
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