Do Up Diary #63 How to expose old brickwork for that bare brick effect

So you saw our exposed brick where and why last week and now I can show you some of the hows too!

We’re well underway creating the bare brick feature walls in the hallway and landings at Moregeous Mansions and it’s been a very dusty, dirty couple of weeks. Not only did we need to remove three floors of old, crumbling plaster and hoist that into the skip, but I made the slightly deranged decision to save the original wallpaper from the front of the plaster! It wasn’t easy but we managed it, leaving us with several sheets of fab soon-to-be-artwork to decorate the new walls.

Fancy seeing a quick video?

These were the steps taken:

  1. Roughly remove all the old plaster using a plasterers trowel with a wide, strong flat edge. If you’ve got tough, hard, newer plaster you might need a hammer & bolster and a heartier breakfast than normal.
  2. If you have original coving, carefully saw a clean edge at the decorative base edge rather than bashing away with a hammer & bolster. This is because sometimes the coving or cornice is loose and can crack and fall off the wall with heavy vibrations from a hammer, leaving you with expensive reparation work to do.
  3. Chunks of the old plaster fell out from behind my coving / cornice so we filled the gaps with plasterboard adhesive, gently forcing it up behind & in the gaps to grip the coving and make it secure again.
  4. Scrub the partially exposed bricks and mortar with a wire brush to remove most of the remaining mortar lumps and bumps. Wear gloves, if you don’t want blisters!
  5. For any remaining stubborn bit of plaster, we used a paint brush to thinly coat the brick fronts (not the delicate mortar joints) with a mortar cleaning solution. I tend not to water it down. These solutions generally contain a percentage of hydrochloric acid so its a good idea to wear protective clothing, gloves and glasses for splashes. When you gently brush the acid solution on the brick front, you’ll see it fizz and froth over the areas where mortar remains. I love that bit 🙂
  6. Leave for ten minutes or so and then scrub with the wire brush again to remove any stubborn bits. If necessary & if you want super clean bricks, you can pop a bit more cleaner on. I also used a flat rigid small scraper to lift any really stubborn bits off and clean around the edges of each brick but then again I’m a perfectionist.
  7. Thoroughly wash the walls down with cold water, changing your water regularly. We used a gorilla bucket and a soft floor brush. This is messy, wet and dirty, wear wellies! And don’t, as I did, make the mistake of letting your cat in half way through then watch her run into your bedroom & jump on the bed…. #doh
  8. Let the walls dry then check over them again. You may see grey remnants of mortar and plaster on the front red faces of the bricks and you can give those another clean if required.
  9. Use a soft brush for a final wipe down.
  10. When the bricks are totally dry, seal them to prevent dust and grit – new blog post later this week on that.

On my period property walls, with their soft, old bricks and crumbling plaster, the above worked a treat but if you’ve a huge wall or newer, harder bricks and mortar, you might need to employ sand blasting techniques or a wire brush attachment on a drill. Luckily we got away with a far less abrasive method!

The cleaned bricks still all need to be sealed and I’ve decided on a contemporary flat finish. Then we need to fill and sand the tops of all the skirtings. Now I remember why I’ve not done this for a few years… it’s bloody hard work. But worth it though, they’re going to look ace!

Of course, you could completely cheat, save your nails and just buy some brick inspired wallpaper like these. Now why didn’t I think of that earlier…. 😉

Brick wallpaper
Images: Next and I Love Wallpaper

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