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Removing paint from interior brick wall - advice please

(12 Posts)
EastMids2 Mon 01-Aug-16 14:26:51

We've recently moved to old cottage (thick hamstone walls) and one room downstairs has a brick facing. It was painted a grubby cream and discoloured in patches - we thought maybe rising damp but apparently not - together with some areas of greying mortar coming through.

In a fit of wanting it just to look "clean", we painted over with ordinary white emulsion and all was well for a few weeks. However, the white paint is now flaking off and there is a powdery residue which I thought was mineral salts at first, but if you rub it between fingers it gets all sticky, almost returning to liquid paint! Any idea what is going on?

We would actually now like to remove all the paint and leave brickwork exposed, so need product recommendation if possible. Thank you.

wowfudge Mon 01-Aug-16 14:58:46

Sounds as though the original paint is distemper and this is why it looked patchy and has caused the paint to flake off. You'll need to scrape it all off I'm afraid. Friends had distemper on the ceilings in their house.

EastMids2 Mon 01-Aug-16 15:25:01

Thanks Wowfudge, yes I vaguely remember the word "distemper" being mentioned I think - what exactly is this stuff? (will google later!).

So how do I scrape it off - tried a sanding machine this morning - took 20 mins for one brick and that wasn't a great finish either. What about some form of paint stripper (Nitromors or something). Actual "scraping" won't work as not all paint loose/flakey, original distemper well stuck on majority of bricks!

wowfudge Mon 01-Aug-16 16:15:05

I don't think there is an easy way sadly. It's not something I have had to do myself. Have a look online - there are bound to be tips.

JT05 Mon 01-Aug-16 16:30:37

I've seen paint removed from exterior brick work, but it was sandblasted. Not a good idea for indoors!
I think it must have affected the brickwork because a few years later they had it rendered.

Sorry not much help.

teacherwith2kids Mon 01-Aug-16 16:35:26

I used this stuff on a brick fire surround that had been painted in several layers, finishing up with ... brick colour paint..

It got it all off, and was perfectly pleasant to use (I have eczema abnd asthma, so traditional solvent-based strippers are bad news). Didn't need to treat the bricks afterwards, but they're not that old (1920s) so they were pretty solid and in good condition. Don't know about the distemper, but probably work a patch test at least.

PigletJohn Mon 01-Aug-16 16:58:32

distemper is mostly ground chalk bound together with a glue made from boiled-up dead horses. It is usually in pale pastel colours because any tint you add is overwhelmed by the chalk. It is not successful to paint on. The glue dissolves in hot water but not in cold. You will notice the characteristic unpleasant smell once you use hot water.

Bricks are naturally absorbent so it will be hard to scrub it off. A jetwasher might do it but would wash out the mortar and probably damage the bricks too.

Do you want o end up with bare bricks, or to have it plastered? Is it going to be perfectly dry, or a bit damp?

How old is the house?

EastMids2 Mon 01-Aug-16 22:19:43

Thanks to all for comments - I've been googling distemper and other stuff about paint removing products, some of which seem quite dangerous to use in terms of caustic stuff!

In answer to your questions PigLet John: We have patch tested a few bricks by using steam cleaner attachment then scrubbing off the residue. Not terribly effective, as you say the bricks are very absorbent! Would a chemical paint removing product be more effective?

I think we'd be happy to have bare brick. It's just one wall in an area with natural light and other white plastered walls. It definitely won't be plastered. The cottage has damp areas (I've followed your previous advice re condensation, air circulation etc and this has cleared up patches of mould completely) so a totally dry wall is unlikely. It used to be a corner outside wall and now has a bathroom extension joining part of it. The main house was built in 1839.

PigletJohn Mon 01-Aug-16 22:53:40

I don't think a chemical stripper would help. They usually break down oil paint. Distemper is not oil paint.

The only thing I have used that works is hot water and scrubbing. But that will make the wall and the floor wet, and take time to dry. Sanding and scraping didn't work for me.

If it is built with lime mortar, you could have it replastered with lime plaster, but I don't know if it will adhere to distemper. Probably not. You could use a wire brush, which will damage the bricks and mortar.

teacherwith2kids Tue 02-Aug-16 10:34:13

Would a brief dose of chemical stripper to remove the emulsion that you have put over the top, followed by hot water and scrubbing to get off the distemper work? The hot water won't work on the distemper under the emulsion if it's well stuck down?

We've dealt with similar horrible, slow jobs by adopting a 'tiny bit at a time' approach and tick list - 'one clean brick before supper'....

apatheticfallacy Tue 02-Aug-16 10:46:31

I did this a few years ago. It was a LOT of work because there were many many layers of paint (quite fascinating to see all the colours!)

I used a paint stripper from b&q and scraped (lots of elbow grease) and then repeated and repeated and then it took a lot of scrubbing with a wire brush and more paint stripper and then a lot of rinsing down. I've moved since and I don't have a photo of the end result to hand but it looked great - slightly distressed looking brickwork. They're normal red bricks though, not stone work.

Please let us know how you get on with before and after pics!

EastMids2 Tue 02-Aug-16 17:13:24

Well we are persevering with the hot water, steam gun and scraping and have also invested in some chemical stripper paste for a couple of bricks that appear to have been gloss painted on some layers. Hard work but it's got to be better than the stained, peeling and flakey look before! Accepted it won't be pristine (and that's not the look we want for the cottage anyway) - "characterful" is more the word .....

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