How to Remove Paint From a Brick Fireplace

Many people see a painted brick fireplace and wonder about the possibilities. Maybe the paint isn’t in great shape, and the hints of brick below are just too enticing to ignore. Perhaps the color of paint isn’t your style, or you simply enjoy the industrial look of exposed brick. In any case, all you can think about is how to remove paint from a brick fireplace.

When it comes to how to remove paint from a brick fireplace, the process is often complex and lengthy, but it’s doable. You’ll usually need some kind of stripping agent, like trisodium phosphate (TSP) or paint stripper gel. A bit of elbow grease is also a must, as well as patience.

If you prefer to go chemical-free, there are options available. However, they may not be as effective or could take far more time and effort, making the project a bit cumbersome. If you’re ready to move forward, here’s a look at how to remove paint from a brick fireplace.

How to Remove Paint From Brick Fireplace

Why Do People Paint Brick Fireplaces?

Before you hop into removing paint from your brick fireplace, it’s essential to understand why it might be painted, particularly if you didn’t apply the first coats yourself. In some cases, paint is used to hide damage to the brick.

Paint is a simple way to disguise moisture problems, discoloration, and staining. Sometimes, it may even lessen physical degradation, as the paint may bind the surface together, essentially slowing any crumbling.

When you remove the paint, you may reveal whatever problem prompted that initial coat in the first place. In some cases, that can lead to new challenges. Restoring the look and integrity of the brick may ultimately be costly. You may even get practically forced into hiring a professional.

Since that’s the case, it’s best to test the brick before you get fully into the project. If an issue is hidden behind the paint, you can decide whether to move forward or if another course of action may be best.

Can You Remove Paint from a Brick Fireplace?

Yes, you can remove paint from a brick fireplace. However, the process is often labor-intensive and typically involves some harsh chemicals to pull off.

One of the reasons that removing paint from brick is difficult is that brick is porous. Additionally, while brick is durable, you can damage the surface if you scrub with the wrong materials or apply too much pressure.

Still, it is doable with enough time, attention, and care. Just make sure you’re ready for a lengthy project before you begin.

Is Removing Paint from Brick Difficult?

Yes, removing paint from brick is difficult. As mentioned above, brick is porous, which can create challenges when removing paint. Plus, it’s highly textured – creating nooks and crannies for the paint to reach – and, while tough, it can be damaged with certain types of scrubbing or high amounts of pressure.

In total, expect the working time to run from two to four days; however, the total time for the project can be up to two weeks.

Many of the paint strippers need a chance to soak, which means leaving a potentially dangerous substance sitting in a living area. If you’re removing paint from a fireplace in your home, that could make this project particularly dangerous, too.

How to Remove Paint from a Brick Fireplace

How to Remove Paint from Brick

Removing paint from a brick fireplace is usually a multi-step process. Regardless of the approach you choose, it’s also a time when you need to don some safety gear.

Many of the chemicals used in removing paint from brick are potentially harmful. Plus, you can kick up dust, dirt, and debris along the way. As a result, you’ll want to wear gloves, eye protection, and a breathing mask any time you’re working on the fireplace.

Additionally, some of the materials could be harmful to your flooring, hearth, or other parts of your home. Taping down a drop cloth around the bottom edge is essential, giving you an initial level of protection.

You may also want to take off walls touching the brick. In some cases, covering them in plastic sheeting that’s sealed on with tape may be wise, as that could reduce the odds of any paint stripper contacting your walls.

If the paint is old, it’s wise to test it for lead before you begin. You can get a home test kit that will give you speedy results. Just know that if it’s positive, you’ll need to hire an abatement company to deal with the paint.

Finally, if you’re using a chemical stripper, make sure to do a test spot before moving forward with the entire fireplace. Some may be stronger than you’d expect, so it’s always best to do a test before moving forward with the whole fireplace. Also, only move forward if you can ventilate the room, as fumes from many chemicals are harmful.

1. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)

Savogran 10622 Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) 4.5lbsFor only a thin layer of paint on a brick fireplace, TSP may do the trick. Start by adding ½ cup of TSP to a gallon of warm water, stirring until it dissolves. Then, use a stiff nylon brush, apply the TSP solution to the brick, and give it a light scrub.

Next, let the TSP solution sit on the paint for about 10 minutes. After that, scrub the brick again to remove the paint.

You can repeat the process several times before rinsing the brick with fresh, clean water. If all of the paint comes off, make sure you rinse very thoroughly to get all of the TSP off of the brick. If not, the paint may be thicker than TSP can handle, making a paint stripper a better option for getting the rest.

2. Paint Stripper Gel

Citristrip QCSG801 Paint & Varnish Stripping Gel, 1 Quarts (Pack of 1), RedIf you prefer a traditional paint stripper, you’ll want to go with a gel. Along with going on thicker, gel paint stripper sticks better to vertical surfaces, allowing it to do its job with less dripping. However, using a paint stripper is always messy, even with a gel that isn’t inclined to drip.

Before applying the gel, use a TSP solution (as described above) to clean the brick, rinse off the TSP and let the paint dry.

Next, apply the paint stripper gel according to the manufacturer’s directions. Usually, you’ll apply it with a brush, ensuring the layer is thick but not overly drippy.

Let the paint stripper sit per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, take a putty knife or scraper and test the paint. If the paint seems thick, soft, and gooey, you can start scraping. Keep the angle relatively shallow and use light to moderate pressure to avoid damaging the brick.

As the paint comes off, dump it into a trash bag. After going over the entire fireplace once, you can apply a second coat of paint stripper gel and let it sit.

For paint in nooks and crannies, you may want to transition to a stiff-bristled brush instead of the scraper. A nylon brush can work, though the paint stripper will harm the material. However, the brush should last the entire project.

Once the paint is gone, follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding rinsing or cleanup.

3. Vinegar

VinegarIf you’ve used a paint stripper and there’s still some paint stuck to small areas of the brick, a vinegar and water solution could help you get the rest removed. You’ll want to use hot water – exercising caution to avoid burns – and add vinegar to it to create a 50/50 ratio.

Apply the vinegar solution to the brick and scrub using a stiff-bristled brush. If you’re dealing with tiny crevices, a disposable toothbrush could be a solid option for tackling this task.

4. Acetone

Super Nail Pure Acetone Polish Remover, 8 oz (Pack of 2)Acetone is highly effective at removing paint. However, it’s highly flammable, produces a strong odor, and the fumes are potentially harmful to breathe. As a result, it isn’t ideal for closed-off spaces or areas where open flames are common.

If you do use acetone, you’ll need to work pretty quickly. Leaving your work unattended isn’t an option, as the acetone may go through the paint faster than you’d expect.

Since that’s the case, it’s best to work in sections. Use a clean rag to apply the acetone. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub the spot with a stiff-bristled brush. Repeat the process until the paint is removed. Then, rinse the brick to remove any remaining acetone.

5. WD40

WD 40If you have wet water-based paint on brick, WD-40 could be your go-to option to get the paint removed before it dries. It functionally displaces water, allowing you to essentially wipe away the water-based paint after the WD-40 is applied.

Simply spray the area with WD-40. Let it sit for a few minutes, then dab up the paint. If you have stubborn spots, spray fresh WD-40, scrub the area with a stiff brush, and then wipe up the paint.

6. Heat Gun

BLACK+DECKER Heat Gun, Dual Temperature (HG1300)If you have a newer brick painted, a heat gun may allow you to remove the paint without chemicals. The process is labor-intensive, as you do have to hold the device the entire time and slowly work your away across the surface.

Heat guns generate enough heat to effectively pull the paint off the surface. However, it’s a tricky approach to use. While you want to leave the heat on a spot long enough to make the paint removable, too much time can damage the underlying surface.

Ideally, you want to begin using less time and testing frequently, such as using a stiff-bristled brush or scraper to see if the paint comes off. That allows you to estimate an optimal time for the heat, giving you a baseline you can use moving forward.

Once you find the baseline, apply the heat to the paint. Follow that up with a scraper or stiff-bristled brush to get the paint off. Continue that process until the paint is removed.

How Long Does It Take to Remove Paint from a Brick Fireplace?

How long it takes to remove all of the paint from a brick fireplace depends on the methods used and the size of the fireplace. For example, if you’re using paint stripping gel, you may need to let the gel sit for several hours before you start scrapping. Plus, it could take several attempts to get all of the paint.

Heat guns only allow you to work a small section at a time. That means even tiny fireplaces could take several hours, if not far longer.

Ultimately, it’s best to assume that you’ll need to work on the fireplace over several days, usually around three or four. Additionally, with soaking, rinsing, and drying times, it may take one to two weeks to work through every step, depending on ambient conditions and other factors.

How to Remove Dried Paint from Brick

Generally speaking, you’ll want to use either TSP or paint stripper gel if you have a fireplace fully covered in dry paint. If there’s only a thin layer or two, TSP may do the trick. Otherwise, you may want to use a paint stripper gel instead.

However, if the fireplace is small, you could try a heat gun instead. Similarly, if you only have specks of paint instead of full coats, a vinegar solution or acetone may be solid options.

Should I Use a Power Washer to Remove Paint from Brick?

Using a power washer to remove paint from a brick fireplace isn’t recommended in most cases. High pressure – particularly when it’s fairly pinpointed – can weaken or damage the brick. It may remove small divots from the surface, chunk out loose mortar, or even crack bricks that aren’t in great shape.

Plus, using a power washer indoors is messy. While you can control the spray, water will ultimately get everywhere, which may not be ideal for your flooring, furnishings, walls, or other surfaces.

If you try a pressure washer, you need to work carefully. Begin by using a wider spray and a lower amount of pressure. Work your way up slowly, refining the stream and upping the pressure a bit at a time until the paint starts to come off.

While it may be tempting to add more pressure at that point to work faster, don’t. The higher the pressure, the more risk of damage. Since that’s the case, it’s better to act cautiously than aggressively.

Will Paint Stripper Harm the Brick?

Whether a paint stripper will harm a brick fireplace depends on the product involved. Some contain chemicals that may weaken brick, so it’s best to avoid those options.

Other paint strippers are designed to work on brick without causing damage, making them a sound choice for your project. If you aren’t sure whether the one you’re considering is brick-safe, review the product packaging or seek out more details on the manufacturer’s website to see if it’s designed for brick.

Can Scraping Damage the Brick?

Scraping can damage a brick fireplace if too much pressure is applied or the wrong angle is used, causing the scraper to dig into the brick. Ideally, you want to maintain a shallow angle, making it easier to slide the scraper under the paint but along the surface of the brick.

Additionally, start with light pressure and work your way up. You want to use only what’s necessary pressure-wise, reducing your chances of causing damage.

The same is true with stiff-bristled brushes. The material of the bristles and the pressure applied can increase or decrease the odds of harming the brick. As a result, it’s best to choose a brush where the bristles are a bit flexible and the tips are slightly rounded, while keeping the pressure as light as possible while still getting results.

Will Sandblasting Remove Paint from Brick?

Like using a power washer, sandblasting isn’t recommended. Along with being incredibly messy, making it a poor choice for most indoor projects, it can weaken or damage the brick. The surface may become uneven or more porous, which could dramatically alter the look of the brick.

Plus, it may make the brick less heat and fire-resistant. Since you’re dealing with a fireplace, that isn’t ideal.

If you are adamant about going this route, you’ll want to use a slow, methodical approach. Again, work your way up with the pressure slowly. Also, start with a wider spray and only narrow it if necessary. That way, you do as little damage as possible, though some harm may be unavoidable.

Should You Call a Professional?

Sometimes, calling a professional to remove the paint from your brick fireplace is best. First, if your paint tests positive for lead, turning to a professional isn’t just smart; it’s required. Lead paint abatement isn’t something non-professionals can do, so you’ll need to hire a pro to ensure it’s done right.

Second, if your paint removal project is large, hiring a professional is often worthwhile. Removing paint from a brick fireplace is labor and time-intensive, so going with a pro could significantly shorten your timeline while eliminating the need for you to handle the physical part of the project.

Finally, if your brick fireplace is particularly old, turn to a professional. They’ll be able to assess the condition of the brick more effectively, allowing them to choose a suitable technique, assist with restoration, or recommend alternatives if taking the paint off could cause too much harm.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Paint from a Brick Fireplace?

When it comes to how to remove paint from a brick fireplace, if you want to do it yourself, paint stripper gel or TSP is usually your best options. However, acetone can work well; you just need proper ventilation.

Additionally, vinegar is worth trying for small, dried-on paint splatters, while WD-40 is a solid choice for wet paint. For smaller projects, a heat gun is a chemical-free option worth trying.

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