How to Remove Paint From Brick

So, you want to remove the paint from brick work? Good Luck! This is a messy, labor-intensive job.  However, I know that it can be done. Just remember, if you and a spouse/family/friend attempt this project together you may need to add in the cost of therapy above and beyond what I list here. So now down to PART I of the tutorial.  Skip to: Part II


Before beginning to strip the paint from the bricks I researched various means of completing this project. I ended up with 5 top competitors. Here are the pros and cons of each of these methods:

If you have old paint you really do not want to mess around with lead!  Get it tested before beginning this process.

Heat Gun*:

  • Cost: around $50 for a cheap one $100-120 for good one.
  • Pros: Can do small sections at one time. Once you own the gun you do not have to purchase further equipment.
  • Cons: Can emit dangerous fumes especially with older (probably lead paint), May not loosen paint enough to remove from brick/masonry

Sand Blasting:

  • Cost: $ 85- $150 per hour (Usually hire a professional)
  • Pros: You hire a professional
  • Cons: This will harm the surface of the brick and can really loosen mortar. Even with professionals there is going to be a good amount of escaped dust (Lead worries again)

Peel Away® One*:

  • Cost: An Entire Peel Away Set*  (covers 80 sqft) runs about $110.  You’ll need special covering paper, neutralizer, and pH tester in addition to the chemical if you want to buy them all separately.
  • Pros: Supposedly it will just peel away the paint
  • Cons: Product can burn skin and you have to clean the brick afterward which can be pretty messy inside a home.  Some people complain it requires multiple applications.

Regular Paint Stripper*:

  • Cost: $40-$80 per gallon
  • Pros: Easy to find at any major hardware store, will bubble and strip all types of paint
  • Cons: Doesn’t stay workable long enough to remove from the surface of the brick, may take multiple coats, has major ventilation issues

Biostrippers: SOY-Gel*/Citri-Strip*:

  • Cost: $45.00 Soygel per gallon (covers 200 sqft)/$40.00 Citristrip per gallon (covers 80 sqft)
  • Pros: Eco friendlier (bio-degradable but remember it doesn’t make the paint bio-degradable) Soygel is good for oil and latex paint on wood and brick, Citristrip does better for latex and can be purchased at major retailers
  • Cons: May take multiple coats and Citristrip was rated poorly for removal of paint from brick. Soygel is harder to find for purchase

After weigh all the options we went with Soygel. Why? We had to think about how this mammoth project would fit into our lives. Here was what we (mostly I) took into consideration.

  • Logistics: With a 10 month old baby we were going to have to start and stop the project over many days (make that weeks)
  • Home Health: With a 75+ year old house it was good bet we have lead paint in at least one of the 6 layers. (Please note using this process does not insure lead safety.  Seek professional guidance). Plus we didn’t want the baby subjected to a ton of fumes
  • Cost: Seriously, I would have rather hired a professional
  • Most likely to work

The paint gun seemed noisy and not as likely to work. Since, I am doing this primarily while a baby sleeps then I needed something quieter. The chimney is already have mortar issues, which a professional will be addressing, so we didn’t want to exacerbate this with sandblasting. Plus the mess and cost were a turn off. Peel Away 1 seemed really neat, but it bothered me that it was so caustic and it looked like the cost was quickly going to add up. The regular paint stripper just had too many fumes. Finally, while it was easier to find the citristrip most people agreed it just wasn’t very good with masonry. Also, we knew we had a mix of acrylic and oil paint to go through. We found a local distributor for Soygel and tried a quart of it before committing to a whole gallon.

soygelTo see the results of the Soygel and how to actually remove the paint from brick you can check out Part II of the tutorial.

Images courtesy of Lowes, Home Depot, & Franmar

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