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Monday, March 9, 2009

Cleaning & Exposing Brick

As I started gutting the kitchen we discovered a long forgotten brick chimney in the corner. Originally, the chimney was built to vent some kind of cook stove, maybe coal-burning. It was later covered with plaster and cabinets to hide it completely.

Even a little exposed brick in a kitchen looks great so we decided to clean it up and show it off. I chipped off the big pieces, but there was still quite a bit of plaster residue left to remove. There are lots of differing opinions on the best way to do this. I decided to try muriatic acid to clean off the plaster remnants. I found it at Home Depot, but they only sold it in huge amounts.

I took every precaution I could: large box fans to keep the air venting out the window, protective gloves and safety respirator with replaceable cartridges. (DISCLAIMER: get professional advice for your specific use if you are considering trying this. Various brick types may react differently to the muriatic acid.)

The recommendations that I found were to use about 1 part muriatic acid to 9 parts water (or 10% muriatic acid solution). In the end I probably mixed it a little stronger, but it worked great.

I bought a really cheap disposable paint brush to apply the acid solution and a stiff-bristled wire brush to help clean as well. Just be careful not to splash any of the solution on any unprotected services. I did it when the room was gutted so there wasn't much I could hurt.

I had to do the treatment twice because after the first round the brick still had traces of plaster. I was also doing a very small amount of the chimney because most of it would still be covered with cabinets.

I gave the chimney a day to dry really well and then applied a low-lustre sealer to hold in the remaining dust and protect it from any food stains, etc. (It was near the stove)

It was a little tricky to layout the cabinets & countertop to compensate for the chimney but it was well worth the effort. Here's how the kitchen turned out:


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