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We want to expose our brick walls in a house that was built around the 1900's. We're doing a complete demo, so hopefully we're not to restricted as to what we can use to remove the plaster.

What's the fastest way to remove the plaster? Is there a chemical we could use?

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Air powered chisel –  DA01 Dec 9 '13 at 16:14

2 Answers 2

Sandblasting would be the fastest, but it's not a easy DIY project.

Muratic acid, properly used, vented, masked (organic cartridges), gloved, goggled. A 10:1 water:acid mix is a good place to start. Be sure to add acid to water during dilution.

You should hand scrape or carefully grind with a diamond cup wheel to leave a thin a layer as possible (< 1/16 inch).

Let soak 10-20 min and scrub with acid safe brush.

Once clean, several water only rinses, then use an acid neutralizer. Baking soda and water, diluted lime or diluted ammonia will work. Final water rinse.

If any walls are in kitchens, a natural stone/grout sealer will greatly ease future cleaning. You may also like the look of an enhancing sealer, but that is a personal preference if mine.

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Sandblasting can damage the surface of the brick - many buildings were ruined when sandblasting the paint off the exterior became trendy for a while (1970's-80s?) - a less aggressive blast media (nutshells or the like) may work better. –  Ecnerwal Dec 10 '13 at 1:21
    
Sandblasting is the generic term, many media are available. It is likely the 1900s brick (and mortar) are quite soft. –  HerrBag Dec 10 '13 at 2:02

To keep the "character" of the brick, and you have time and youth on your side, try the least aggressive way possible, hammer and broad chisel. Depending on the mix of the plaster base coat, the scratch coat, you may be fortunate enough to remove the plaster in large chunks, leaving the original brick faces and joints intact, the "character" I refer too. If that goes well use vinegar to remove the remaining plaster scratch coat, if it is only a "haze". Try this on a 4X4 ft area first, to get the feel of how it will go. The dust will be at a minimum with this procedure, though not dust free.

The next method using a cup grinder, is a lot more aggressive and will change the look of the brick and the joints, though only in the way the surface of the brick and joints appear. Swirl marks, deeper cuts in some places than others, less historic looking albeit clean when it's done. The dust will be horrendous too.

The last method, using Muriatic acid or Sure-Kleen (a weaker but readily available product that may be easier to find than Muriatic acid) can be used with either of the two prior methods, but care really needs to be used with this stuff. It will burn your lungs, blind you, just to start. It will yellow surfaces if made too strong. I have used this stuff a lot, be careful. This should be the last resort although I have used it to restore the brick and stone to a texture that looks more natural after I have used a grinder on a given surface.

To caution you on your project. The 1900's is when brick evolved from hand made brick to machine made brick. I believe the firing of the brick was still the same though larger scale, in that day. This is the reason I bring this up, is the brick that are closer to the heat were stronger and used for outside brick. The brick farther away from the heat were no where near as strong and were used on interior walls. These brick were called "salmon" brick, I imagine due to their color, and were closer to the original clay than the ceramic like brick that was made closer to the fire. Also why they were used on the protected interior walls. This type of brick will be severely, adversely affected by muriatic acid.

All in all, this is a project you can learn a lot on, and not just with your brick wall, have fun with it and make your house your home....

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