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A portion of my house is from 1937. I've got an old chimney that is currently being used for the gas furnace and water heater. However, it's terribly stained, has cracked bricks, a spot that an old stove used to vent into it, and pitted/sloppy mortar. It runs clear through my dining room. Is there any way to clean it up a bit without tearing it up? A little wear and tear is cool and good character but there's parts that are straight up an eyesore.

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I don't want to damage or remove/replace. It runs through 2 floors and an attic.

Would sanding it do any good? Filling in the mortar cracks with fresh mortar?

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    Search term "repointing brickwork" will lead to several articles explaining the repair of brick walls. - From the photos, your chimney appears to be of later construction, with hard-fired bricks and cement mortar, but you should get a local opinion on that. – A. I. Breveleri Apr 8 '17 at 19:02
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    I cleaned brick work for masons to work my way through college with muriatic acid. It's dangerous and will need to be washed off the brick or it will "eat" the face of the brick. You can't "sand" the mortar joints, but A.I. Breveleri is right, to "fix" the mortar, you want to repoint it...also hard work. Now you know why everyone just paints their old brick...too bad too, ruins the character. – Lee Sam Apr 9 '17 at 0:08
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For an initial DIY approach I would plastic off the surrounding area and scrub the heck out of it using a warm water and TSP solution in a bucket, with a stiff scrub brush; you will be surprised how much better it will look.

  • I've delayed marking/voting as I haven't tried it. I probably will next week and I'll mark/upvote depending on the results. Thanks! – McAden Apr 18 '17 at 21:01
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Warning that this is not easily reversible if you change your mind - but you could plaster over it.

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Many historical buildings in my area have had their interior brick walls sandblasted. It makes them look like new in terms of being clean, but retains their worn appearance. If I was in your situation I'd look at that option. Even with various patches and other incidental damage it would probably look quite nice.

You might do any tuckpoint repairs beforehand.

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I have a 1950's house and the chimney was efflorescing (white scale or dust coming out of the bricks). This was happening because the original house had a furnace (coal maybe) that used the chimney but now it only has a hot water heater going into it. So the chimney is too large and the gas exhaust doesn't go fast enough out and moisture collects on the chimney walls and seeps through the bricks, that and natural gas exhaust is acidic I believe so that doesn't help at all. Excess moisture in the chimney bricks cause them to spall and fall apart especially with freeze thaw cycling. So if you put a stainless steel liner in the chimney of a smaller diameter then the exhaust will flow faster and any moisture will be on the non reactive stainless steel liner. I installed mine myself with the wife at the bottom to line up the end that goes to the water heater. Need a reciprocating saw type tool or angle grinder or jig saw or something to cut the tubing to length once it's installed and a screwdriver or drill driver with a socket on the end to tighten up the clamps through the chimney and that was about it.

Then you can worry about how it looks and doing some tuck pointing or sandblasting or whatever, if you clean it up first it will discolor again without doing a liner of some sort.

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