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My wife and I just started renovating a historic home (built sometime between about 1880 and 1905). The home has quite a bit of old (possibly original) brick and wood details.

As a first step in the renovation, we'd like to restore the brick fireplace and the wood trim around the front door. Both were covered in tile, which we've now removed.

Underneath the tile there are several layers of stuff. The top layer seems to be whatever is left of the thinset used to install the tile. There's also paint beneath that.

What would be the best approach to strip these layers off, leaving the original material and character as intact as possible afterward?

You can see pictures of what we're dealing with here.

So far, for the brick, I've tried several wire brush wheels on my drill. I was able to remove the material, but it smoothed out the brick too, which looks pretty bad. I stopped after clearing a couple inches. You can see the smoothed brick in one of the photos. I'd like to come up with a method to remove the gunk from the brick without ruining the brick's texture.

For the wood, a random orbit sander with really coarse paper seems to be doing the trick, but it's going slowly. I'm thinking about picking up a belt sander too, to speed the process up. Is there something else I should be trying first? (I build wood furniture in my free time, so I'm perfectly comfortable re-staining the wood after stripping everything off.)

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    I'm glad you are sensitive to trying to keep the historic "texture" of the fireplace. When we attempt a restoration project, our state historic preservation office requires a written plan as to how we'll protect the existing "textures". We use to (30 years ago) sand blast everything. Obviously they don't allow that anymore. Wood is easier, we remove it and strip it. (We use stainless steel vats...) For brick, it's difficult, because it's so soft. We chip off what we can and use chemicals for the rest. – Lee Sam Aug 31 '17 at 14:31
  • Thanks! Do you recommend a specific chemical to remove the rest of the paint and other crud? – Ben Wyatt Aug 31 '17 at 15:58

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