The basement in our 1979-era house has cinder block walls. These walls have a tacky (DryLok perhaps? It's not efflorescence) coating on their surface that looks like a heavy, thick paint. On top of that coating, 2 layers of latex paint (different colors).

In many places it's possible to pull off large strips of the paint & white stuff right off the wall where it has bubbled away from the block. In other places the latex paint comes off with a paint scraper, but not nearly as easily. Peeling does not always remove the pasty white layer. Scraping it works but is very hard work, and even then a wire brush is needed to remove it all (and even then it's not down to the surface). A heat gun just turns the white stuff to goo.

My question: is there a way to remove everything down to the bare wall without sandblasting? I don't think I want to paint it again, just get it so it's not so abandoned warehouse/urban decay looking. Our basement is as big as our house (2,000 sf); I don't want solutions involving 50 cans of stripper (we have to live above it all while we're doing this).

To anticipate your other reply - yes we've addressed the outside moisture infiltration issue as much as we can - french drains, gutter downspouts away from the house, window well covers etc. but I would not count on them being perfect. We live in an area where the ground is solid clay, and when it rains here in the winters, the ground stays wet for months. In any case, we don't plan to paint it again anyway.

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    A wire brush wheel on a drill would help with the brushing, but sand blasting is still likely the only effective way to get it down to the blocks. Whether you scrape, brush or blast, use good breathing protection since old paint is likely to contain lead, and may even contain asbestos (which may require more care to keep fibers from spreading throughout your house).
    – Johnny
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 18:29
  • Some paints come off when heated
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 9:19
  • Did you ever get this resolved? If so, please give a check-mark to the answer that helped you the most, or write up your own answer explaining what you did to get it fixed and give yourself a check mark. That will help others with this kind of problem know that this has a resolution and is a good place to look for their answer.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 21:43

3 Answers 3


I had the same problem. I scrapped and used a wire brush to get all the loose stuff off.

Then I repainted. I expect to do it again in 18 to 20 years.


A renovation grinder with an polycrystalline diamond wheel, inclusive an suited vacuum. Attention: That might also grind down the bricks


Steve wellens is right The only solution is to scrape off what's loose Wash with borax and let that dry. Then you either prime and reapply paint or put up a vapor barrier and frame it out. The areas that have loose paint is from trapped moisture. If you clean these areas and then take care of the original problem.You'll need to dig out the other side power wash it off apply a a moisture barrier like bitutene, then 2" stirfoam and the foundation drain and gravel. That's the problem nobody wants to do it but that's what's got to be done.

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