Anyone know how to strip paint from and restore fragile brick and mortar, much of it dating from the 1850s?
Congratulations on your new old house!
Here's my customary "house warming present" for new owners who come here seeking help: This is a series of publications put together by the National Park Service on historic building preservation techniques. You will be interested in number six, but the others will offer you answers to questions you haven't even thought of, yet.
The info is good, and not put out by a company hoping to sell you their services. I have undertaken several projects with only these publications as guidelines and been satisfied. And best of all, since the advent of the internet they are available 24/7 and free.
Also feel free to ask questions here.
Let the fun begin!
Here is a link that might be useful: Listing of the NPS Preservation Brief Series covering many useful topics
Whatever you do, do NOT let anyone talk you into using a power washer. That will blow the bricks and mortar right apart. Molly's suggestion is a great one.
Amen, before we had work done........I could dig some of the old mortar of my house out with a plastic spoon. And if you get a brick mason to work on your house, be sure they are familiar with working on the old brick and mortar.
"I could dig some of the old mortar of my house out with a plastic spoon."
Older mortar is often lime based and very soft.
Be very careful about who and how any repairs are made.
The bricks are normally soft also, and modern high strength mortars will damage the bricks.
Many thanks to you all - I have lots of reading to do, and this will likely turn into a project for next summer, when I return from overseas (where I work) again on home leave.
Since you are dealing with highly porous material, the paint you want to remove has probably soaked in. That's the challenge. I remember reading somewhere that the thing to do is apply paint-removal solution and cover it with Saran wrap for a while, say overnight, and then gently wash it off. I tried that method with an oil stain on a slate top coffee table (I applied dishwashing detergent on the stain and covered it with Saran wrap overnight), and it worked perfectly. Really porous brick and mortar is likely to be more difficult, but worth a try.
In many cases historians do not recommend removing the paint, as it may be holding together fragile bricks that will otherwise crumble. I'd recommend getting an opinion from someone who deals in historic homes -- not just any contractor can tackle this. Here's a link to a site with several articles on this topic.
Here is a link that might be useful: solutions for old brick