Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Hun, let's expose the brick..."

Just what any wife wants to hear.  Especially when it's from one very-non-DIY spouse to another.  So, of course, the perfect response would be:


So here's what we did yesterday.


Oh yes we did.

Let's start from the beginning.

This room is officially called "The Sink Room".  It's a room that's at the end of our 2nd floor hallway that you must pass through in order to get to the master bedroom.  And it has a sink in it. 

View from the Hall
That window faces the front of the house and you can see the master bedroom door on the left wall.  The sink room is about 6 feet wide and 12 feet long.  Small but big is how I describe it.  Too small to be a functional room on it's own, but too big to be ignored.  The sink is the best part of the room, as we use it every morning and night (it's our "ensuite").

Because we don't want to add a toilet or shower to this room to make it a real ensuite - its end-of-the-hall location and front window give it a spotlight -  future plans include removing that wall on the left and merging it with the current master bedroom.  One day.

So that's the background.  Here's a bunch of dirty and dusty pictures.

Cutting the Drywall

Steve researched the heck out of this project.  He took the lead.  Since we know there is drywall leading up to all three sides of the brick, he cut the seams to help the plaster crack away at the right spot.  While he was doing that....

Door to Master
I was taping away.  Everything he read about tackling this project stressed the clean-up part.  Super messy.  So I taped the door, air vent (turned off the heat) and vanity.

Starting Point

Then we got started.  Steve began by cutting a small square with the carpenter's knife and chipping away with a screwdriver. 


Yup, here's my moment.  I always get one.  Every project.  The point of no return panic attack.

But this one disappeared quickly because as soon as I changed into my working outfit, I came back to this.

Orange Peel

Once we put the screwdriver down and used the proper chisels, it started coming off like crazy.  If you chiseled gently, you could get whole two-handed pieces to peel off at once. 

At this point, I put down the camera and we both went to town. 

An hour and a half later, we took a break for lunch.

We couldn't believe how fast it came off.  So fast, that we had to keep an eye on the weight of the garbage bags.  We couldn't fill them too full because plaster is HEAVY. 

Another thing we kept our eye on was a pipe we started uncovering.


When I started uncovering it at the baseboard, I was worried.  As I got higher, I was intrigued.  Now that it's completely uncovered, I don't know if I love it or hate it. 

It's a pipe - maybe 1/2 inch wide - with a T at the top. 

It seems to be part of the original construction of the house.  My guess is it's a water pipe, maybe for a shower.  Steve thinks it's gas.  Either way, we can't figure out why it has a T at the top.  This is the shared wall of our semi-detached house, but the T just ends.  It doesn't go through to our neighbor. 



Either way, we can't decide if we want to keep it or get rid of it.  For now, it stays. 

After lunch, we took some action shots.

Mask & Goggles
Serious Chiseling

I'm never in pictures on this blog because I'm the one taking them. 

Hello...I'm Working Here

You might be wondering what 106 year old plaster looks like.  Here it is:

Between 1/2"-3/4" thick
You can see three layers here:
1/ morter with horsehair (you can see wisps of it on the right side in the pic above - we were told it was horsehair, anyway....helps with the insulation/sound barrier-???)
2/ plaster
3/ paint - as chunks came off, the blue chipped away to a red-hued color

Overall, 85% of it came off in chunks that we could break off and put directly into bags.  The rest chipped off easily but hit the floor as we gently chiseled.  There were only two small areas where we had to work at a stubborn patch of mortar. 

After 3-1/2 hours of chiseling, we had this.

Nice View
We stood back and admired our progress through extremely dusty goggles.  It didn't photograph well, but you can sort of see how mortar-crusted the wall was.  We wanted some patina, but this much looked quite dirty.  And it was.  So we started gently scrubbing each brick with a wire brush.

See the Line?
I was worried we were cleaning off too much.  But at this point, we had to keep going.  So, we did.

Two hours later, we had this:

Lookin' Good

A little less mortar-y/crusty, but still rough enough to have a character-filled finish without looking dirty.  Make sense?

Still Sorta Mortar-y
The Pipe

Then came my favorite part.  The clean up.  Steve thought I was being sarcastic.  But I honestly really truly love to clean up after any project because that's when I get to see my hard work in all it's sparkly clean glory. 

Almost After

*Disclaimer*  I hate that sink.  It's the same crap build as the kitchen cabinets & countertop.  But it serves a major functional purpose for me every morning and night, so I embrace the ugly.  For now.

I hate this guy, too, but he's custom made -from bad plywood- to fit between the bulkhead on the left and the doorway on the right.  So I embrace him, too.  The good news is my plasticizing inside the door totally worked - not a trace of dust. 

And now, after cleaning an inch of mortar, plaster and brick dust off the floor, may I present our DIY exposed brick wall.

In stages, at the window:

Just Exposed
From the hallway:
From the master:


Waking up to see it this morning put a smile on our tired faces.  Now to finish the job by washing the brick and then sealing it.  Always more work...

...and more updates to come!


  1. Thanks for showing the whole story - start to finish.  I feel like we were there to share the experience.  It turned out great!

  2. Cool. I love the exposed brick look. You guys did a great job. My guess is that pipe is gas. I'd probably remove it, then patch the hole with Mortar, but i'm looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

  3. I love the look of exposed brick - it's so warm and full of character.  It turned out wonderful!