One of the things we were curious about before the demo was whether we had decent-enough looking brick walls under the plaster to expose one completely in the renovated house. Many of the restaurants around town have done the exact same thing (including both of the best pizza places – RedRocks and Pizza Paradiso), and it looked awesome. We figured that, if you’re fortunate enough to have an older, brick-walled townhouse in Old Town, we should take advantage of it.
During the demo of the remainder of the main floor (in the “Mr. Gorbachev: Tear Down this Wall!” post: https://wolfestreetproject.com/2012/02/25/mr-gorbachev-t…down-this-wall/), we got a glimpse of the brick underneath the plaster. The picture below is of the area on the west side where the wall between the living room and dining room was attached. Sweet! It looked like our brick would be in good enough shape to expose.
The area we targeted for exposure was the wall of the new powder room on the east side. I asked Dave to see if some of his guys could remove the plaster in this area, and expose the wall, which hopefully would reveal similar conditions to the strip between the plaster on the west wall.
Huh? The bricks didn’t look quite the same.
The more the brick wall was exposed, the more we realized that the bricks had been coated with a black substance.
In addition, there’s a big-ass piece of lumber enmeshed with the bricks! (We understand that this was a nailer that had been installed during original construction to allow cabinets or other elements to be nailed in, through the subsequent plaster layer.)
So, here’s the entire wall exposed. It’s entirely coated in this black substance (paint? tar? who knows?). The brick color you see is simply dust from two new holes that were cut in the brick to support new structural members (which will be the subject of the next post). You can see the wood nailer clearly about mid-way down, to the right of the blob of white plaster.
One of the carpenters believes that the black coating was applied to help the plaster adhere to the bricks. This makes sense, since we’ve found it under the areas where plaster was applied, but it’s not on the bricks where there was never any plaster (see the first photo above, as well as the pictures of the wall behind the old bathroom in the last two posts on removal of the joists and removal of the bathroom). In all of the instances where an interior wall abutted a brick wall directly, the brick is natural; wherever plaster was applied, the brick is black.
We’re going to have the area above scrubbed with a wire brush to see if we can salvage the brick and the design idea, and are moderately hopeful, but not confident. If you see a fresh plaster wall in the powder room in the finished house, you’ll know the outcome . . .
March 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Fingers crossed for brick in the powder room!!!
September 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm
Did the wall come clean??? I have same problem and I need to know your results. I’m remodeling an old building. If so, how did you do it. I’ve tried everything.
September 14, 2014 at 11:57 am
Hey, Julie – unfortunately, there was no practical way to get the dark, tar-like substance off the wall without compromising the integrity of the brick. We could have sandblasted it, but would have been left not with the original brick surface, but an exposed layer underneath (likely losing some brick pieces in the process). After consulting with our contractor and their experts, we resigned ourselves to plastering and painting the wall.
Wish it would have been different – good luck on yours.