Exposing original brick
My wife and I moved into a 1920s Craftsman-style bungalow last year. At some point, stucco was applied to the brick porch columns as well as to the chimney. I'd like to remove the stucco to expose the original brick. Is this possible without damaging the brick?
— Doug, San Diego, CA
Tom Silva replies: Just about anything is possible, if you have the time and money. I hope you have plenty of both, because this could end up being a huge project. But will it be worth it? Even if you succeed in getting all of the stucco off without damaging the brickwork, you could find that the brick or mortar is badly deteriorated. That might be the reason it was stuccoed in the first place.
If you're still determined to go ahead, start by removing the stucco from a small, unobtrusive area about a foot square. Use a prybar, a wide cold chisel, or a stiff putty knife with a 3- or 4- inch blade — whatever works. Wear safety goggles and leather work gloves. Once you clear a small area, a wire brush will remove stucco residue, as long as you're not too aggressive.
Now you can assess the condition of the brick and mortar and how much time it will take to remove it all. Stripping the stucco from the chimney will be the bigger of the two jobs. Maybe you can live with it there as long as you can get it off the porch columns.
But if you run into a layer of metal mesh in your test patch, you might as well stop right there. The mesh was nailed to the house before the stucco was applied, so your brickwork will be peppered with holes after the mesh comes off.