One of the walls in our bedroom is uneven because the chimney juts out. It’s also in an awkward spot because we want to put our bed against that wall, so we needed to find a solution.
My first thought was to just build a wall on top of it, so we did that (more on the process here).
It was an ok idea, but we didn’t really do it properly. We put the wall over the baseboards and also over the existing floor. Now that we’re tearing up the floors, that’s just not going to work.
So, we undid all that work and are starting fresh. But with the wall gone, we’re still left with the dilemma of what to do with the uneven wall.
When thinking about what we could do with it, we came up with the idea to expose the brick on the chimney to bring a bit of character into the room. It was difficult to find similar examples of our vision, but here are a few that almost capture it.
Thanks to the internet, I found this handy tutorial to learn exactly how to remove the plaster with the least amount of grief.
We didn’t need a lot of equipment. Just a concrete chisel (which we luckily found at our amazing tool library) and a hammer:
The process was fairly straight forward. Simply chisel away at the concrete/plaster crap until you see brick.
Our brick was covered in concrete (and a bit of plaster), so we really had to work at it to break away the first pieces. Alex used his mighty strength to get it started and then I finished the rest while he cleaned up all the construction garbage in the room (which basically took as long).
The majority of pieces came off fairly easily and in medium-sized chunks. It wasn’t particularly difficult and I didn’t run into any issues. I was extra careful near the ceiling (because I didn’t want to have to repair anything), but that was it. It wasn’t even particularly messy. I vacuumed as I went and wore a dust mask, but it was really manageable. After about 3 hours, all of the brick was exposed.
Unfortunately we had one surprise. As I was chipping away, I came across a piece of wood nailed to the brick. Turns out it was covering up a hole in the chimney.
Aside from the hole, we’re very happy with the condition of the brick. The funny thing is that a year ago, this little blunder would have delayed us or stressed us out. Not now. I simply called my brick guy to come and repair it.
Repairing the Brick
Thanks to last year’s fireplace debacle, we have a mason to help us with all our brick needs. I called him up, had him come over to assess the damage, and then come and fix it. $500 later, we had a nice chimney! It wasn’t cheap considering it was a pretty easy job, but I wasn’t about to learn another new trade.
Cleaning the Brick
There were a few places that had extra mortar stuck to it, so I used a 5-in-1 painting scraper and took the majority of it off.
I then took the rest of it off with a sander, using 80-grit paper.
But it still wasn’t perfectly clean, even after rinsing it with soap and water. We decided to get some muriatic acid to get it really clean. This stuff is really toxic, so we made sure to not have any contact with it. I used rubber gloves, wore long sleeves and the appropriate safety gear (glasses and a mask).
It made a pretty big difference.
Building a Wall
To achieve our vision of exposed brick and a flat wall, the new wall had to be built so that the drywall was more or less flush with the brick. The brick itself is pretty wavy, so it wasn’t a perfect match, but was good enough!
There was a small gap between the brick and the drywall and the gap varied in size.
We used backer rod (like a tiny pool noodle) where there were larger gaps to reduce the amount of caulking. We simply used it where the gaps warranted it and shoved it in using whatever we had handy (I used the ends of some scissors).
We applied the caulking in multiple coats because the size of the gap varied so much and it was a bit of an art to make it look seamless. When it was done, it looked pretty awesome.
Sealing the Brick
It was difficult to find a brick sealer, and what we did find only came in massive quantities (and was $100+). We ended up going to our trusty paint store and they recommended using a simple wood sealer: Benjamin Moore’s interior wood finish.
Unfortunately it didn’t work. The brick looked milky and nasty. I ended up sanding it all off (which was very un-fun). I also decided to leave the brick as-is. We’ll see how it holds up…
Overall, I’m really happy with the look!