Brick Cleaning (follow-up)

A couple of weeks ago I posed a question in this forum about stripping some pretty heavily coated brickwork. At that point, I'd made extensive use of Prosoco Heavy-Duty Stripper and Prosoco Fast-Acting Stripper (methyline chloride). With several layers of paint remaining in some areas, I was quite ready to take the "just paint it again" advice that someone here offered up.
I'd like to follow-up to that post and offer my experiences to anyone about to tackle similar work. After more research and a tip from a local alderman about the "peel away" strippers, I sank $115 on a 5gal. bucket of "Peel Away 1". Sherwin-Williams was the only place in town that carried the stuff which I thought was a bit odd for something that claimed to work miracles. I tried 5 test patches with that first bucket (each the size of a single sheet) on the various walls I was working with. I didn't really expect much from the stuff...it went on easy, didn't smell bad and didn't liquefy your brain with a few good wiffs (unlike the Prosoco stuff).
The results were very promising. 4 of the 5 test areas had excellent results. The paint in the failed area had darkened but remained otherwise untouched.
At this point, I've got about 3/4 of the total area stripped. I really wish that I would have started with this stuff but it's been quite a learning experience. The peel away stuff doesn't, in my experience, work exactly as advertised. It goes on very easy with a trowel. It does not, however, just "peel away" from the brick. The instructions explain that you should use a scraper or putty blade to "assist". Well, there's a little more scraping than they let on but the results are well worth it. Also, I still had to use the pressure washer to clean the bricks afterwords but most everything that remained washed away with ease significantly minimizing any additional damage to the brick face.
A few tips... (1) Make sure that all of the paste is covered with the paper (don't be even a little sloppy). Otherwise, the exposed paste dries out real quick and cleaning it off is *A BITCH*. (2) Be prepared to do a high-pressure wash after you've scraped off what you can of the paste. There'll be a lot of sludge-like paint waiting for you underneath your "peel". (3) I allowed ~24 hours dwell time. I suggest you do the same as this stuff seems to work real well if given the time. Don't let it sit too long otherwise you have the aforementioned dried paste problem. (4) Attempts to be cheap will backfire. The Peel Away product is expensive when put next to the coverage specs of the other "professional" liquid/gel strippers. If you've got as much paint as I did, you'll need multiple (4-6) coats of the latter, negating any monetary savings and costing much more in labor/time/frustration. (5) Do your homework. There are like 15 different formulations of Peel Away. Make sure you get the right stuff for the task at hand.
This has been my experience, YMMV. The property I'm working on is located on a high-traffic and high-profile city intersection. I had no less than four people stop to ask (a) if it actually works and (b) where they can get some. Many more obviously took note of the product as they were sitting at the stop-lights staring at us as we worked. At this point, Dumond Chemicals should probably reimburse me for all of the otherwise-free advertising and positive referrals they got from me through this project :).
-BB
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I deeply appreciate the time and care you put into your post. I'll make note for future use. Some questions: Can you describe the brick, please? Smooth/Rough, Soft/Hard Did the mortar joints hold up, or did they loose material in the process? Did you strip any wood trim? If so, what was your experience?
TB
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snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net wrote:

the front of the building turned out very nice and looks almost new. The rougher brick used on the sides and rear was of a lower density and/or quality and sustained a slight (though acceptable) amount of damage from the pressure washing. Also, I still need to go over the latter brick with a wire brush to finish the clean up on it - a few small patches of dried stripping paste and paint remain since I couldn't be as thorough there with the pressure washer (or risk more damage).
The remaining section to be stripped is a very soft brick; it appears to have been sandblasted once in the past and is in rough shape. Actually, the plan was to replace this section of wall until I tried peel away and realized that it may be salvageable after all. There'll be a few bricks to replace but if I do that and add some type of sealant to this section afterwards, it should look presentable and hold up for quite some time.

The mortar on most of this place was in poor shape to begin with, so I made no attempt to avoid mortar loss. The pressure washer took a fair amount out but it's just that much less that we'll have to scrape away by hand. You're bound to lose some. If you're losing a lot, you're probably being to rough with the water. If I had to give an estimate, I'd guess that I lost a bit less than an 1/8th of the total surface mortar.

Not yet. There are several areas where the brick wall meets wood (window frames) but, again, all of these need to be replaced so I made no attempt to shield them from the stripper. According to the instructions, Peel Away 1 can be used on wood but has a tendency to darken hard woods so if your plan is to stain the wood afterwords, your best to use a different formulation. I think a neutralizer is required for PA1 when stripping wood. It leaves some kind of alkaline film behind that makes painting impossible otherwise.
I have several pieces of wood to strip and also a nice metal column. I'll post my results as I get around to those projects.
-BB
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Thanks for the follow-up.
Bob

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