Painted Brick? What to do?

Photography and Editorial by: Dr. Christopher Cooper

Many times I come across houses that have been painted and many of our subscribers ask what to do with the painted bricks and in some case, how you can remove the paint from the brick? The answer to the last question is there is really no way in removing the paint entirely from the brick without damage. Abrasive cleaners (for example any type of blasting or pressure washing) are never recommended as it simply destroys handmade bricks! Chemical cleaners are another real problem as it can chemically affect the brick itself causing problems in the future. The biggest problem with paint removal is that the final look is terrible as it is usually polka-dotted with paint that is deep in small fishers and dints in the original brick units!

It is also necessary to consider why the building was painted in the first place? Was the building painted to protect soft brick? Was it to cover poorly executed repointing or unmatched repairs? Or, was the painted masonry simply a fashion statement in a particular historic period (for example the Regency Period)?

The crumbling brick above is to the absolute extreme. If brick has spalled this badly, I would recommend wholesale removal of the paint (by scraping) a complete repointing with the possibility of turning the badly spalled bricks around (or replace the unit wholesale) and prime with a breathable primer and topcoat with several layers of high quality 100% acrylic latex.

One of the best protections against failing or spalling brick is to paint, there is no such thing as a water-proofer or sealer! Simply bricks must breathe, if they do not they will spall (in freezing temperatures) as a result of trapped water behind the so-called sealer caused by capillary action from ground source or from the interior of the building.

Water or moisture in a masonry system will generally hamper the satisfactory performance of the painted surface; therefore strict water management will have to be adhered to before any work is to proceed. Search for the water’s source and take the necessary corrective measures to keep water out of the wall.

The chemical property of masonry which may have a significant effect on paint durability and performance is the alkalinity of the wall. Bricks are normally neutral, but are set in mortars which are chemically basic. Paint products, which are based on drying oils, may be attacked by free alkali and the oils can become saponified (converts to soap). To prevent this occurrence, an alkaline-resistant primer is recommended.

The deposit of water-soluble salts on the surface of masonry, “efflorescence”, is another factor that can hamper the performance of painted masonry. Remove all efflorescence by scrubbing with clear water and a stiff brush.

The key to a good masonry paint job is preparation. Proper surface preparation is as important as paint selection. Thoroughly examine all surfaces to determine the required preparation. Remove all peeled, cracked, flaked or blistered paint by scraping. Like efflorescence, paint blistering is caused by water within the masonry. If alligatoring exists, remove the entire finish. There is no other means of correction.

Previously painted surfaces often require the greatest effort. Before painting, remove all loose paint. Take special care when cleaning surfaces for emulsion paints and primers (latex). They (latex paints) are non-penetrating and require cleaner surfaces than solvent-based paints (oil). Latex paint is preferred over oil because of latex’s ability to breathe! Be sure to follow directions accompanying the paint product.

After the wall is completely painted there are ways to mimic brick with mortar. Penciling is a technique of painting the mortar joints, which is a purely decorative process, often in a contrasting colour or mortar colour. A regular course of maintenance with periodic spot repairs can provide a very attractive and durable finish for years to come.

Learn to repair and restore your brick and stone!

Saturday August 31, 2019 One Day Intensive Workshop

10:30 am – 4:00 pm

Join Dr. Christopher Cooper at the Edifice Atelier Oxford Campus (5 minutes west of Cambridge, Ontario) for this amazing hands-on workshop! Spaces fill up fast, so register today!

Repointing is the process of removing deteriorating mortar from the joints of a masonry wall (brick or stone) and replacing it with new mortar.

The decision to repoint is usually made to arrest some obvious signs of deterioration such as disintegrating mortar, loose bricks, cracks in mortar joints themselves, damp walls, or damaged interior plaster.

Properly executed, repointing restores the visual and physical integrity of the masonry.

Improperly executed repointing not only detracts from the appearance of your home, but may, in fact, cause physical damage to the masonry units themselves if the appropriate mortar is not used.


  • This one day intensive covers all aspects of repointing brick and stone on an older home or commercial building, including how to inspect for possible damage.
  • The student will learn how to remove mortar, replace spalled or broken bricks, repoint stonework, remove unsympathetic Portland cement and mix correct mortar mixes.
  • Finishing and tooling techniques will also be examined.
  • The workshop is very hands-on, and the student will get the chance to try many of the topics covered.
  • You will complete this professional intensive with the tools and knowledge to tackle a small or even large repointing project.

There is very limited space, and the workshop fills-up fast… claim your spot in this very interactive professional intensive today.

Custom In-Home Restoration Report

Do you fear the costs of renovation and restoration? Do you have a fear of the unknown, of what issues you may face in creating that perfect home? Have Dr. Christopher Cooper make a house call with a private in-home consultation.

Window Restoration Workshop

Saturday August 10th, 2019 One Day Intensive Workshop

10:30 am – 4:00 pm

People complain about their drafty old wood windows, how about the same complaints about replacement windows and have the same complaint after spending thousands of dollars. You will never see a return on your investment as long as you live. The so-called energy savings with respects to replacement windows are marginal at best. The fact is that with the tools of knowledge and the know-how this completely hands-on workshop will supply you with will make your old drafty wood windows as energy efficient than any replacement window on the market today!


  • This workshop will take you through the entire documentation and evaluation process, to decide where to start your window restoration project.
  • How to remove the sash windows from their jamb sets is explained in detail;
  • Learn how to carefully and expertly remove the old glazing putty from the upper and lower sashes;
  • How to store, remove and clean irreplaceable original glass;
  • How to remove the paint without damaging the wood,
  • Learn how to stabilize and repair rot in sash windows as well as how-to replace wood elements that are missing;
  • Learn how to replace a corner mortise and tenon with little woodworking skills;
  • Learn how to carefully sand, prime and ready the sash windows to be reassembled.;
  • Learn how to reinstall glass and re-putty the windows;
  • How to prepare the sash for final painting;
  • How to reinstall the windows both guillotine and with weights and pulleys;
  • And, a section on a few tips on how to keep your wood windows more energy efficient will also be included.


Saturday August 10th, 2019 10:30 am – 4:00 pm One Day Intensive Workshop


Located at the Edifice Atelier Oxford Campus, just 5 minutes west of Cambridge, Ontario

867395 Township Rd 10, Bright, ON N0J 1B0 (see Google Map below)

Your Instructor:

Dr Christopher Cooper, Master Restoration & preservation Expert…

Who Should Attend:

This Workshop is specifically designed for the amateur restorationist interested in saving his/her irreplaceable wood windows. You are most welcome to remove one of your own sash or casement windows to work on during the workshop.


A very special one time offer $150.00*

*(this course is traditionally $300)

NOTE: This may be the last hands-on workshop for quite some time as we are in production of a distance learning program. Therefore, because of the limited amount of space for this workshop signup early!

Full payment is due upon booking your place, remember this course sells out very quickly. There are no reduced rates for couples. However, large groups (6 or more attendees) can be discounted at the Edifice Atelier’s discretion.

The Edifice Atelier reserves the right to cancel any courses. Deposits and fees will be returned in full should this happen.

As this workshop fills up quickly and is on a first come first serve basis our cancellation policy is to provide credit for another workshop time of same value if you cannot attend.

Pay now, payment is through a secure PayPal account

Pay with credit or Visa Debit card

How to get to the Oxford Campus:

Visit The Edifice Atelier Website

Repairing Antique Hinges

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Many wooden doors that have given faithful service for a century or two suffer from sagging because of screw holes which have become, after literally thousands of sharp shocks with closing and opening, too large for the screws. The whole door binds and sags, making it difficult to shut.

Many people are of the misconception that the hinges, or even the entire door, must be replaced. A simple epoxy repair can quickly and permanently repair worn hinge holes. Many original hinges are part of the historic fabric of your old house. Many hinges dating from the Eastlake/Queen Anne Revival period are richly ornamental and are works of art themselves. Some antique hinges can be worth well into the several hundreds of dollars and are highly sought after by collectors.

One of the worst things that can be perpetrated to an antique hinge is to drive new “larger” Robertson or Phillips screws into it. The original slot screws, most of them hand-made until the mid-nineteenth century, are as important an historical feature of an antique door as the hinges themselves!

The Restoration Process:

A door should always be repaired off the hinges with the screws backed-out carefully and the hinges and screws cleaned and bagged. A couple of shims should be propped under the door to absorb the stress from the hinges when the screws are removed (see image 1). Using a drill with a 5/16” brad-point drill bit, drill out the old screw holes, in both the frame and the door, to a depth a ¼” longer than the original screws (see image 2).

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Clean the holes thoroughly with the suction from a shop vacuum. Mix-up a small batch of Rhino Wood Repair liquid two-part epoxy and apply a liberal coat in the holes paying special attention to the sides (see image 3). The liquid epoxy will act as a good hold for the next step of paste epoxy by chemically bonding both epoxies to the wood itself.

Hinge Sag 4

Then mix a small batch of Rhino Wood Repair two-part paste epoxy and pack the drilled-out holes just slightly below the surface (see image 4). Once set, a furniture-quality coloured wax can be used to blend the holes into the surrounding area (see image 5).

Hinge Sag 5

The door is then placed back into position with the hinges attached, again using the shims to prop, and the original hinge housings to locate the hinge. With the aid of a gimlet, (a small hole starter, smaller than the original screws), the screw holes are run through and the original slotted screws are driven home (see images 6 & 7). The epoxy repair is permanent and structurally superior to the original wood frame and door thereby allowing your door to give another several centuries of faithful service.


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VHC Magazine recommends Rhino Wood Repair – available online or at Home Hardware stores across Canada!

The Queen Anne Revival Style Guide

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Photography, Illustrations and Editorial by: Dr Christopher Cooper

The Queen Anne Revival house style made its first appearance in North America when the British Government displayed several examples of the style at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It has no real connection with the architecture of Queen Anne herself, however, who reigned from 1702 to 1714.

The style, first appearing in Canada and the United States around 1880, is highly decorative and utilizes a variety of building materials. Often wood frame versions were painted with as many as five or six different colours to bring out all the different textures and trim. The fashion utilized fairly dark colours, similar to what we now call “Earth Tones” – sienna red, hunter green, burnt yellow, muddy brown, etc. Interior and exterior surfaces were almost never left unadorned by some sort of ornamentation. The expansion of the railway system in North America gave architects and builders the ability to create elaborate residential masterpieces. Doors, windows, roofing, siding and decorative detailing were, for the first time, mass-produced in factories for a reasonable price and made easily accessible by shipping by rail.

Queen Anne Revival 5

The homes were generally built with an unbalanced or asymmetrical arrangement of building parts. The windows were a mixture of sizes and shapes including, one-over-one double-hung sash, bay, stained glass, and round arched. The Queen Anne window was also common. It was a large pane of glass surrounded by smaller panes, often of coloured glass. The houses have hipped, steeply pitched roofs with one or more lower cross gables covered with decorative patterned wood or slate shingles. The shingle patterns were arranged and referred to as “fish scale”. Several different wall surfaces were used. Brick on the ground storey, and shingles or horizontal boards above was a common practice. Elaborate chimneys with decorated caps were also among its trademarks.

The Queen Anne Revival movement became the style of choice for domestic architecture, and achieved unprecedented popularity across Canada. It caught on quickly, with numerous architectural pattern books providing the designs, not unlike modern home plan magazines.

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Queen Anne style houses are also sometimes called “bric-a-brack”, “gingerbread”, “painted ladies” and “stepdaughters of the gilded age” or “high Victorian”. The Queen Anne style became lofty, sometimes fanciful, expressions of the machine age and was a sign of prosperity. Ironically, the very qualities that made Queen Anne architecture so regal also made it fragile. These expansive and expressive buildings proved expensive and difficult to maintain. With the arrival of the 1900’s the intricate details of the Queen Anne fell out of favour and most of the colourful structures were painted over in conservative whites. Today, however, many of the monochromatic Queens are being brought back to their status as Painted Ladies of the gilded age.

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