Restoring Old Red Face Brick

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New Member
May 9, 2020
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Sydney, Australia

I own an old house build c1906 and am trying to restore (not renovate) it to its original state. I know this will take some time, however, I’m a firm believer that, as an Australian, we need to retain as much of our heritage as we can.

Among other projects, my current issue is with our face bricks. When we purchased the house, the entire front wall was poorly rendered (by a previous owner, probably in the 1950s) to the extent that some of the render was freely falling off in chunks. Beneath was the typical, beautiful, red Federation brickwork that was originally tuck pointed. Since some of the render was already “peeling off” we decided to remove all of it. Unfortunately, a lot of the render had also removed some of the brick (see photos). In addition, most of the bricks have cement stains. This disappointed me to no end, to the extent that I stopped any further restoration work for quite some years trying to work out how to solve this problem.

I know that the easiest thing for me was to remove the existing wall and to re-skin it with a layer of new bricks of matching color. However, I believe that the house deserved better and should repair the existing brickwork … which is where I am now, seeking advice. How do I fill in the hole and chips in the bricks such that it looks like the original brick? Do I mix cement and clean sharp sand, with a pigment to match the color, and fill in the brick? Do I maybe mix lime putty and sand with pigment? How do I remove the cement stains? Do I simply apply a brick stain of the same color? Do I stain all the bricks? If I do, how long does the stain last? Maybe I’m overthinking this. Please, any advice from any experienced, expert DIYs ….




Fixer Upper
Staff member
Feb 5, 2013
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Erie, PA
Hi Tony and welcome to the forum. We don’t get many members from Australia and it is good to hear you are respecting the heritage of your buildings the same way many of us do here. I have restored 2 circa 1870s homes for myself over the years. And I use the term restored loosely in some ways with this last one because it is just not economical or practical to go back to the 1870 without turning a home into a museum piece. So I try my best to hold onto and bring back as much as possible of the period. We live in a historic town that had quite a hay day around the turn of the century not this last one but the one before and has slowly declined over the last 70 years. Many of our neighbors have even done more than we have and the town has a large number of brick homes but ours was wood sided. I just read an article that the brick works that was in the next town over was making a million bricks a year back around 1900. They told this school took 250,000 and this church 200,000 and the library took 350,000. It was astonishing to read what they did back then.

I don’t know a lot about brick restoration but I know finding a modern source for matching old work is very hard. Keep an eye open for any demolition in the area that may match. At my old home I bought several thousand bricks from a factory that was being demolished for 5 cents a brick 40 years ago and did several projects with them. it was a lot of work chipping them out and cleaning them and then hauling them but it was fun and I was young.

Cleaning off the white will make a big change in the look of yours. I think an acid wash will work for that, but wait for others more experienced to come along with advice. Pointing will also help and maybe some selective replacement of some of the bad ones. Getting the mortar to match is also key to the look.

Most important is the building is over 100 years old and has been through a lot and isn’t expected to look brand new. For me part of the charm is the battle scars of making it so long.

Hope you post more and show us some wider shots of your home and the follow on work.