The party wall separating the two units at 753 Fairmont Street from the adjoining residence was constructed with a double row of bricks and mortar. As was the case throughout the house, this wall was finished originally with a thick layer of plaster which we removed near the beginning of the remodeling project with the rest of the demolition work. (See Demolition for more information on removing lathe and plaster construction.)
About half way through the framing stage of the remodeling process, our client sheepishly approached our design team with a question: “Would it be too late to tweak the design to leave the brick in the party wall exposed as opposed to finishing the wall with sheetrock?” She had fallen in love with the “exposed brick look”, and felt like she should have listened to our recommendations to leave it as such. Early on in the design process, our designers urged the client to leave the party-wall brick exposed on both levels; providing the bricks were in suitable condition (this can only be assessed once the plaster is removed). We have done this frequently when remodeling older houses in Washington, D.C., as exposed brick walls provide a natural accent detail. On this project in particular, we were confident that the added textures would enhance the contemporary theme throughout the rest of the house while providing warmth and character. Needless to say, we were thrilled when our client had a change of heart, and more than happy to accommodate her request!
Since the bulk of the plaster had already been chipped off the bricks, the next step was to clean the bricks thoroughly. This is a laborious task that can be done several ways (scrubbing with muriatic acid and sand blasting are two popular methods). We opted to use a large grinder with a wire brush attachment to remove the bulk of the remaining plaster, followed by scrubbing with warm water and soap. This was a dusty ordeal that occupied a carpenter and helper for the better part of a week. Once the walls were clean and free of dust, we sealed the bricks and mortar joints with a dull matte finish, as our client wanted to avoid the shiny lacquered look.