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How to Remove Old Window Caulking from Brick Exteriors

Caulk between a window frame and brick.

Removing an old exterior caulk from brick is easier than you think. Grab some tools and follow our simple steps which include other methods in case the first one doesn't work for you.

We all love the idea of adding or modifying to our home. After all, nobody wants a plain, boring, drab old home to live in. We want a house we can show off to our friends, use to make our neighbors jealous, and to have that awesome community barbeque. Sure, we all love the idea of reaping the rewards of a DIY house project that will make our home shine inside and out… until the time comes when we have to actually tackle the project ourselves. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to the exterior of the house, especially brick.

One of the areas of brick exterior needing the most upkeep is the caulk in between and outside of the bricks. In case you’re wondering what exactly caulk is but don’t want to ask, allow me to give you a refresher. Caulk is that gooey stuff you apply with a gun to seal over the concrete in between the bricks when the bricks are first laid upon construction. Sometimes you may find yourself having to remove said gooey stuff from your brick exterior for a number of reasons: the caulk becomes cracked, maybe you’re wanting to add in a window and need to remove some bricks, and other boring house stuff that we won’t get into. Not to fear, we’re going to break down the best ways of how to remove exterior caulk from a brick piece by piece.

Turning up the Heat

Applying heat to remove the caulk.

One of the best ways of removing caulk is to first apply heat to the desired area where you plan to remove the caulk. Now, before you go grab your blowtorch to scorch away all the caulk, remember that you only need enough heat to make the caulk soft and pliable. Instead of putting enough heat near the brick to potentially burn your house down, we would suggest using a standard heat gun. They can be purchased at your nearest hardware store and they usually look like hair dryers from the future. Once you’ve found the proper heat gun, you want to hold the gun about 6-8 inches away from the area and run the heat gun back and forth along the caulk until you feel like it’s squishy enough to remove.

Now that we’ve got our caulk good and soft, it’s time to move onto the next step of this method: using a blade to scrape out the now soft caulk from the brick. You want to first use a standard putty knife to pry up visible pieces of caulk up out of the brick. Once you’ve removed the caulk, you’ll want a sharper blade to scrape out the remaining harder-to-reach pieces in between the brick pieces. You won’t need to pull Excalibur out of a rock to get the remaining caulk out, so we recommend using a standard pocket knife or utility knife to get the job done.

Once you’ve gotten as much caulk out of the brick as you can scrape, the next thing you’ll want to do is scrub any remaining pieces of caulk with warm water and a sponge. After you scrub the brick, you’ll want to rinse off the area and then let the brick sit so it can dry. After your brick has recovered from the rather violent bath it received, and the brick is dry and fresh, the last thing you’ll want to do is clean the brick with a sponge and some alcohol. You won’t have to sacrifice your favorite beer since ethanol or other denatured alcohols will work just fine. However, maybe your brick smelling like your favorite beer wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Overall, this method of removing exterior caulk from brick doesn’t require a doctorate degree in architecture to perform, and you don’t need a whole lot of tools to accomplish this mission. Our weapons of choice to slay this job are the following: a heat gun, a putty knife, a utility or pocket knife, warm water, and a sponge. All of these tools can be found at your local hardware store except the warm water. Please don’t ask Home Depot for a bowl of warm water. You’ll get funny looks from everyone.

Caulk Remover 3000 (AKA Lift Off Caulk Remover)

Motsenbocker's Lift Off - Spray Foam and Silicone Caulk Remover - Great on Showers, Baseboards, Stainless Steel, Ceramic, & More - Water-Based & Biodegradable - 16-Ounce Spray Bottle
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We’ve crafted one diabolical plan to remove that pesky caulk, but there’s always more than one way to do something. If you’re paranoid that you may accidentally burn the house down with a heat gun, then this next method will be just as effective without the need for applying a heat gun. The biggest component of this method involves using Lift-Off caulk remover.

Before you start putting the liquid caulk remover on, the first thing you’ll want to do is to score all the caulk on the area of the brick you’re wanting to remove. Quick disclaimer: “scoring” in this sense doesn’t mean comparing the different areas of caulk and rating which one is the best on a scale of 1-10. “Scoring” in this sense means separating the caulk from the brick to give it a little bit of wiggle, making it easier to remove with the Liftoff caulk remover. You can score the caulk by using a utility or pocket knife.

After you’ve scored the caulk, the next thing you’ll want to do is grab that Lift-Off caulk remover. The liquid caulk remover can be bought at any local hardware store, so you don’t have to meet someone in an alley to acquire this stuff. Once you’ve got your liquid caulk remover, you’ll want to place the liquid in a small yogurt cup. Preferably, you want to put the Lift-Off remover in a yogurt cup that you’ve already used. I can only speak from speculation that yogurt and lift off caulk remover don’t taste very well when mixed.

After you’ve got your caulk remover in the empty yogurt cup, you’ll want a paint-brush to put the Lift-Off remover on. Ideally, you’ll want a fairly small paint-brush to use for applying the Lift-Off caulk remover. You’ll then apply the Lift-Off remover in the spots where the caulk has been scored. These are the spots where the caulk was separated from the brick to give it that wiggle. You’ll apply the Lift-Off remover in this area to help in separating the bond between the brick and the caulk. Don’t feel bad, the caulk and the brick’s relationship was going nowhere.

Once the Lift-Off remover has been applied in between the caulk and the brick, you’ll want to let the Lift-Off sit on the caulk for a few minutes. You know, let the caulk and the brick say their goodbyes. Once you’ve let the Lift-Off remover sit for about 3-4 minutes, the caulk should be ready to remove. Oh, wait… that’s why they call if “Lift Off”. Genius. Take that utility knife and pry the loose caulk from the brick. It should remove with little resistance and slide off the brick, like meat off of a perfectly cooked steak. Now I’m hungry and want a steak.

After everything is said and done, you can easily remove any of the Lift-Off residues by rinsing it out with a sponge and water. This job won’t require you to hire a crew or reach out to a company to perform. All of the tools you’ll need for this job are the following: Lift Off caulk remover, a utility or pocket knife, a sponge, water, a paint-brush, and a yogurt cup. I guess it doesn’t have to be a yogurt cup, but just something you’re not going to drink out of later. Again, Lift-Off doesn’t taste very good.

Goo Gone 

Goo Gone Caulk Remover 14oz (Package May Vary) Pack of 2
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The next method of removing caulk from brick is with a unique little product called Goo Gone. I know, I didn’t come up with the product title. Goo Gone can be purchased at any local hardware store and is essentially a spray you apply to the area of caulk you want to remove. This tool for caulk removal falls a little under the radar since this is a method most people aren’t familiar with or don’t use. Nevertheless, this method is just as effective as the others and just as easy.

The first thing you want to do is to prep the area of the caulk you’re trying to remove. You can do this by wiping the area down with a wet towel or rag. This will help moisten up the caulk and soften the caulk, allowing for that extra wiggle when applying the Goo Gone. Since Goo Gone’s sole mission on Earth is to remove caulk and gooey substances with ease, this first step probably isn’t necessary. But like with betting that the news anchor reporter is going to get the weather forecast exactly right, it’s better to take some extra steps, right?

After you’ve wiped down the area with a damp towel or rag, the next thing you want to do is to apply the good stuff: Goo Gone. To apply the Goo Gone, you simply point the bottle of Goo Gone at the area of caulk you wish to remove and spray away like a madman. You have to fun with this somehow, right? Remember, the Goo Gone spray bottle is locked and loaded, so be sure to not point towards anything that’s not caulked. The Goo Gone isn’t actually dangerous, but we have to make it sound cool somehow.

After you’ve successfully applied the Goo Gone, because it’s so hard to mess up, you want to let the Goo Gone sit for about one whole minute. During that whole minute, you could clip a single toenail, have a sip of coffee you made earlier that’s probably room temperature now, or stare directly at the Goo Gone to make sure it’s actually doing its job. Maybe don’t do that last one for the sake of not looking like a totally crazy person. After the Goo Gone has sat for a solid minute and has had time to do its thing, you’ll want to move on to the next step of removing the caulk.

Now that the Goo Gone has sunk into the caulk, you’ll want to grab a putty knife to pry out the sealant. You shouldn’t have to pry too hard. If you do, then don’t be afraid to add another layer of Goo Gone as sometimes that caulk can put up quite a fight. When the Goo Gone has been properly applied, you should be able to gently remove the caulk with the putty knife. After you have successfully scraped out all of the caulk from the brick, you should then proceed to clean the area with soap and water to try and prevent any weird discoloration.

What Now?

Window with caulk on a brick house.

Now that we’ve gone over some of the best ways to remove caulk exterior from brick, it’s best to know what to do in the aftermath of all this destruction and chaos we’ve created. Just kidding. Hopefully, your caulk removal experience wasn’t violent in any way. If it was, you’ve been doing it very wrong. What happens after the removal of the caulk depends on your individual project purposes. Depending on those purposes, your project could be done after you remove the caulk, or it could be just the halfway point of a much bigger project.

If your goal is to simply remove the caulk to replace it with new caulk, then your job is pretty straight-forward. Often times, people will remove old caulk on brick simply because the old caulk looks worn and faded over time, which can cause the brick to look not so appealing. After you remove the caulk, you simply replace it with brand new, shiny white, fresh-off-the-lot caulk which will give the brick that fresh pop. You want to be careful when applying new caulk to brick, since you don’t want any of the excess caulk to go on the outside flat surface of the brick, making a mess.

Because reapplying new caulk to brick can be a messy endeavor, it’s important to choose the right kind of caulk to apply. Oh yes, there are many different kinds of caulk, but we won’t cover all of the different kinds here today. Maybe some other time on a rainy day or when we’re around a campfire. Anyways, you want to use caulk that dries clear, like silicone or butyl rubber. Because this kind of caulk dries clear, the potential mess won’t be visible on the outside surface of the brick. Not that you would make a mess, because you’re a pro, but you can never be too careful these days.

This is easy to overlook, but the environment plays a factor in the caulk you will be putting on the brick. After all, this caulk is going to have to face the elements year-round. Because of this, you will want to pick a day when no rain is predicted and when the temperature is going to be above 40 degrees.

The moment you’ve dreamt of since you were a kid: using the actual caulk gun. Obviously, we had extremely different childhoods if your dream is to fire a caulk gun but to each their own. If you’ve never used a caulk gun before, the end of the tube has to be cut. How you cut this end is important since the caulk has to come out at a certain angle and in a certain way. Using scissors, you want to cut about ¼ inch off the tube end and cut the end at a 45-degree angle.

Once you’ve got the caulk tube all cut and ready to go, you have to actually use it, which can be trickier than you might think. You’ll put the tube of caulk into a caulk gun and twist the top part of the gun until it’s nice and tight against the bottom of the caulk tube. Once you’ve assembled your awesome caulk gun, it wouldn’t hurt to run a little test shot first. You’ll want to pick a spot that you don’t mind spraying a little caulk on to test out the gun and make sure everything is working smoothly.

When it comes to applying the caulk to the brick itself, the method is actually pretty simple. Like, caveman simple. Once you put your finger on the trigger, the caulk will start to come out of the gun. You’ll then run the gun over the brick in one long, solid motion to apply the layer of caulk to the brick. Once you’ve run the layer of caulk over the desired area, you simply let go of the trigger, stop moving the gun, and then head on to the next area.

For that professional look, you can simply run your finger across the fresh layer of caulk to smooth out the layer, making it look like you paid a pro to put in that caulk. This is also functional since it helps push the caulk into small spaces and crevices. After you’ve applied all the new caulk you desire, you’ll want to wait for the caulk to dry before painting over it. Once it’s dried, you can use a standard paint-brush to just whisk over the caulk with any paint of your choosing.

House exterior of the House BL designed by Hugo Monte.

House BL by Hugo Monte

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