How should I go about preserving exposed bricks in my home?

My kitchen will be renovated soon and I’d like to expose the bricks on one interior wall. The kitchen has a breakfast room adjoining it, with its own separate roof and lower walls — sort of like a shed tacked on to the side of the house. A small area of brick inside the kitchen extends outdoors, above the roof line of the breakfast room. It’s about 2 1/2-feet high, and this is the area I’m concerned about. Do I need to insulate this on the outside somehow, to keep the kitchen warm? Also, how do I clean the bricks if I find them dirty after pulling down the current interior wall surfaces?

Yes, exposed bricks look great. You’ll almost certainly have to clean them in some way, and sandblasting is the usual course of action. It’s messy, though, and definitely something you’ll need a contractor to help with. Sandblasting is one of the first and roughest tasks you’ll need to tackle in your kitchen renovaton, so get it out of the way immediately after the initial gut-out.

Some sort of insulated siding applied to the exposed exterior brick of your kitchen is a good thing, but I can’t tell whether or not it’s essential. My recommendation is to leave this area without siding for now (it’s not very large), then monitor how cold the wall feels during winter and how that affects room comfort. Adding a layer of exterior insulation and siding would be a separate job from the interior reno anyway, and could easily be done later, if experience proved it necessary.

If you’d like to preserve the appearance of brick while also adding insulation, consider a Canadian product called Novabrik (800-265-2522). It’s a thin, interlocking, brick-like masonry product designed to be screwed onto vertical wood strapping. Fasten this strapping to the exterior brick wall, fill the spaces between strips with rigid foam insulation, then put Novabrik on top.