The bricks on the exterior of our house have been painted. We. would like to remove the paint and restore the house to its original appearance. How easily can this be accomplished
Most likely, not easily! If the bricks were prepared properly, it may be virtually impossible to return them to their original appearance. This is one of those a rare situations in which you will be better off if the quality of the original work was inferior!!!
The porous nature of brick requires the application of a primer/sealer to the surface. The primer should penetrate the bricks and seal the surface. If the paint is applied directly to unsealed bricks, the bricks will absorb the paint unevenly, resulting in a spotted appearance. Because the primer is absorbed into the brick, removing it without damaging the bricks might prove impossible.
There are several methods for removing the paint. A pressure washer can be used, though care should be exercised. High pressure water can damage mortar and soft bricks. Sand blasting, in either a wet or dry form, can also be used, though again, damage to the bricks can easily occur.
A chemical stripper can be used to soften the paint film, which can then be removed with a pressure washer or a scraper.
However, if the stripper softens the primer, it could cause further absorption into the bricks.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to your question. Each method can be effective, though progress will be slow, tedious, and messy. Some property owners in your situation have elected to remove as much of the paint as possible, and leave the remainder on the bricks. The result can be attractive.
My suggestion would be to experiment on a small area. This will allow you to identify the method which will be most effective, as well as determine if the appearance you seek is possible.