Brick is an incredibly durable building product for interiors and exteriors, and it needs only minimal maintenance. But eventually, the brick may become tired and in need of an update.
As long as the brick is structurally sound and the surface isn't painted, one of the best ways to give it a design refresh is to stain it. Learn how to give your fireplace, exterior wall, interior brickwork, walkway, or other brick surfaces vitality and a new life with brick stain.
What Brick Staining Is
Brick stain is a permanent surface finish that changes the appearance of the brick. Unlike paint, which remains on the surface, brick stain is a mineral product that soaks into the brick and becomes a part of the brick. It can never chip, bubble, or pull away from the brick.
Brick stain works best when applied to unsealed, clean, fully porous brick. It cannot be applied to painted brick. Stain will bead on top of the paint.
Brick stain itself does not protect the brick, though it is possible to purchase brick stain with protective additives.
Brick and mortar stain at different rates and to different degrees. So, it sometimes is necessary to stain the mortar with a modified stain solution or to leave it unstained.
Painting Brick vs. Staining Brick
Seals up pores
Covers up masonry patches
Removable, though with difficulty
Leaves pores open
Masonry patches still visible
Cannot be removed
Brick staining and brick painting are related because both are ways of freshening up brick and giving it a new look. Beyond that, the two methods work differently and have outcomes that can appeal to different goals.
Brick painting covers the entire surface of the brick, including the mortar, with a relatively thick layer of paint. This method gives the brick a uniform, opaque appearance. Though there are no gradations of color with painted brick, painted brick can emphasize the texture of the brick surface. It also can give the brick a clean, modern feeling.
One advantage of painting brick is that the paint covers all of the surface flaws. Patched areas are covered up, as well. A disadvantage is that the paint seals up the porous brick and does not allow the brick to breathe.
Painted brick can be removed later on, although with much difficulty. Exterior painted brickwork can be sandblasted or power washed with water.
Brick stain covers the surface of the brick with a thin color. This color can either be solid and opaque, much like paint, or light and thin to preserve the brick’s basic color scheme.
Brick stain soaks into the pores of the brick and allows it to breathe. Unlike painted brick, stained brick does not allow water to become trapped below the surface.
One disadvantage of brick stain is that it will not refurbish heavily damaged brick. Not only will masonry patches not be covered with brick stain but they can become even more glaringly obvious because they become darker than the surrounding brickwork.
Brick stain is nearly impossible to remove. The stain is thin enough to embed itself deeply into the pores of the brick. Stain can be removed by sandblasting, but thin layer of brick will be removed in the process.
Equipment / Tools
- Clean buckets
- Paint brush
- Wood stirring stick
- Nylon bristle scrub brush
- Waterproof gloves
- Drop cloth
- Eye protection
- Brick stain
- Mild detergent or TSP
Test the Brick Stain
Locate a section of brick that is less noticeable and test the brick stain on this area. In some cases, you may even be able to locate an extra brick in a shed or basement to use for testing. If you cannot find spare bricks, pick a section on the side of the fireplace apron, walkway, interior brickwork, or exterior siding.
Test the Brick For Sealant
Dip your fingers in clean water and flick a few drops onto the brick. If the water immediately soaks in, this means that there is no sealant. You can begin staining the brick after cleaning it, as described in the next step. If the water beads up on the brick, it is likely coated in a clear sealant. Any sealant present will not allow the stain to penetrate the brick.
For removing sealant from exterior brick, power wash the brick on a wide spray to avoid damaging the brick. Problem areas can be gently scrubbed with a metal brush. Test for sealant again to ensure it has been removed. Generally, interior brick will not be sealed since it is not subjected to damaging exterior elements like rain, snow, and sun. Do not power wash indoor brick.
Clean the Brick
Mix mild detergent or TSP in a bucket with warm water. Starting from the top and working downward, clean the brick by scrubbing it with the nylon-bristle brush. Finish by rinsing the brick with clean water.
For interior brick, use only small amounts of water and be sure to cover the floor with plastic. For exterior brick, cover plants and garden beds with plastic.
Let the brick dry for a full day before staining. If you clean the brick in the morning and the weather is warm and dry, the brick may be dry enough by the end of the day for staining.
Protect Your Home and Yourself
Switch out the previous drop cloths for new, dry ones. Tape up to the edge of the brick. Wear waterproof gloves, work clothing, and shoes, plus eye protection.
Mix the Stain
Mix the stain pigment with water, as directed by the product instructions. Mix thoroughly until all of the pigment is dissolved. Clumps of undissolved stain pigment will stain the brick and will be difficult to lighten.
Apply the Stain
Dip the brush in the stain mix and run the brush across the brick in smooth, overlapping coats, making sure that no area receives more stain than another area.
After Staining the Brick
Curing time depends on the temperature, humidity level, and airflow. Stained brick in warm, dry, lightly breezy conditions will be dry to the touch almost immediately upon application. Areas where the stain may have pooled up, instead of soaking into the brick, may take a day or two to be dry to the touch. For particularly thick, pooled areas, dab with a clean cotton rag to remove the excess.
Interior stained brick does not need to be sealed.
Tips For Staining Brick
- Add more water to the mix to produce a lighter, thinner stain coat.
- Start with a lighter coat, as it can always be darkened. It is far more difficult to back out of a dark brick coat.
- Because pigment can quickly settle, frequently stir the stain mix.
- Mortar will absorb more of the stain and at a faster rate than the brick will. It might even be necessary to leave the mortar unstained.
- If rows are developing when applying the stain, switch to a scattered pattern to achieve consistency.