It's a contentious issue. Many designers, paint contractors, and homeowners vehemently say that brick should be left in its natural state—unpainted. There's good reason for this view. Brick is often chosen for its durability, built-in color, and natural look. Painting covers that up. It can also cover up problems, such as mold or water infiltration in the mortar.
But for every person who says it should be left unpainted, there is another who says that not only can poor quality brick be painted over, but good brick will look better when painted. The key is to let new brick weather for at least a year to to allow for deep drying and leaching, clean it well in the days leading up to painting, and use a porous paint designed to let the brick breathe.
If you're ready to for a new look for your home, here's how to paint brick like a pro.
Equipment / Tools
- Hand wire brush
- Mild detergent
- Garden hose (or power washer)
- Chlorine bleach (optional)
- Roller covers designed for brick or masonry
- Paint tray
- Canvas drop cloth
- Exterior grade caulk
- Brick conditioner
- Elastomeric exterior masonry and stucco paint
Consider the Permanence of Painted Brick
The debate on painting brick has less to do with the look of it than with the permanence of the project. It is difficult to remove paint from brick. You have three basic options: sandblasting, manual stripping, or pressure washing. Each method requires a great deal of time and effort. If you decide you really like the way the brick looks painted, keep in mind that the nature of brick's relation to moisture will quickly wear away at even the most durable paint, requiring repainting every three to five years.
Consider that painted interior brick is even more permanent because it rules out the possibility of pressure washing or sandblasting the paint, should you decide to reverse the project. If the interior brick is part of a wall that reaches the exterior, such as the interior side of a fireplace, you can expect to repaint that area every three to five years as well.
Many homeowners like to cover over the brick with stone veneer, which is a project no less permanent but one that conveys higher property value.
Undertake this project with much consideration and care. View it as irreversible. If you decide you want to paint the brick, here's how to do it.
Carefully Clean the Brick
Efflorescence is that white, chalky stuff that often appears on brick. If you have any efflorescence, use a hand wire brush without water to remove it. If this is exterior brick, try lightly power washing. Be careful about applying too much pressure; using too much power will etch the brick.
Many experts suggest giving it a few weeks after cleaning away the efflorescence to see if it comes back. If it does, there might be serious water issues that should be addressed by a professional.
Repair Any Problems
Does your brick have large cracks? Brush them out with the wire brush to remove any loose material. Seal with pure acrylic or silicone/acrylic caulk designed for exterior use.
Sometimes the mortar is crumbling or even missing. This means that you need to repoint your mortar. Deeply inset or missing mortar means that your painting job will be that much harder. So, while repointing may seem unnecessary at this point, it will save you work later in this process.
What Is Repointing?
Over time, mortar can erode or decay, leaving deep spaces between bricks. Repointing is the process of cleaning out and replacing the old mortar with new mortar. This makes the brick look better, keeps it stable, and helps combat water infiltration.
Prepare the Brick for Painting
Scrub down bricks with mild detergent and scrub brush. Or use a power washer, if you haven't done this in an earlier step. If you have mold and/or mildew, remove it by adding one part of ordinary household bleach to three parts water. Moss is relatively simple to kill with a spray-on fluid such as Bayer 2-in-1 Moss and Algae Killer.
Take Time to Dry
Let the bricks dry thoroughly before attempting to paint. Because brick is very porous, it may feel dry to the touch but is wet inside. To be certain it's dry enough, let a day or two of dry weather pass before attempting to paint.
Prep the Surface
Roll, brush, or spray on a coat of conditioner paint such as Sherwin-Williams Loxon.
Let the conditioner dry for about three hours. Be careful not to let too much time pass or the surface will get dirty and need to be recleaned.
Paint the Brick
Paint with a coat of 100 percent acrylic elastomeric wall coating similar to Valspar Duramax. You can apply the paint with either a brush, roller, or paint sprayer. A paint sprayer or roller might work best on exterior brick simply for efficient use of time; a brush or roller will keep things cleaner for interior brick.
Let the paint dry thoroughly, then apply a second coat.