Homes with brick exteriors have a timelessly charming look. Whether they’re used for a home, business, or industrial facility, bricks are a tried-and-true material. Unfortunately, their appearance can begin to change after years of exposure to rain, snow, and other damage. Here’s the good news–you can be successful at painting bricks with a little know-how.
Perhaps you’ve grown weary of the color of your bricks. What once appeared vibrant and strong is now water-stained, faded, and out of style. Perhaps they make your home look as though it’s poorly maintained and reduces its curb appeal.
You’re ready to take the aesthetic of your home in a new direction, and you want to start by repainting the bricks.
However, when you’re considering this project, it’s important to do your research—not just any can of paint will do. If you don’t do it properly, you could end up with bricks that are severely damaged by moisture, and paint that looks chipped and flaky.
We’ve put together this guide to help you make your remodeling project a success. Here’s what you need to know before buying a regular bucket of paint:
The Problem with Painting Bricks
Given how porous bricks are, painting them isn’t the same process as it is with wood or drywall. Water can damage them extensively. Add a thick layer of the wrong paint to the mix, and you could trap moisture within the brick, causing it to degrade significantly.
Bricks are made primarily of clay, concrete, fly ash, or sand and lime (with clay bricks being the most common for residential use). By using the wrong paint, you run the risk of destroying the brick. This is especially true of new bricks, which require months to dry completely.
You may want to consider staining the brick instead, which will still alter the color but won’t cause damage the way that some paints can.
That being said, is painting brick a good idea? The answer is yes—as long as you do it correctly and carefully. If you’ve decided that painting is the way to go, set yourself up for success by following these tips:
Select Your Paint Carefully
When you’re painting brick, not just any old can of paint will do! You need to select a product that’s specifically designed for this material.
It might sound odd, but your bricks need to breathe. Brick contains pores that are used to expel water—if those pores are covered, they will be damaged by water. Since bricks breathe, you need paint that will breathe with them.
Luckily, there are porous paints on the market designed for this purpose. What you need is masonry paint. A mineral-based silicate masonry paint creates a chemical bond with the brick and provides resistance to the elements, like rain and snowfall. Because this paint is breathable, just like brick, it won’t trap moisture between the layers. Another option is elastomeric paint, which is known for its flexibility and mildew resistance.
In addition, the color you choose is just as important. There’s no easy way to remove the paint once it’s on, so make sure to choose a color that you like! Otherwise, you might need to paint over it again in a couple of years. We advise choosing a color that’s neutral and agreeable in case you decide to sell your property within a few years.
Check the Weather Forecast
You don’t want the sky to rain on your parade, and you definitely don’t want it to rain on your freshly painted bricks.
This tip is applicable for any exterior paint job. Rain is a disaster for paint that’s drying, but especially when it’s on top of bricks.
We also suggest that you avoid painting in extreme temperatures. Chilly temperatures will interfere with the paint’s ability to bind to the bricks, while hot days will cause the paint to dry before it adheres completely.
When you’re searching for the perfect weather conditions, you might feel like Goldilocks—you need a day that’s not too hot, not too cold, and has clear skies.
Clean & Repair the Bricks
Help the paint adhere to the bricks by thoroughly cleaning the surface. If the bricks are damaged, it’s best to repair them first—painting them will only exaggerate the cracks and imperfections. And if the bricks are already painted, remove any flaking paint.
Finally, clean the surface thoroughly to prevent dust and dirt from interfering with the painting process. Any mold and mildew must be removed completely. Depending on the size of the surface area, you may require a pressure washer to get the job done.
You’ll also need to get rid of any traces of efflorescence, which is the white or gray tint that forms on bricks. It’s a result of moisture that causes salts to crystallize. This substance can be removed with pressurized water or a sturdy brush.
Once you apply paint to bricks, it’s incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to revert it to its original color. Make sure you’re committed to your project before you get started. Remember, using the wrong type of paint may cause moisture to get trapped inside the bricks, decreasing their quality and damaging their structural integrity.
You wouldn’t write an exam without studying, or run for a marathon without stretching first—so why paint bricks before you’ve done the prep work?
Painting bricks without using a primer and conditioner will compromise the quality of your paint job. Don’t skip this step! A base layer will seal the surface of the bricks and protect against moisture damage. It also helps the paint adhere to the textured surface of the masonry. Use your favorite brick-friendly paint primer or conditioner for this step, and be sure to give the bricks plenty of time to dry before applying paint.
But which tool should you use when painting bricks? If the bricks are inside your home, you can probably use a roller and/or a standard paintbrush. However, for exteriors, you might need a paint sprayer.
Bricks add character and structural stability to any home. However, years of damage may erode their once-charming exterior. Even though painting bricks can run some risks, you’ll be able to successfully accomplish your project using the tips we’ve listed above.