How to Paint Brick

How to Paint Brick – Our Top Tips for Painting Masonry

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The majority of things nowadays are made from some form of synthetic material. This has resulted in coatings such as primers, paints, and adhesives being formulated for these synthetic materials. Before the advent of synthetic and wood construction materials, the most popular building material was brick. Painting brick is something that has been done for years, but how do you tackle it to ensure the best results?



What is Brick?

What a brick is, by definition, has changed over time. Bricks are any dense form packed in a relatively rectangular or square shape. As mentioned, brick’s composition has changed significantly since we first began making bricks. Initially, oven-dried clay was used and ‘hobbled’ together to create bricks. Modern bricks, on the other hand, are made from materials such as graded clay, barium, manganese, or kaolin. These materials provide significant structural integrity and ensure that bricks can be used for their desired application.

Various Types of Brick

There is no specific definition for what a brick should be, as bigger items fitting the description of bricks are referred to as blocks. For example, cinder blocks are not usually called bricks as they are significantly larger than your standard brick.


The Different Types of Brick

Bricks are available in many different types. With experience, we have identified that a blanket approach to construction is not successful. Therefore, certain types of bricks have better structural integrity or can insulate/distribute heat. Or even be able to dissipate water, in comparison to other types of bricks. Some bricks have been designed to connect like puzzle pieces by locking into one another which offers amazing structural stability and is therefore used in larger structures.

Other types of bricks which also permanently interlock are three-hole bricks. These bricks have three holes in their center, arranged in sequence. When these bricks are placed in a structure, they line up with the other brick’s holes and can then be filled with mortar. The gaps are filled up by the mortar. Mortar when dried locks the bricks into place. This creates significant stability in the structure itself.

As mentioned, early bricks are often compared to cinder blocks or blocks. You may wonder which is the better option to go with, well, bricks have been around for what feels like forever, or at least since we built shelters as a species, and bricks provide much better insulation. However, blocks provide much better tensile strength and structural integrity than bricks do. Due to this fact, contractors tend to use blocks more as opposed to conventional bricks.

Construction Brick Examples

Bricks are easier to work with than blocks though, and for the individual user, bricks are the physical foundations we build our homes on. This is linked with the fact that they are simple to replace, plaster, and paint make them the go-to option for many would-be craftsmen the world over.



Can You Paint Brick?

Painting your brick home might not seem like an overwhelming task, but there are aspects that you should take into consideration before you begin painting.

Paint Types for Brick


The Advantages of Painting Brick

There are a host of positive aspects when it comes to painting bricks, not limited to being aesthetically appealing. Painting brick should not be something that you do as a spur of the moment decision, many aspects are considered technical that can normally be learned through experience. When these aspects are handled correctly you will achieve stunning results. Over time our habits, preferences, and looks change.

In recent years it has become quite trendy to paint brick. The look for exposed bricks was more common in the late ’70s and early ’80s. This means that over time your home may have changed from dull-looking exposed face brick to a gorgeous coat of ivory white.

Natural Texture of Unpainted Brick

When painting brick (correctly) you will not only refresh the look of your house, you can also increase the longevity of the brickwork and improve the structure’s insulation slightly. Another advantage to painting brick is that the paint protects the brick from insects. They would have to first work through the paint before they could burrow into the bricks.

Painted brick is also a lot easier to clean, as the paint forms a sheer surface that means you can simply use a power cleaner on a lower setting and wash down your exterior walls and roof lining.

Interior Painted Brick


The Disadvantages of Painting Brick

Sadly, there are some negative aspects when painting brick. While exposed brick is quite popular when used indoors, it still has a little appeal aesthetically with exterior walls. Exposed brick can provide your home with a distinguished or historical feel, and will need hardly any maintenance.

If you decide to paint your home you will have to accept that you will have to repaint quite often. Once you have painted on brick there is no going back. You will not be able to create the rustic look exposed bricks offer. You will also have to ensure that your painted brick remains clean, as any grime and dirt on your paint job can cause your house to look messy and run down. When painting brick, you have signed yourself up for the responsibility of maintaining the façade.

Over time, painted brick can potentially chip, even if the paint has been applied by a professional. Paint will wear and tear with time and will eventually lift off from the brick surface.  Paint has the ability to contract and expand a finite number of times before the adhesion is lost.

Old Worn Paint on Brick

Painted exterior brick can make your old house seem fresh and updated. It provides you with a clean aesthetic that you can change over time as trends come and go, but you are left with a significant amount of potential, unexpected expenses and maintenance. So, before you begin painting your brick home, take into consideration the amount of money and time you will have to sacrifice for something purely aesthetic.


Which Types of Paint Work on Brick?

It can seem a little overwhelming to apply exterior brick paint. Selecting the correct color and working out the logistics of the process you will also need to know which types of paintwork work best when applied to exterior brick. You may ask yourself, what kind of paint to use on exterior brick? Certain paints work better on exterior brick than when used on interior brick, therefore you will need to ensure that you have selected the correct paint for brick that works in the environment your surface is located. We have put together a table which is a great reference to know whether or not a particular type of paint will work on either interior or exterior brick surfaces.

Type of PaintWill It Work on Brick?InteriorExterior

If you so choose, you can achieve a better finish by staining your bricks, though this does take a lot more effort and experience to execute correctly. We recommend having a professional stain the brick if this is an aesthetic you want to achieve. While stained bricks require significantly less maintenance, it is considered an acquired taste.



How to Paint Your Home’s Brick Exterior

Painting bricks is very similar to painting most surfaces, though it is significantly larger, and unless you want to try painting each brick before placing it into the wall (which we strongly recommend you do not do) it is not a surface that while you are painting can be manipulated.

You will require the following tools:

  • Paintbrush, medium-sized
  • Power washer/Soapy water
  • Paint Roller (high nap)/Paint sprayer
  • Steel-wool brush
  • Non-acidic cleaning agents
  • Exterior brick paint
  • Clean cloth
  • Exterior brick primer

Tools for Painting Brick


Preparing Your Surface

You will need to do a significant amount of preparation before beginning to paint your brick house, and if it is your first time tackling such a project, we recommend you plan and set aside a sunny weekend to do the job. You will have to clean off your home’s exterior and there are thankfully a few options available to you to do this.

Take your steel wool brush and using some soap and water scrub the brick surface, make sure you are scrubbing in between the bricks so that you reach the mortar. You want to ensure that you clean all areas of the brick surface as any missed dirt or grime can compromise the paint’s adhesion.

Tip: If you find mildew, mold, moss, or even small web bugs on the brick’s surface you can use some trisodium phosphate (TSP) or some bleach in an extremely diluted quantity to get rid of these issues.

If it is necessary to use chemicals or any type of acidic substances to clean the brick surface you will need to allow the bricks time to dry and absorb them. Then you can remove any residue using some sanding paper or a wire brush and remove any residue from the surface of the brick.

If any acidic substance is not washed off, it can eat away at any coat of paint that is applied to the brick surface, so make sure that your surface is safe and clean before applying any paint.


Priming Your Surface

Before painting brick houses, you must prime the surface. Painting brick houses you will also need to ensure that the primer has set completely and that the surface has no contaminants on it. In doing so you will ensure that your paint will adhere correctly and that your coating will not have any terrible bumps. You will need to use the correct primer for your specific type of paint.

Depending on if you are using oil, enamel, latex, or acrylic paint,  your choice of paint will dictate the primer you apply. When applying the primer, you can do so using either a roller or a brush. Another option is to use a paint sprayer.

Any of the options do a relatively good job of applying primer to the brick surface, depending on your experience with each. We suggest you use whichever application method you feel the most comfortable with. It does go without saying that you will significantly decrease the time required to apply the primer by using a paint sprayer, particularly if you are a novice.

Painting Brick Wall

Regardless of how you choose to do it, ensure that you achieve maximum coverage. If you decide to only apply one coat (which we do not recommend), or two coats (this is the option we recommend to go with) make sure you allow sufficient time for each layer of primer to dry before continuing to the next step.


Painting Your Surface

There are two options when it comes to applying the brick paint, we are going to look at both of them and advise their respective advantages and disadvantages.


Using a Roller

When you have finished selecting your paint and have mixed it on, you can pour it into your holder or sprayer and begin.  If you have decided to use a roller, we suggest you pick one that has thick bristles so that you can get in between the bricks and reach the cement.

When applying the paint with the roller, do not press the roller too hard. Rather allow the paint to seep into the bricks and ensure that you distribute the paint evenly over the brick surface using the roller. You should try your hardest to paint vertically (up and down). You can use a smaller brush to tackle any hard-to-reach places.

Tip: If you are having a hard time getting into tight spaces you can get even coverage by wiggling your brush around. While the outcome may be crude, this is the best solution.

Painting Brick with a Roller

You have the added benefit of using a roller in that you can control the rate of progress by limiting your range of application. If you want to speed things up while maintaining this advantage you can ask someone to help you paint.


Using a Sprayer

If you do not want to use a roller, and would rather look after your spine and wrists, you can use a paint sprayer. If you do not own a paint sprayer that is not a problem, you can always rent one or borrow one, which comes with its advantages.

One advantage to using a paint sprayer is that you can just pop the paint feed straight into the bucket of paint you have chosen and just go for it. This ensures a lot less mess and is much easier than having to dip your roller into the paint every time it runs dry.

Stand at a medium distance from the surface, making even uninterrupted passes when applying the paint, and ensure that you achieve maximum coverage with as little runoff as possible. If you have never used a sprayer before, you can spray in either a horizontal or vertical direction, if you select to work in a vertical direction you will need to lay down some sheeting to protect your lawn or paving. If this is your first time it might take you a few hours to get used to using the paint sprayer, but in the long run, it will make applying the paint go a lot faster.

Painting Brick with a Sprayer

Regardless of which method you select, allow your paint to dry between each coat. You will also need to ensure that there are no contaminants present before applying the following layer.



How to Paint Your Interior Brick Fireplace

Most people choose to stain their interior fireplaces, some prefer to apply a fresh coat of paint to add to the vibrancy of their living spaces. Back in the day, it was considered a luxury to have a fireplace. So, knowing how to paint a brick fireplace wasn’t a required skill. Nowadays, a lot of homes have a fireplace. So how to paint a brick fireplace is a skill you may just need, and we are here to help you.

Painted Brick Fireplace

You will require the following:

  • A paint roller (one with a high nap)
  • Hand boom/Hand vacuum
  • Several medium-sized paint brushes
  • Interior brick primer
  • A clean cloth


Preparing Your Surface

When working inside you will not be able to use a power washer, but that is ok. Instead, you will save on water whilst getting a workout. Begin by using your hand vacuum or hand broom, and clean away any debris and dust that may be stuck between the bricks of your fireplace. When you are certain that all the dust and cobwebs have been removed from the brick surface, you can take a bucket of warm soapy water and wipe down the surface.

Clean Brick Before Painting

You will need to clean not just the bricks but the exposed mortar between the bricks as well, as you do not want to run the risk of your primer not adhering any unprimed areas.

When you have finished cleaning you should allow the bricks time to dry before you move on to the following step. You can also lay down some newspaper or tarp to ensure that you do not damage your floors.


Priming Your Surface

Now that your surface is dry and clean you can begin applying your primer. Make sure that you have been through the relevant instructions that you received with the primer before you begin applying. When you are happy that the primer is ready, begin applying the primer. Start by applying it between the bricks on the mortar and when you are certain that all the recesses have been covered you can begin to apply it on the brick itself.

Types of Brick Paint

Do not apply the primer too thickly with your initial coat. You should be working in an environment with sufficient ventilation when using either primer or paint inside.

When you have covered both the mortar and the bricks completely, allow sufficient time for the primer to dry. Once the layer is dry, you can begin applying the next coat. Before applying the next coat, always inspect the surface and remove any contaminants using a clean cloth. Before you move on to the final step, ensure that your last coat of primer has dried completely.


Paint Your Surface

You can only start painting when you are sure that the primer has dried completely. Just like when you applied the primer, begin painting the mortar first, using your paintbrush. Should you happen to get some paint on the bricks while you are painting the mortar that is not a problem, as you will be able to fix it later. Remember that this is not a primer, so you want to be certain that you are doing this step correctly, promptly to stop bits of your paint from drying.

Pattern Painted Brick Wall

When you have covered the mortar completely, you can tackle the brick surfaces. Using your roller, apply the paint lightly in even coats. Use the roller to ensure that the paint is distributed evenly and allow the paint to seep into the surface.

Depending on the paint’s viscosity and the color paint you have selected to use, you can apply either one or two coats. We highly recommend you apply two coats to achieve the best finish when working with most acrylic paints. Ensure that there are no contaminants present, and if there are any, you can use a clean cloth to remove them before applying your final coat.


Now that you know how to paint brick, what type of paint to use on exterior and fireplace brick, and how to use both a roller and a sprayer, you can go ahead and tackle painting your brickwork. When working with any potentially toxic products, ensure that you are wearing the necessary safety gear and you are working in a space with adequate ventilation.



Frequently Asked Questions


Is Painting Brick Bad?

While you can bring new life to your brick surface by painting it, most people think that you should not paint brick. If your brick surface is damaged, by adding paint you can cause the eye to be drawn to the defects, and you will accelerate the decomposition process. Always access both the mortar and the brick surface before beginning to paint it.


What Type of Paint Can Be Applied to Exterior Brick Walls?

When painting exterior brick surfaces, what paint to use is your choice. We recommend using enamel, acrylic, oil, and latex-based paints. These paints are ideal for use on an exterior wall thanks to their ability to resist extreme weather conditions, their ability to seep into the brick’s porous surface.


Can You Paint Brick?

You can paint brick; you will find it easy to do if you use specially formulated paint for brick. You will need to have the correct tools at hand and the correct primer to ensure you achieve a good finish. We highly recommend using acrylic paint to paint your brick surface as it offers the perfect balance between weather resistance and elasticity.


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