The Dos and Don'ts of Painting Brick Masonry

August 18th 2021

The Dos and Don'ts of Painting Brick Masonry

If you asked us whether we liked our brick painted or not painted, we'd go with the latter every time.

How it looks when it comes out of the kiln. These days that could mean any number of colours and textures.

But some people fancy painting their brickwork and we're not against that. It may be exactly what your building project needs.

In the right locations it can look pretty special, assuming it's done well.  

But we don't want you whipping out a paint brush and slapping it on willy-nilly.

There are a few things you should consider first.

Should you paint your brick?

Of course, the answer to this question is completely up to you. As a design choice it's not that common but it's also not completely rare.

If you needed a few reasons not to do it, we'd probably start with...

Are you sure you really want to?

When you've got a building material as versatile, durable and attractive as brick, would you really want to cover it all up (permanently -- more on that below) with a completely different colour?

It might be a cool idea that's on trend at the moment and it may look great in certain locations, but are you going to regret it down the line?

Having said that, we're guessing if you're reading this you're probably pretty open to the idea.

It will need repainting

Another big downside to painting brick is that much like any painted surface, it will need maintaining.

Hopefully, if it's painted well, then it won't need repainting too frequently but it will need doing at some point. That's a given.

In the meantime, you'll have to be ok with a slowly deteriorating painted surface. Depending on how long you leave it, it could look pretty tatty by the time you get around to redoing it.

Although maybe shabby chic is the look you're going for.

Holds in moisture

One of the reasons why brick usually lasts so long is its porosity.

Water that gets into the brick, generally makes its way to the surface and evaporates.

If water still manages to get into a painted brick surface, it may struggle to leave the brick, causing the brick to deteriorate quicker and the paint to crack.

Very hard to remove

Perhaps the thing you should be most aware of before embarking on a brick masonry painting project is that once it's on it will be very hard to remove.

Painting brick is very much a permanent change so you should absolutely be sure it's what you want.

There are ways of removing it by using special solutions and getting professional help but it will never be removed completely and there will usually be some residual paint.

The benefits of painting brick

We don't want to completely dissuade you from painting your brick, however. There are some perfectly good reasons for doing it.

When done well it can add major visual appeal, depending on where your house is. For example, in some locations white painted brick is quite common.

Equally a more urban dark grey paint could look very classy indeed.

If you wanted to be a little bolder you could add a painted feature wall or even painted shapes to the side of a house, to give a building that extra bit of character.

Another major benefit is that the painted surface does protect the brick from some weathering and is also easier to clean. Again though, this is all assuming it's done well in the first place.

So, there's a few reasons you might want to go down this path. Now, how do you go about doing it?

Prepping your brick wall for painting

The most important step in painting brick is the preparation beforehand.

Firstly, before you do anything you need to make sure your wall is ready.

Sort existing brick issues

It's no good trying to paint brick that is chipping or deteriorating in some way.

If this can be sorted out, it needs to be done first. If there is mould, moss or existing moisture in the wall, this needs to be cleaned up and dried. Weed killer may also be needed for this.

Any problems in the wall that aren't sorted out will only get worse further down the line.

If there are cracks, they should be sealed. If the mortar is looking tired, it's a good idea to repoint those mortar joints.

Clean and dry

Regardless of the condition of your wall, if it's an exterior wall it should be cleaned with soap and water.

Don't use acid-based cleaning solutions as this could linger and result in paint chipping.

Wait 24 hours for it to dry before doing anything to it.

Beware of efflorescence

Efflorescence is a salt deposit that can build up from moisture in the brick. Cleaning this off is essential before painting.

Paint is also affected by the alkaline properties in mortar so this needs to be primed.

Using conditioner and primer

Once you're happy the wall is clean and in a good condition you can set about prepping it for paint.

This should involve applying a conditioner and primer to the wall. This provides a decent undercoat so that you're not sticking paint straight onto the exposed brick.

Bear in mind that interior and exterior walls need to be treated differently, so if you're decorating an interior exposed brick wall then you should make sure you've got material that is meant specifically for that purpose.

What paint should you use?

Once you've prepped, it's time to paint, although we'd recommend getting professionals in to do this.

They will ensure that parts of the brickwork aren't missed out, leaving you vulnerable to future damage from moisture.

With the paint it's best that you spend a bit of money on some high-quality masonry paint.

It will usually have latex and acrylic in the name. If you want it to last, don't go cheap.

That said, there are a variety of paints available for different budgets and desired textures.

The other option is to get your wall professionally stained rather than painted. This is more expensive again but what it does do is properly penetrate the pores of the brick, leaving your masonry with a deep colouring. The paint doesn't just sit on the surface so you avoid a lot of the long-term risks associated with paint.

Give your brick a fresh look

If you want to paint brand new brickwork, it's recommended that you wait at least a year before painting, to allow for drying, weathering and leaching.

Although if you're spending money on new bricks, we're guessing you don't just want to cover it up straight away.

But if that's your plan we'd be happy to supply you with bricks for that project. Just let us know what you're after.