If you’ve ever looked at the exterior of your brick home and wanted to give it a major refresh, you’ve likely contemplated painting the brick. This might be a bigger endeavor than you think, though: Unlike vinyl or aluminum siding, brick isn’t easily painted, and there’s a range of opinions on painting masonry that was designed to be displayed in its current state.
“We’re a fickle society,” says Scott Sidler, founder and editor-in-chief of The Craftsman Blog and a licensed Florida contractor who has been restoring historic buildings for more than 20 years. “Painted brick might be cool today, but in 20 years, it’s like you’re peeling carpet off hardwood and going ‘Who did this?'”
Drive down any suburban block, though, and you’ll likely notice that plenty of people have already bought into the painted brick look. Which side is right, and how can you decide whether you should paint your brick exterior or leave it as-is? Here’s what you need to consider as you contemplate this makeover option.
What to Consider Before Committing to a Painted Brick Home
If you live in a brick home—even a home with just a little decorative brick or masonry on the exterior—you’ve likely realized that there aren’t many ways to change up the look and feel of a brick siding home without grabbing a paintbrush. That’s because, for many of these homes, the brick work is structural not easily swapped out the way vinyl or aluminum siding might be.
Sidler restores historic buildings and homes and comes across tons of brickwork in need of repair in Orlando, Florida, where his company is based. He typically approaches the decision to paint brick depending on the type of brick and its current condition.
If you have solid brick on your home that still looks great, Sidler cautions against painting it. That’s because brick is one of the lowest-maintenance features on your home’s exterior, but painted brick will require upkeep.
“Brick requires very little maintenance, but now you’ve created a maintenance cycle,” he says. “The paint will fail, and people don’t realize they’re going to have to do a $15,000 paint job every decade.”
Of course, if the brick on your home is showing its age but still maintains its structural integrity, a paint job might be just the facelift it needs.
When it comes to painting interior brick, the stakes are a bit lower and the reward can be higher, Sidler says. Laura Bierman, an interior design consultant at YouthfulHome.coma home services finder, agrees.
“Because it’s easy and inexpensive, painting interior brick is a common way to make a big change in older, dated houses,” Bierman says.
Plus, if you’re looking to sample this trend before you commit to an entire painted brick home, you could try another method first.
“For interior surfaces, whitewashing may be a better look for you than paint,” Bierman says. “Acid washing interior brick can give it a fresh look that changes the room as well.”
Sidler says painting indoor brick work is typically safe, because there are no moisture issues or structure issues to consider and you’re usually covering a smaller amount of space than you would with exterior brick.
“Go for it,” he says.
Painting Brick Correctly
If you decide to paint your brick, the key is doing it correctly for a long lasting, professional look.
Sidler says you need to pick the right paint and primer.
“You can’t just grab a wall paint and put it on brick, because it will fail and it will damage the brick,” he says. “Brick is porous and it needs to breathe.”
When this project is done incorrectly, you accidentally seal the brick off with paint, which won’t allow moisture in or out. Sidler says this can lead to efflorescence, or a build-up of minerals on the brick. It can also lead to spalling over time, which is when the front of the brick crumbles to powder.
Instead, look for a paint designed specifically for the job.
“Masonry paints are meant to adhere better to brick and be more breathable,” Sidler says. You’ll likely have to pay a bit more, but it’s worth it.
With the right materials, painting your brick is definitely a project you can tackle as the homeowner, though it won’t be a done-in-a-weekend chore. If you’re elements of your ability to complete the paint job properly, consider hiring a pro.
“Before painting, make sure that brick is very clean,” Sidler says. “Use a good primer and the highest quality paint you can afford. Then make sure you’re using the right tools: a roller with a thick nap that can get into the nooks and crannies.”
Down the line, if you want to remove the paint, Sidler suggests opting for a chemical stripper.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see with stripping paint from brick is the sandblasting process,” Sidler says. “Sandblasting is like blasting the crust of the bread off, leaving white, soft interior of the bread exposed. It removes the protective cover and the brick has a far lesser lifespan.”
Even with the right products, Sidler cautions that painted brick will never likely return to its original state, so make the decision to paint with caution.
Are Painted Brick Homes a Passing Trend or a Lasting Look?
Painted brick is not a new concept, but like wood paneling and shag carpeting, it has a shelf life.
“Although painting brick has been around for a long time, thanks in part to the popularity of the ‘modern farmhouse’ look, painted exterior brick is very popular now,” Bierman says.
Like all trends, painted brick can go in and out of style. Consider this if you’re looking to change a fundamental part of your home, especially if you’re looking to sell in the future. Plus, you as the homeowner could find you dislike the look as the trend fades.
“Homes with a very specific look won’t appeal to everyone. In some neighborhoods, white painted brick may provide the curb appeal that seals the deal. In others, not so much,” Bierman says.
Some buyers might love the look of a home with painted brick, while others might view it as akin to painting wooden furniture or putting carpet down over hardwood floors.
“I recommend it if it fits the place and purpose for existing homes. It’s a cost-effective way to achieve a major transformation of the home,” Bierman says.
Bierman points out that a prospective buyer might recognize the difficulty in changing a home’s paint color, so the best way to prep a home with painted brick for sale is to make sure the paint is in good shape.
“To prepare for sale, existing painted brick should be cleaned or repainted,” she says.
When approached with commitment and care, painted brick can be just the thing to refresh your home’s exterior—just be sure it’s really what you want before you commit.