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Most things these days are made of synthetic materials, therefore most coatings like paint, primer, and adhesives are geared towards these types of materials. Before the advent of wood and synthetic construction materials, the most sought-after building material was brick. Painting brick is an age-old tradition, but what is the best way to go about it? Let’s have a look at any other commonly asked questions about this construction medium.
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What Is Brick as a Building Material?
The definition of what a brick is has changed as technology progressed along with our understanding of which materials are most conducive to building our homes. Technically bricks are any dense object packed in a relatively square/rectangular shape. As we mentioned before, the composition of bricks has changed quite a bit since we first understood how to make them, initially made from oven-dried clay, and hobbled together to form our structures bricks have come a long way.
Modern bricks are made with a bit more nuance in mind, they are constructed from materials like barium, kaolin, manganese, and graded clay. These materials allow for higher structural integrity and ensure that bricks are ready for their intended application. There is no accurate definition for what a brick should be, this is illustrated by the fact that bigger objects fitting the same description are known as blocks, therefore cinder blocks are not commonly referred to as bricks as they are substantially bigger than your average brick.
The Different Types of Brick
There are also different kinds of bricks for different applications. We have learned through experience that the blanket approach to construction does not work, this is why certain bricks have greater structural integrity compared to others, or have the ability to dissipate water faster, or distribute/insulate heat more efficiently. There are also bricks that have been designed to lock into one another like puzzle pieces which allow for greater structural stability which is why they are typically used in larger structures.
Other bricks that are made with permanent locking measures in place are three-hole bricks. These bricks are manufactured with three holes placed in sequence down their center, and when placed into a structure they line up with their comrades’ holes and are filled up with mortar. The mortar fills these gaps and dries, which locks the bricks in place creating far greater stability in the structure itself.
Bricks are often compared to blocks or cinder blocks as we covered previously. So, which is better? Well, bricks have been around since we learned how to construct shelters as a species, and they insulate far better. However, bricks don’t provide anywhere near the structural integrity or tensile strength that blocks do, and this is why many contractors prefer using this material as opposed to conventional bricks.
Bricks are arguably easier to work with though, and for the common individual bricks are the literal foundation their homes are built upon. This in conjunction with the fact they are easy to plaster, paint, and replace makes them the weapon of choice for many would-be craftsmen all over the world.
Is It a Good Idea to Paint Brick?
Painting your brick home might not seem like a major decision at first thought, but there are some things you should know before you start spraying what for most people is a lifetime investment. Therefore, for your convenience, here are the advantages and disadvantages of painting your home.
The Advantages of Painting Brick
There are many advantages to painting brick and they are not simply limited to aesthetic appeal. Painting brick is not something that should be done on a whim, there are many technical aspects that often can only be learned through experience, but when done properly the results may leave you awe-struck. As the year’s progress, we change our looks and our habits to reflect the aesthetics of our time, after all, we’re not all walking around with mullets and teased hair anymore.
Painting brick has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, as the look of exposed brick does harken back to the bland browns and yellows of the late ’70s and early ’80s, therefore many have gone from the arguably dull-looking exposed face brick to a healthy coat of ivory white on their homes. This contrasts staggeringly well against the green of the “American dream” style home and parallels the white picket fence at its borders.
In addition to refreshing the look of the home, painting brick (when done correctly) can increase the longevity of the brickwork and even provide a slight improvement in the structure’s insulation. Another advantage to painting brick that not many sources cover is that it discourages insects and other would-be freeloaders from making their home by burrowing into your brick, as they would have to eat into the paint before they could burrow into the cement holding your bricks in order to make their new home.
Painting brick also means that you have a much easier clean-up when that time of year rolls around, paint creates a somewhat sheer surface which means you could whip out the power cleaner on a low setting and simply give your exterior walls and roof lining a good wash down.
The Disadvantages of Painting Brick
Like a good playlist, there has to be some discourse, or the advantages wouldn’t have as much of an impact. This being said, painted brick does bring with it some disadvantages that will stay with you for the lifespan of the structure.
Exposed brick is the flavor of the moment when dealing with interiors, but it still has some appeal aesthetically with exterior walls. The look of exposed brick can give your home a distinguished or historical look that may appeal to some of you and comes with the advantage of virtually no maintenance.
Painting your home means accepting the responsibility that you will have to repaint it fairly regularly, and when once you paint brick there is no going back to the previously mentioned rustic aesthetic. Painted brick also carries with it the responsibility that you will need to keep it clean, when dirt and grime adhere to your previously mentioned ivory white paint job it can leave your home looking a bit run down and unkempt, therefore if you are aiming for a pristine look you are taking on the responsibility of maintaining that pristine look.
Painted brick also carries with it the potential of chipping over time, even if the job has been done as professionally as possible, the paint wears and will eventually raise from the brick due to its ability to expand and contract a finite amount of time before it loses adhesion. Simply put, painting exterior brick has the ability to breathe life back into your old home giving it a clean aesthetic which you can manipulate trends come and go, but it does leave you with a fair amount of maintenance and potential unexpected costs.
You should therefore consider just home much time and money you have to spend on this almost purely aesthetic upgrade before you take the plunge.
Which Types of Paint Work on Brick?
Painting exterior brick can be a daunting task. Between picking the right color and figuring out the logistics of the matter you will also have to know which types of paint are best for painting exterior brick. Some paints work better on exterior brick than interior brick and therefore you should always ensure that you have picked the right brick paint for the environment your surface is situated in. Also, we recommend using a suitable brick sealer for the best result.
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If you are so inclined, you also have the option of staining your brick to achieve a better finish, although this does take considerably more effort and some practice to execute correctly. We suggest having this professionally done if this is the aesthetic you’re after, but you might find that although it requires less maintenance, it is a bit of an acquired taste in both execution and curb appeal.
Regardless, brick stain can be purchased at most home improvement stores and does come with the basic instructions you will need if you are truly up to the challenge.
How to Paint Your Homes Brick Exterior
Painting brick is essentially like painting most surfaces, except it’s a lot larger, and unless you intend on painting each brick individually before you put it into the wall (which we do not recommend) it’s not a surface you can manipulate while you paint it. This being said, here’s how to paint brick! Grab your brick paint and your roller (or sprayer) and get to work.
What you will need:
- Soapy water/ Power washer
- Steel wool brush
- Non-acidic cleaning agents
- Outdoor cloth
- Exterior brick paint
- Exterior brick primer
- Paint sprayer/ Paint roller (high nap)
- Medium size paintbrush
Prepare Your Surface
Painting brick houses involves quite a bit of preparation, and if this is your first time, we suggest you plan ahead and set aside a sunny weekend to get the job done. You will need to clean off the exterior of your home and thankfully there are a few options available that cater to a variety of things you might encounter.
Grab yourself a brush and get scrubbing with some soap and water making sure that you get in between the bricks all the way through to the mortar, make sure you get every nook as even one missed spot compromises your paint’s adhesion.
If you encounter things like mold, moss, mildew, or those little webs bugs like to make between the bricks you can use some TSP (trisodium phosphate) or some bleach in a heavily diluted quantity to get rid of those pesky spots.
If you will be using these chemicals or any similarly acidic substances, ensure that you allow the brick to dry and absorb them, then get some wire brush or sanding paper and remove the residue from the surface of the brick. We have also a separate blog post about how to remove paint from brick.
Acidic substances will very quickly eat away at any coat of paint you apply to the brick so ensure that your surface is safe to receive your coating before continuing.
Prime Your Surface
Priming your surface when painting brick houses is extremely important and should not be overlooked. Ensuring that your primer is set correctly and that there are no contaminants on your surface once it has set will ensure that your paint adheres correctly and that there are no unsightly bumps under your coating. It is also important that you ensure you have the correct primer for your specific type of exterior brick paint.
Since you have the options of oil, latex, acrylic, and enamel you should ensure that the correct type of primer for this specific application of exterior brick paint. You once again will have to choose between using the good old-fashioned brush and roller or simply using a paint sprayer to get the job done.
Both devices do a fairly good job of applying primer to brick depending on your aptitude for each you should go for whichever you feel most comfortable with, although it goes without saying that using a sprayer will dramatically decrease the amount of time you spend on this project even if you are a novice.
Whichever you decide to go with, make sure that you achieve maximum coverage, and whether you choose to go with just one coat (not recommended) or two coats (highly recommended) make sure you give the primer sufficient time to dry before carrying on to the next step.
Paint Your Surface
There are two methods to painting brick, so let’s have a look at both including their advantages and drawbacks. At the end of the day, it is all up to your preference.
Now for the fun part. Once you have selected your paint, mixed it on, and poured it into your sprayer or holder it’s time to get going. If you are using a roller, we recommend that you choose one that has some nice thick bristles to get in-between the bricks and onto that cement.
Don’t press too hard on the roller and instead allow the paint to seep onto the brick and use the roller to distribute it evenly across the surface. It should go without saying that even if the only time you have seen a house being painted was on television or a YouTube tutorial, you should do your best to paint vertically (up and down) and use a smaller brush to get in those really hard to reach places.
If you are having some trouble getting into those tight spaces you can wiggle your brush around and get even coverage, although it might seem crude this is probably the best way to go about it.
Using a roller provides you with the added advantage of controlling your rate of progress by limiting your range of application. If you want to maintain this advantage but want to speed things up you could get someone to assist you.
If you aren’t this ambitious and value your spine and wrists, you have the option of using a paint sprayer! If you don’t own one or simply don’t want to buy one you have the option of either renting or borrowing one, which comes with some advantages.
For one, you can simply pop the paint feed directly into the bucket of paint you have selected and go wild, which beats having to dip your roller in the paint every time it runs dry.
Apply your paint at a medium distance and ensure you maximize coverage while minimizing runoff, make even uninterrupted passes. If this is your first time you can choose between horizontal or vertical, but if you are going with the latter ensure you lay down some sheeting on the ground, or just lay down sheeting regardless to protect your lawn and/or paving. The skill you need to use a sprayer might set you back a few hours if this is your first time, but if you are up to the challenge it could make your life a lot easier.
Whichever method you choose, ensure you allow your paint to dry between coatings and ensure that there are no contaminants present before you apply your next coat.
How to Paint Your Interior Brick Fireplace
Although many prefer to stain their interior fireplaces there are those who enjoy a fresh coat of paint to liven up their living spaces. Knowing how to paint brick fireplaces used to be a fine art considering nobody really had fireplaces back in the day unless they were pretty well off, these days however it’s a skill you will be able to learn right here.
What you will need:
- Hand vacuum/ Hand broom
- Interior brick primer
- A cloth
- Medium size paint brushes
- A paint roller with high nap
Prepare Your Surface
Although you won’t be able to use a power washer indoors, you will save on water and get some exercise. Start by using your hand vacuum and hand broom and clean out any dust or debris stuck between the bricks of the fireplace. Once you are sure that all of the cobwebs and dust have been removed from the surface you can get a small bucket of warm soapy water and begin wiping down the surfaces of the fireplace.
Make sure you get between the bricks and clean off the exposed mortar too, as the last thing you want is for your primer not to stick because you missed a spot.
Once you are done you should open some windows and allow time for the brick to dry as much as possible before moving on to the next step. Also, lay down some tarp or newspaper to ensure you don’t mess up your floor.
Prime Your Surface
Now that you have your surface all clean and dry it’s time for you to start applying your primer. Ensure you follow any preparation instructions given before you dip your brush into the can (shaking or mixing). Once you have your primer ready make sure you start applying between the bricks on the mortar and work your way out to the bricks once all of these recesses have been covered.
Take care not to lay the primer on too thick with your fist coat and ensure that you have adequate ventilation when working with primer or paint indoors.
Once you have covered the bricks and mortar, allow for the manufacturer’s recommended drying time before applying the next coat. Just like when working with an exterior, inspect the surface before applying your second coat, removing any contaminants present with your cloth if you come across any. Ensure that your final coat has dried adequately before moving on to the next step.
Paint Your Surface
Once you are sure that your primer has dried it’s time to get painting. Using your paintbrush, go for the mortar first just as you did with the primer. Don’t be worried if you get some paint on the brick in the process, this is not a perfect process and you will be able to correct this a bit later. Remember that this isn’t primer so ensuring that you do this step properly while in a timely manner will prevent bits of your paint from drying.
Once your mortar has been covered, you can move on to your brick surfaces, get your roller and apply light, even coats of paint to the surface as you would have done with the exterior. Allow the paint to seep onto the surface and use the roller to distribute it evenly.
You have the option to apply either one or two coats depending on the viscosity and color of the paint, although we recommend two coats for the best finish with most acrylic paints. Allow the paint to dry adequately between coatings and just like you did with the primer, check for any contaminants present and remove them with a cloth before applying your final coat.
Now that you know how to paint brick, what paint to use on exterior brick, how to use a sprayer and a roller, it’s time for you to go out and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always wear the appropriate personal protective gear when working with potentially toxic chemicals and always work in a well-ventilated area. Have fun and safety first!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Paint Brick?
Can you paint brick? Brick can be painted, especially if you use paint for brick. Ensuring that you have the right primer and tools available for the job will have a huge impact on the finish you get once all is said and done. Acrylic paint is highly recommended when painting brick as it has a good balance of elasticity and weather resistance.
What Kind of Paint Can You Use on Exterior Brick Walls?
Choosing what kind of paint to use on exterior brick is entirely up to you. The recommended options for this are acrylic, latex, oil, and enamel-based paints. These paints are conducive to painting exterior walls due to their ability to resist extreme weather conditions, their elasticity, and their tendency to seep into the porous surface of the brick.
Is Painting Brick Bad?
While painting brick is a good way to breathe some life back into old brick surfaces, many believe that brick is not meant to be painted. If the brick is damaged, adding paint into the equation can exacerbate defects and cause the decomposition process to accelerate. This being said, assess your brick and mortar before attempting to coat it in paint.