Painting brick for a facelift

Men laying new hardwood flooring

A good coat of paint can spruce up any home decor—even a brick exterior. While the classic, unpainted look is historic, simple and beautiful, brick can deteriorate and develop color deformations that are unappealing to the eye. When considering painting brick surfaces, remember that the process is time-consuming, the color will be very prominent and permanent and a commitment to years of maintenance is required.

Preparation is key for painting brick surfaces. First, take care to clean the surface using a wire brush (wear eye protection), removing loose mortar and dust from cracks. A smooth surface prevents paint from having a grainy texture and peeling off. The white stain often found on brick is called efflorescence, which is a salt deposit formed from brick mixing with rainwater. If efflorescence does not come off with a wire brush, use a diluted muriatic acid—but first consult a mason to make sure this solution will safely clean your bricks as some chemicals can cause surface failure in bricks. For mildew, apply a mixture of one-part bleach and three-parts water or use a mild detergent. You can also use a power washer, but only if the bricks are in sturdy, good condition, or the pressure might cause harmful erosion.

Seal the deal with 100-percent acrylic or siliconized acrylic caulk—fill any cracks left behind from the cleaning process and stabilize any crumbling mortar.

Prime time is next, after the surface has completely dried (allow 48 hours for this process, as brick tends to absorb water). Unless the brick is in exceptional condition, a high-quality latex exterior primer should be applied. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to know how many coats to apply. Allow primer to thoroughly dry before painting top coats, but do not leave primer sitting for more than the time necessary, so debris won’t disrupt the smooth surface.

Paint away, applying at least two coats of elastomeric paint, allowing paint to dry before each new coat. Apply paint with a deep-nap (thick) roller or sponge, or rent a paint sprayer to most thoroughly get paint in every crack.

Information compiled from Old House Web ( and (

The basics—what you need

  • Wire brush
  • Safety glasses
  • Mild detergent
  • Bucket
  • Paint brush
  • Acrylic or siliconized acrylic caulk
  • Chlorine bleach
  • High-quality, latex primer
  • Deep-nap paint roller
  • Elastomeric exterior paint
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Ladder

Did you know?

Brick has four main, natural colors: red, brown, gray and pink.

Color considerations

  • What are the colors of your neighbors’ home exteriors?
  • What hue will match your shutters, doors and roof?
  • Will you love the color for years to come?
  • How will the color look in all four seasons (as the foliage around your house changes)?
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