What Should I Know Before Painting a Brick House?

What Should I Know Before Painting a Brick House?

Prepare for a new exterior paint job by repairing and cleaning brick walls

By Stevie Donald

Painted Brick Townhomes
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Brick houses can have a ton of character, but over time brick can get discolored and dingy. Whether you're painting over previously painted brick or about to tackle an unpainted brick house, the most critical element is proper surface preparation. Choosing the right paint is also important for a good-looking, durable job.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Realize that after you decide to paint your brick house, the decision is final. Brick is porous, and painted brick can't be unpainted. Even if you do a very good job and the paint lasts for a decade, you are still adding another maintenance task to the upkeep of your home. But painted brick can look very fresh and cottage-like. Just be sure you want to take this step.
  • You may find it useful to drive around your neighborhood or local area to see how others have used paint to spruce-up the exterior of their brick homes. This can go a long way toward giving you color ideas.
Preparing Your Brick for Paint

Step 1:

Assess your brick. If it's previously painted, you will have to remove all loose and peeling paint using scrapers and wire brushes. Then, scrub it with exterior house detergent, and rinse it to remove grime and dirt.

Step 2:

Scrub old, soft unpainted brick to remove grime and efflorescence (surface mineral deposits that are often white and chalky). Rinse it with a hose until the water running from the wall is clear.

Step 3:

Repair all cracks in the mortar and brick, because as soon as brick is painted, all gaps and cracks will show up. Use a mortar that can be painted within a day or two. Some mortar needs to cure for at least 30 days before painting. Very fine cracks can be filled with paintable silicone caulk. Newer brick in good condition may need nothing more than a good hosing down in preparation for painting.

Step 4:

Prime unpainted brick with an exterior latex primer. Although some paints are self-priming, meaning that the first coat of paint acts as a primer and the subsequent coat is the finish coat, the Paint Quality Institute notes that it's still wise to use a primer first.

Step 5:

Understand that brick will take approximately twice the amount of paint to cover as wood siding. Expect to get only about 200 square feet of coverage per gallon. The best paint to use is 100 percent acrylic paint. Most are formulated for use on brick and masonry. Avoid cheaper latex paints; they won't last as long.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • A power washer can be used to remove old paint, grime and efflorescence from brick, but it can knock mortar loose on very old brick walls. Be careful not to use excessive pressure by limiting your pressure washer to 2000 psi.
  • Whatever product you use for the first coat, thin it down with up to 1 quart of water per gallon. It will be thin and runny but will soak in and penetrate the brick for better adhesion. Apply subsequent coats of paint at full strength.
  • For a smoother looking paint job, you can sand the face of your brick using a circular sander with 60- or 80-grit sandpaper.

About the Author

Stevie Donald is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has been a painting contractor since 1979.

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