A wall of exposed bricks may look beautiful and sturdy but is quite porous.
This makes it absorb more moisture and dirt – leading to problems like mold growth and faster deterioration.
For this reason, it’s important to apply good paint (acrylic-based) or a sealant to your brick-and-mortar interior and exterior wall.
The good thing is it matches perfectly with any theme to make your overall space look beautiful – you can even paint them just like wood.
With that said, there are issues when the temperature changes from a warm summer to a cold winter and back again.
This is because any moisture trapped in the rough brick will cause the paint to blister and peel away.
This means if you decide to paint an old brick wall surface, you’ll need to be prepared to paint it more frequently compared to wood.
What follows is a guide to painting brick walls (both exterior and interior), so you can do a thorough job, maximize quality, and hopefully reduce the number of times the brick will need to be repainted.
But, before we jump into the painting steps, let’s understand, in short, what is exposed brick walls, and what are its advantages and disadvantages.
What is an Exposed Brick Wall?
Having been popular since the late 1900s, an exposed brick wall is a trendy way to add that timeless beauty, warmth, and texture to your space.
Additionally, when you expose the brick of the walls outside, it is less expensive to repair and repaint than compared to replacing the wall.
Despite many great things, one typical drawback of an exposed brick wall inside your house is that you will find it very difficult to hang beautiful paintings or artwork on your walls.
And for this reason, many homeowners prefer to add beautiful wallpaper to their walls that display the beauty of building blocks and exposed bricks.
How to Paint Exterior Brick Wall?
First of all, when planning to paint your original clay-and-mortar blocks of the exterior brick wall, make sure that you do this in the summer and not during the rainy season.
This is due to the reason that you’ll need a few days of no precipitation for the paint to dry and properly hold.
Step 1. Clean the Bricks
Before you begin the work, clean the outside wall bricks thoroughly to remove any dirt, dust, debris, or peeling paint that may be clinging to the surface.
The tools are rather simple, which include soap, water, and a good stiff brush, but it will take some elbow grease to get the job done.
If the bricks are really filthy, you may need to use a stronger chemical such as trisodium phosphate or TSP. You’ll need eye protection and gloves when using TSP on the surface of the weathered brick.
Remember that using a pressure washer may seem logical, but that means more water will penetrate the surface and make the subsequent paint job less durable.
Step 2. Let it Dry
Once cleaned, allow at least 24 hours for the bricks to dry properly. If they are in direct sunlight, the process may go faster.
However, remember that it is better to err on the side of caution by fully evaporating moisture before you paint. So, giving it enough time to dry is a good idea.
Step 3. Acrylic Caulk
Any cracks, openings, or separations within the brick or mortar must be repaired using acrylic caulk.
Apply the caulk to the open space and let it fully dry before painting.
If the damage is considerable, you may need to re-apply the mortar or repair the brick before you start painting.
Step 4. Apply Masonry Sealer
Since the brick is porous and can absorb enough water, you should apply a masonry sealer over them before painting.
With a high-quality paint roller, consider a layer or two. After it’s done, it will usually take around 5 – 12 hours for the surface to dry and get ready for priming and painting.
Step 5. Apply The Primer
Once everything is fully dry and ready, apply a single coat of latex primer. You’ll probably need both a roller and a brush to do the job.
A roller with a ¾” nap cover will help you spread the paint evenly – along with the face bricks. Once you have used the roller, a brush can be used to fill in the gaps.
Because your backyard bricks and mortar tend to be uneven surfaces, the brush will be most helpful in this regard.
You can use a paint sprayer as well. If you are skilled with a sprayer, you may be able to do the job faster.
Step 6. Paint the Brick Wall
Once the primer has dried, apply the paint to your outside brick wall.
You’ll want to use good, high-quality latex paint or perhaps a mineral-based paint that allows any moisture remaining inside the brick to expand without damaging the paint itself.
This is usually known as vapor permeable or porous paint. Apply a solid coat as you did with the primer.
How to Paint Your Interior Brick Wall?
The interior brick wall is different compared to an exterior brick wall due to the fact that it has not been subject to precipitation, wind, and dirt/debris common in the outdoor environment.
However, preparing to paint the fired bricks inside the home or building is similar to outdoor bricks. Here’s how you can do it…
Step 1. Clean
Use the same technique as with outdoor brick.
Soap and water should be sufficient, although TSP may be needed if tough stains are present.
Step 2. Repair
Acrylic caulk is perfect for repairing any small cracks, chips, or other damage that has occurred to the brick surface.
Use it adequately, wherever needed, before proceeding to the next step.
Step 3. Primer
Pick a high-quality latex primer for indoors for a premium top coat finish.
You can use a spray painter tool, but a brush and ¾” roller made of lamb’s wool will work pretty well.
Simply paint with the roller and touch up with the brush where needed.
Step 4. Paint
Once the primer is dry, use the same roller and brush to apply the acrylic interior paint or perhaps low-odor latex paint to the red brick.
You’ll want to use semi-gloss or gloss, which helps bring out the texture of the brick, along with being easier to clean and maintain.
Have some extra paint around for touchups.
When Not to Paint the Bricks?
Painting the rough bricks in your home can be a great way to revive the beauty of walls.
However, it is recommended not to paint the porous brick if it’s still NEW.
You should rather wait for about 1-2 years after construction – until the bricks in your house get weathered.
This will allow enough time for bricks to leach before painting which can then be fixed easily while you paint them over.
A few other instances when painting bricks can be a bad idea also include:
1- When you don’t want to repaint
When painting exposed brick walls, remember that bricks can degrade relatively quickly.
Dirt, debris, mildew, and moisture can easily make the paint over them peel, flake, or dull faster than you can think of.
And if you do not care to fix them, your house will look neglected.
So, the bad news is unless you can repaint the bricks every 2-3 years, it’s not a good idea to paint the exposed bricks in your home.
2- When you want to go back to natural
Believe me; bricks can be really hard to get unpainted – it’s almost irreversible and permanent.
Plus, the money and time you will need to remove the existing paint from a brick wall can be high.
The challenging part is you cannot even use methods like power-washing or sandblasting to remove the paint from the brick safely, as it can damage the bricks.
Chemical strippers can only work to some extent, which can be time-consuming and hazardous as well.
So, if you plan to reverse the process and go natural with bricks again in the future, it’s good to leave them unpainted and natural.
3- If you are too concerned/worried about structural damage
Moisture is a real concern with painted brick walls.
Since water can easily seep through the pores of porous bricks, it will cause not only the deterioration of the bricks but also the nearby windowsills, trims, doors, and other gaps.
Serious structural damages due to the freeze-and-thaw cycle (continually seeping into the cracks, freezing, and expanding) are also possible in exposed exterior bricks, making them a bad option for homeowners residing in regions where the temperature often drops below freezing at night.
Is it Good to Paint a Basement Brick Wall?
Well, most of the time, it will depend on your personal preferences.
Basement brick walls need to breathe due to extra moisture present there.
And therefore, if they are exposed to high moisture, it’s a good idea to leave the red bricks as it is to see their natural red color look.
If at all you want to paint them, you will need a high-quality concrete primer and an excellent water-resistant paint that can withstand the moisture in the basement.
Also, clean your basement brick walls to remove any mildew stains before you paint them.
What Kind of Paint Should You Use on Brick Wall?
Remember, the type of paint you use inside will generally be different than what you need to have for painting the bricks outside.
So, when you paint your brick walls, make sure you use the right paint and color for the job.
For Exterior Bricks
It is good to use high-quality mineral-based paint, masonry paint, or silicate paint to paint your outside brick wall because these are breathable and long-lasting.
For Interior Bricks
Choosing top-quality, water-based latex or acrylic paint (designed for interior use) is suitable for painting your inside brick wall.
If you want, you can also use elastodynamic paint, especially for old bricks. Since these come with higher elasticity, they can fill in the cracks of the old brick wall very easily.
The Color Choice
The natural bright RED color of the brick makes it highly appealing. Many people, therefore, love to darken red even more to get a seductive look.
However, painting them with different colors is the best option if you want to change the color altogether.
Here are some of my favorite colors.
I have already tried these blends many times, and hopefully, you will love them too.
- While with gray
- Yellow with cream
- Sage green with taupe
- Green with black or gray
- Charcoal with light grays
What are the Best Paint Brands for Brick Painting?
The market is loaded with a wide variety of options. Some of the top brands which I love working with are:
- Benjamin Moore
- Sherwin Williams
All these brands offer a range of paint finishes so that you can choose the best paint for bricks per your liking and budget.
For walls, you can either pick a high-quality satin-finish, masonry, or acrylic-latex paint.
Other than walls, if you are looking for good whitewash paint for fireplace brick, Giani Brick Transformations is what I recommend using.
The Bottom Line
The bricks on the exterior or interior (or on your weathered fireplace) are porous and can easily absorb moisture. At the same time, these can be expensive to replace if damaged.
Repainting them, on the other hand, is easy and cost-effective with the right tools and patience.
You can get considerable results but remember that the permeability of the brick may mean having to repaint it more frequently compared to wood or sheetrock, especially on the interior.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.