Painted brick walls are the top favorite among most homeowners in the US.
But, limewashing the brick exterior has its own set of advantages.
After having done it a number of times, I can say that it’s a great time and money savior.
And that’s the reason if you’re looking to get a beautiful finish for your exterior brick walls without spending huge cash on paints; you may want to take a closer look at something called limewashing.
Here in this article, we will walk through the basic DIY steps that are easy and fast to follow, even for beginners.
What is Limewash?
You may have heard of whitewashing exterior bricks, but you might never have heard of this option.
Used since Roman times, Limewash is a kind of chalky paint made using natural materials.
It’s typically produced by crushing and burning the limestone, which is then mixed in with water to form a putty that is aged.
Why Use Limewash?
Applying limewash comes with many advantages.
- First of all, since the product is solvent-free, it’s environmentally friendly.
- Its high pH level also makes it hypoallergenic.
Furthermore, limewashing exterior bricks will include natural, non-toxic ingredients (in the form of powder putty), which help create a protective finish that resists fungus and other microorganisms on your walls (made of porous brick, stone, or plaster).
But how are you going to do it right so that you get a long-last protective finish? Let us check…
How to Limewash Brick Exterior?
Limewashing your exterior bricks can create a mottled and matte look along with a chalky texture that can instantly add depth to your old flat walls.
But remember, if you’re not paying attention to the DIY steps, you may not get the process done just right.
So, here are simple steps you need to follow while limewashing…
Step 1. Mix lime powder
To make a limewash for brick, mix a handful of hydrated lime powder in a bucket of water using a wire whisk.
For most projects, you’ll need to mix four parts of water in one part of hydrated lime (by weight) to create a thin solution that looks almost milky.
Colored natural pigments can also be added to it to get different appealing colors if you need them.
From here, you’ll need to wait approximately two days before you’re ready to use it.
Step 2. Smooth and thin the solution
After two days, whisk the water and lime powder again until it smooths out.
Use a paint strainer to eliminate the lumps that can build up as lime powder sticks together.
Once you have a perfectly smooth and thin solution, it’s time to prepare the bricks for limewashing.
Step 3. Dampen the walls
Using a hose or sprayer, dampen the red brick wall that you are going to paint with your white lime solution.
Make sure you’re starting with a wall that’s away from direct sunlight, though indirect is okay if you don’t have a wall out of the sunlight entirely.
Step 4. Apply the limewash
Use a large paintbrush to spread the lime powder mixture onto the brick in an even coat.
Spread it over all of the bricks with the same level of thickness.
If you want to reach heights, you can use scaffolding or a ladder specifically designed for exteriors.
Step 5. Wait for 2-3 days and reapply
From here, you’ll need to wait another two or even three days for it to dry entirely. You’ll then be able to apply the second coat.
To get the longest-lasting results with your limewashing, repeat this process until you have at least four coats on the brick wall.
Fluctuating the amount of lime used on the walls during the last two coats will give your bricks a more realistic appearance and a more variegated one. This makes the bricks appear more aged as well.
Limewash Color Ideas for Brick Wall
The limewash is basically off-white. But, if you want, it can be colored using natural alkali-resistant pigments.
Earthly colors like browns, grays, and taupes (dark gray-brown) are the most common ones that people like to tint the limewash with.
Remember, limewash is around 10 times darker when it’s wet. In other words, it simply means that your limewashed bricks may appear much lighter when they get dried.
How light or dark the limewash color will appear will also depend on the number of coats you have applied and the porosity of the surface it’s being painted on.
So, before you apply it to your exteriors, test the color and make sure you have the right color you desire.
How Much Does Limewashing a Brick Exterior Cost?
For an average home size in the US, the cost to professionally limewash the brick exteriors can go about $1250 to $1550.
The cost will mostly depend on the square footage area, the prep work, the supplies, and the labor needed.
That said, it’s good to remember that limewash is a surprisingly low-cost option if you can DIY the process, as all the supplies needed to coat an entire house can cost between $10 and $100.
For example, if you are able to find hydrated lime, which has been treated in a pressure hydrator and only needs mixing with water, it’s as affordable as just $3-$5 per 50lb bag.
At online stores, you may, however, need to bear shipping charges. Including which the cost may be around $40 to $45 per bag.
To coat your entire house under normal conditions, you will need no more than two bags of lime powder.
Just in case you face trouble finding hydrated lime in your region, you can use any alternative product like ROMABIO® Classico Limewash.
I have used the product once, and it’s a great way to create unique wash-off effects on your exteriors.
In fact, if you are considering DIY limewashing your brick exteriors, you can get a charming look with this authentic slaked-lime paint that’s specially formulated to provide a freshly painted look.
ROMABIO® Limewash is manufactured from the highest quality Dolomite lime from Northern Italy and is available for under $100.
Before formulating, it’s slaked and aged like a fine wine, due to which it offers the highest durability along with little-to-no maintenance for decades. And using this product means you can avoid making a traditional mix which saves a great deal of time.
A few other reasons why I loved working with ROMABIO® Classico Limewash are:
- Easy-to-use DIY product
- Better coverage per gallon
- Provides a good finish only with one coat
- Perfect for one-story homes and fireplaces
- It’s weather-resistant, and it does not peel, chip, flake off or lose color
- It’s removable and can be washed off in the first 5-days if you don’t like the color
Whitewash vs. Limewash Brick: What to Do and Why?
Of course, maybe after looking over the steps to limewash your home, you’re not quite sure it’s the way you want to go.
If you have heard of whitewashing and are familiar, this might be something you want to consider.
But how does whitewashing differ from limewashing? Which is better, and which one should you be doing?
Well, I can’t tell you which one will be better to do for you, but I can tell you what they are so you can make your decision.
Whitewashing is just the other way of saying that you are painting the brick exterior of your home with the color white, which will make it look classic, timeless, and definitely beautiful.
White on the exterior of your house can create an excellent finish, and it’s especially popular among home buyers if you’re looking to sell.
On the flip side, you’re going to have a bit of upkeep involved, like pressure washing the painted brick and even ending up with moisture in the brick exterior with time.
These are things that aren’t going to happen if you keep the brick more natural, and that’s where limewash comes into place.
Limewashing means that you’re going to cover the exterior of the home with a lime and water mixture that helps to seal the brick itself if you do it right.
Instead of being a coating that sits over the top of the brick, this mixture actually soaks partially into the brick.
This means limewash will not going to peel because it’s directly in the brick, and you’re not going to deal with regular maintenance issues because of it.
With limewash, you’ll also be able to get a more natural and realistic aged look without the use of chemicals.
On the flip side, with limewashing, you will need the bricks to be in good condition.
While you can use limewash on any brick, you’re going to be revealing the look of the bricks, which isn’t always the style that you want to opt for – if your bricks don’t look that great, for example.
Also, keep in mind that limewash won’t adhere to previously painted bricks, and when dried, it may rub off on clothing.
So, overall, it’s going to be up to you whether you decide to DIY limewash or whitewash your bricks (or anything else). Either way, you will end up with a beautiful end product.
How Long Does Limewash Last on Bricks – How Can You Remove It?
When you have coated your exterior bricks using high-quality limewash paint, it will most probably last for five to seven years.
Worry not; the color will not be gone completely – it’s just that after four to five years, you will see the color getting faded slowly.
You may then apply a new coat over it to make it look newer again.
And the good thing is you do not need to remove the existing limewash coating in order to reapply the fresh coat.
But at any point of time in the future, if you need to, you can remove limewash coating from bricks using a pressure washer.
Or, if the coating is fairly new, you can get it removed quickly by hand scrubbing the surface. Take a bucket of water, and use a stiff nylon scrub brush to perform the job.
Stains on the limewashed surface can also be easily removed by rubbing over them lightly using a damp rag.
The Bottom Line
Limewash for bricks offers unmatched protection against water damage, molds, germs, and stains.
Since limewash is highly durable and it does not come off of exterior bricks very easily I prefer to have limewash over whitewashing.
The only downside I can find is that it’s not easy to paint over limewash.
If you plan to apply regular paint over the limewashed exterior brick wall (with high lime content), you will need to apply a special primer coat first.
Otherwise, it’s an excellent option for your exterior and interior brick walls.
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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.