Is Painting Brick a Good Idea?

This beautiful old home on left was painted a Rich Royal Blue

The beauty of brick is timeless; People love brick for its elegance and beauty as well as its durability and colorfastness.  However, not even brick lasts forever. What do you do when it starts to flake, crack and deteriorate? Owners have several viable options, one of which is a fresh coat of paint. Painting the brick often preserves the integrity and is a great way to give it a fresh look but if done wrong it can create new issues and exaggerate existing problems. Once we understand the structure of brick, we will explore the pros and cons of painting brick, how it should be correctly done and a few alternatives.

Brick is made of clay, sand and lime. It is porous with a protective fire-skin on the outside that is created in the kiln. Due to the porosity, it absorbs and releases moisture, depending on the degree the protective fire skin is intact.  (masonryofdenver.com)

cracked and chipped brick

Does painting brick prevent moisture absorption?

The moisture that penetrates brick can come through humidity in the air, precipitation from the sky or moisture wicked up from the ground. Often in old houses there may be issues with flashings, gutters, and ground drainage offering multiple pathways for brick to absorb moisture. So even if the paint is sealing the surface it can penetrate brick from poor flashing or from what is called rising damp (or wicking up water). The moisture itself then becomes trapped in the brick with no way to be released.

Possible moisture penetration areas should always be inspected.

Does painting brick devalue a home?

While value is primarily in the eye of the beholder, for every purist or natural brick aficionados, there is someone that loves the modern elegance and uniformity of painted brick. The key factors from a structural and durability perspective are how it was painted and what it was painted with.

We have already discussed the multiple ways moisture can penetrate brick, but there is only one main way it can release moisture and that is through the face of the brick and mortar. For this reason, if paint is used it should be vapor permeable which allows the brick to breathe.

Trapped moisture can cause paint to bubble and peel all year long and in the winter freezing water expands, causing cracks and deterioration.

peeling paint

Peeling Paint

It is important to fully research any material you will be using for repairs and paint to make sure it’s compatible with the existing brick and mortar.  The natural chemical property of brick varies and can affect paint adherence and durability. Most bricks are neutral in pH, but mortar often has a basic alkalinity. Ensure you find a paint that works for both. Once brick is painted it iss almost impossible to take off, especially without damaging the brick.

Before painting any brick:

– Repoint any missing or deteriorating mortar

– Clean brick with a hard=bristle brush, making sure all dirt and efflorescense (white residue from water-soluble salt buildup left behind from moisture) is removed

– If needed use Trisodium Phosphate to clean brick

– Allow brick to fully dry before painint

– Never clean brick to be painted with an acid solution, this may affect the adherence and composition of your paint.

What is the best paint to use?

painted brick in sun

There are scores of articles on how to paint brick, but very few seem concerned or even mention the integrity of the brick, which should be paramount.

Paint should be vapor permeable, such as silicate or mineral based.

Paint should be elastodynamic, meaning it has a high level of elasticity, which helps to cover cracks and helps prevent them.

There are scores of articles on how to paint brick, but very few seem concerned or even mention the integrity of the brick, which should be paramount.

Paint should be vapor permeable, such as silicate or mineral based.

Paint should be elastodynamic, meaning it has a high level of elasticity, which helps to cover cracks and helps prevent them.

 Painted Brick Cons

Even when installed correctly, once painted it should be painted every 3-5 years.

Covering up the natural beauty can never be undone.

Painted Brick Pros

Uniformity, Protective, Color Options

Alternates to Painting Brick

Limewash has been used for 1000s of years to provide a protective layer on buildings. The colors range from white to grey or beige. Because of the availability of lime, it is typically a less expensive option than paint. With the right application, a rustic aged look can still be maintained and/or enhanced.

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/limewashed-brick/

Stain penetrates the pores of the brick, creating new color without the long term risks associated with paint. Staining maintains the porosity of the brick so water penetration doesn’t become a problem.

https://www.brickimaging.com/

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