We Painted Our Brick & LOVE it
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
This post is so overdue, but let’s dive in anyway. Welcome to my life.
Painting brick is one way to update an older home. It gives your house a facelift, if you will, and allows you to play with the color palette more than just re-painting the trim. But, it can be controversial. Some people LOVE brick just the way it is (and I agree – there is a time and a place for it, and it can be gorgeous if taken care of well, accented appropriately, and if it was a good brick in the first place), but sometimes, painting your existing brick is just the right thing to do.
But you know what’s more controversial than painting old brick? Painting new brick. I knew from the beginning of our new build that I wanted white painted brick. I had my heart set on that “old world charm” mixed with modern lines and colors. There was no question in mind, no hesitation in my heart. I mean, aren't these inspiration pics dreamy...
via The Fox Group
via Paul Bates
When our brick got installed (pre-paint), we got sooooo many comments telling us how beautiful it was and what a great choice we’d made. Eeeeek. But even then, I knew my heart was destined for painted brick. So we gently broke it to folks that…actually….well….we intended to paint the brick. *Gasp* And you would not believe the disapproval we received from acquaintances and strangers alike! If you were one of those people, this blog probably isn’t for you.
BUT, if you’re one of the people that saw the vision (or at least caught on once we painted the brick), read on! We should probably go back to the beginning though…
Before our architectural plans were even finalized (first tip for new-build folks – your plans should indicate that you want brick, so know that from the start!), I knew the look I wanted—sort of this old-world charm with chunky, messy brick that looked like it had been there forever—but I had zero idea how to achieve it or describe it. I scoured a bazillion pictures, stalked real-life houses, and googled the heck out of it. And I finally found what I was looking for in Plank & Pillow’s blog. (For those looking for advice on painting the brick on your existing house, you can skip ahead; I’m going to briefly review our new-build process.)
Basically, I wanted a messy mortar look. This is hard to achieve because you’re essentially asking the masons to make their work look crappy. Uhhhh, sorry.
So, first, you have to be sure you buy paintable brick. I guess, technically, any brick is paintable, but some will absorb so much paint you’ll just get frustrated and pay way too much for paint. I had read that you could save a lot of money by buying really cheap bricks, but our builder discouraged that for the reason above (whatever we saved on the brick itself would be spent on the amount of paint we’d have to buy).
Next, we had to explain it to the masons. I sent them Plank & Pillow’s blog along with some pictures, and then they made up sort of three samples of what it could look like. I wasn’t quite satisfied with any of them, but after grabbing a nearby scrap piece of wood and scraping off some of the mortar, I felt like we achieved the look I wanted….on the sample.
2 of the 3 samples they prepared. I wanted somewhere in between these two.
Next was translating that to an entire wall. (Note: don’t be afraid to get in there and “work” to get what you’re going for…this applies to anything in a new build. The more hands-on you are, the more likely you’re going to get the final product you’re hoping for.)
The mason’s work started off looking beautiful…too beautiful. It was so perfectly clean and precise, I felt like they totally forgot about our sample work. But after checking in, reviewing what we’d discussed, and testing new areas about 3 or 4 times, they finally caught on. I don’t know how they really felt about what I was asking them to do, but they were good sports about trying to get it “right”. Essentially, in the end, they figured out that they needed to put the mortar on pretty messily and then scrape it off 30 minutes to an hour later.
See how the bottom is perfect and it gets messier as they go up?
So next comes the actual paint (everyone who skipped ahead, welcome back).
Painting brick can actually pose a problem in the long-run. Bricks are meant to breathe. Water seeps into the mortar and goes into the brick naturally, but usually the brick can easily dry itself out, so to speak. If you use just regular exterior latex paint, it creates an impermeable seal over the brick which doesn’t allow it to breathe or naturally evaporate any water that may have seeped inside. I highly recommend using masonry paint, specifically formulated to cover brick in a way that doesn’t trap moisture and cause mold and other issues down the line.
We used Masonry Flat Paint from Romabio on the recommendation of Young House Love. I’ll just copy YHL's list of “cool factors” that convinced them (and ultimately me) to go with Romabio:
The high pH in Romabio’s Masonry Flat Paint makes it alkaline, which makes it naturally mold-resistant, meaning we should get LESS of that green haze have little to no mold and mildew issues.
It CAN be pressure-washed, although the painter advised us to use low pressure – just like you would on any other painted surface.
It has a 20-year warranty, meaning we shouldn’t have to repaint for at least a couple of decades (!!) – word on the street is that it often lasts for 30+ years which amazes us to no end.
The reason it has such an insanely long warranty (and is guaranteed to never chip or peel) is because it’s just as breathable as brick. Our painter said “It’s literally like painting brick with brick.” Isn’t that crazy and so cool?!
All of their products are sold concentrated & are completely non-toxic (by contrast, traditional acrylic paints have water already in them, but to increase their shelf life, they have to add more chemicals to stabilize them).
And – here’s my new favorite feature – it has a FLAT FINISH, which is SO RIDICULOUSLY LUXE LOOKING.
Apparently, Romabio can color match, but honestly, I figured that would cost more (never actually fact-checked that), so I just ordered two of their samples – Avorio White and Bianco White. I then got the bricks we intended to use on our house (you could just do this straight on your existing house) and painted some samples. I painted each color with 1 coat then with 2 coats to see if I liked the saturation more or less. Oh and yes, these are both white…but seriously, there are 1,965,427,316 variations of white out there, so sampling is important! Ultimately I went with Avorio White because it was warmer to me. (Note: when painting your house, I recommend going warmer than you think you need to. This goes for both whites and grays. When paint is put on such a large surface area, it can quickly feel cold or dull and/or the sun will reflect off of it so brightly you blind everyone driving by. While this white was definitely warmer, I would in no way describe my house as creamy or beige. It’s just….the perfect white J). Also, I liked the saturation of 2 coats better, so that’s what we went with.
Next, because I also have siding, I needed to figure out what typical-exterior-paint color would match Avorio White. Well, the logical thing to do is just to color match it which is exactly what I did! I took the sample brick I painted to Sherwin Williams and they were able to color match it for me. Be sure to tell them what it is for so that they can create the formula specifically for your application. And if you want a cheat-sheet, here it is!
I am SO HAPPY with the way it turned out and don’t regret painting the brick even for one millisecond. This house was made for painted brick.
So, who’s joining the Painted Brick Club??? You can hire a pro to do it (Romabio has instructions on their website if your painter doesn’t have experience with this specific product) or you could easily DIY it (Young House Love has some great tips on their blog!) Either way, I think you’ll be so happy with your painted brick.