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How to Paint Brick: A Step by Step Guide

DIY and home improvement projects are a great way to spice up your home and increase its resale value. One of the top things on people’s to-do lists is repurposing and reviving their brickwork. Because replacing brick is extremely costly and time-consuming, people often prefer to paint over it.

In this article, we will look at everything you need to know about how to paint brick. We’ll walk you through the prep work, the tools you’ll need, and what the process will entail.

How to Paint Brick: Applying Primer

Materials and Tools

The first thing you should do when learning how to paint brick is collect the tools and materials you’ll need to complete the task. While it’s sometimes inevitable, it’s very inconvenient to make frequent runs to the hardware store every time you need something. For the sake of cost and efficiency, you should instead follow this checklist of items you’ll need to paint your brick.

Most of these materials you’ll need to paint brick are household items outside of the paint and trisodium phosphate. Anything that you don’t have readily available can be purchased at hardware, home improvement, or paint stores.

Materials for Painting Brick
Materials for Painting Brick

How to Paint Brick

Once your materials are gathered together, it’s time to start the painting process. Painting brick is time-consuming and involves nearly as much prep work as actual painting time. However, to ensure a beautiful and lasting coat of paint, the prep work is essential.

Clean and Prep the Brick

First and foremost, you need to clean and prep the brick so that the paint and primer will be able to adhere properly. If you start painting before you clean the surface, dust and particles will mix with the paint and cause chipping and peeling. Here’s the best way to clean brick before painting it.

Moisturize and wipe down the surface

The first step to cleaning brick and mortar is to mix dish soap with warm water. Use a stiff-bristled brush to wipe and brush down every part of the brick you plan to paint. A wire brush and soapy water is all you should need for removing dirt and debris from your brick surface. Make sure not to brush too roughly, as this could cause the brick or mortar to chip.

Use a pressure washer if necessary

You can skip the soap and water and go straight to a pressure washer if you’re painting an exterior surface. Pressure washers are great for cleaning outdoor surfaces because you don’t have to worry about making a wet mess. However, if you’re painting inside your home, a less messy approach is necessary.

Pressure Washing Brick to Prepare for Painting
Pressure Washing Brick to Prepare for Painting

Use bleach or trisodium phosphate when needed

If you run into mildew stains on the brick, you may need to mix bleach with water to remove it. Mix one part bleach with three parts water, apply it to the mildew, and let it sit for half an hour. Scrub it down with a wire brush once you’ve waited long enough and proceed with the cleaning process.

For general cleaning, you may need to add trisodium phosphate to your soap and water if the brick isn’t cleaning up the way you want it to. Make sure to follow the directions on your trisodium phosphate and wear gloves and goggles when you’re handling it.

Repair any cracks or dings

Ensure that you repair any cracks or chips in the brick and mortar with acrylic caulk. These can happen from wear and tear or from scrubbing too aggressively.

Let the brick dry

Once you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of your brick, allow it to dry fully before proceeding. You may have to wait up to 24 hours for the brick to dry out completely.

Apply Primer

Once the brick that you plan to paint is clean and dry, it’s time for step two – applying primer. You should always apply primer before painting brick, no matter how old or in what condition your brick is. To apply the primer, you can use a paintbrush, a roller, or a sprayer. Using a sprayer is preferred when painting outdoors and will apply primer faster than the other two methods.

However, if finesse is more important than speed, you should opt for a brush or roller. When priming brick, it’s important to note that brick is highly porous and soaks up primer like crazy. You may have to apply several coats, always ensuring that the previous coat dries before adding another.

Applying Primer Before Painting Brick
Applying Primer Before Painting Brick

You should also make sure that your brush, roller, or sprayer is coating every part of the brick with primer. Every crack, nook, and cranny must have primer applied, or it will show up as a blemish in the final product. Make sure to use a latex primer if you plan to use latex paint or an oil-based primer if you intend to use oil paint. Always make sure that the primer you use is approved for brick or mortar surfaces.

Pick Your Paint

Next comes the crucial job of choosing the right paint for brick. If you haven’t noticed by now, the prep work involved with painting brick is intense, so you want to select a paint that will last as long as possible. You also want to choose the right color and sheen so that you never have to repaint your brick.

There are two basic paint options for painting brick: elastomeric paint and acrylic latex paint. Both types are long-lasting, flexible, and come in various colors. The advantage of elastomeric paint is that it has a high amount of elasticity which is perfect for filling cracks and mortar seams. It’s also very durable and easy to apply in all types of weather and can withstand moisture and humidity.

On the other hand, acrylic latex paint is just as good of an option as long as you choose a high-quality exterior one. It protects against mildew and doesn’t evaporate after it absorbs moisture. Acrylic latex paint is also easier to work with and clean up once you’re finished.

No matter which type of paint you choose, make sure it’s approved for exterior use and adheres well to brick.

Apply Paint

Finally, you’re ready to start painting. You’ll likely want to apply the paint the same way you applied the primer. Using a sprayer is the fastest and most effective method for outdoor surfaces. Indoor surfaces, however, usually require a brush or roller to prevent creating a mess. If you opt for a roller, make sure to use a thick, napped one so that it can reach the mortar seams.

How to Paint Brick with a Sprayer
How to Paint Brick with a Sprayer

You may have to apply multiple coats of paint depending on the type you choose and how well it soaks into the brick.

Apply the Contrast Color

After you’re happy with how the base coat looks, you can optionally add a contrast color. Adding a contrast color is optional and depends on your aesthetic desires. Make sure that the base coat has plenty of time to dry, however, if you decide to add a contrast color.

Apply the Highlighter

If you have a flair for art, the highlighter is the final piece to the painting puzzle. Adding a highlighter is entirely optional, and most people stop after a simple base coat. However, if you decide to add a highlighter, you should start the process before the contrast color has completely dried. Contrast colors and highlighters aren’t required by any means, and you shouldn’t add them unless you really want to spice up your brick.

Tips For Painting Brick to Look Natural

Learning how to paint brick to make it look natural is something you may need to do if your brick was previously painted, but you’d like the traditional look of brick again.

  • Take your time with the cleaning and priming steps, as they are just as important as the actual painting
  • Opt for gloss or semi-gloss paint for both interior and exterior brick surfaces
  • Using a sprayer is faster than using a brush or roller, but they also come with a learning curve to operate properly
  • Don’t waste your money on buying expensive, soft rollers or paintbrushes. Opt instead for wider, stiffer ones with thick bristles to maximize the amount of paint you apply with each stroke
Natural-Looking Brick
Natural-Looking Brick

What Is The Easiest Way To Paint Brick?

The easiest way to paint brick is by using a paint sprayer to apply the primer and coats of paint. However, you should only use a sprayer if you have previous experience with one. Most important of all, however, always make sure that you do your prep work the right way. Cleaning and priming brick before painting it takes time, but it’s the only way to do a good job.

How Much Does It Cost to Paint Over Brick?

The cost of painting brick depends on several factors. The main factors are how large of an area you’re painting, the paint you choose, and if you do the work yourself. If you’re painting the exterior brick of a 2,500 square foot and doing the work yourself, you can spend anywhere from $500 to $1,500. It costs extra to rent or purchase a sprayer, but you’ll save a ton of time.

If you’re painting an inside fireplace or another small area, your cost will be much less. A high-quality gallon of paint costs anywhere between $20 and $50 on average, so multiply that times however many gallons you need. For large areas, purchase a five-gallon bucket instead of a one-gallon for more savings.

The highest cost will be if you decide to pay someone to do the job. Painters charge anywhere from $75 to $200 per hour, which adds up quickly.

Are You Ready to Paint Your Brick?

Painting brick is tedious and time-consuming work, and you’re bound to work up quite a sweat. If you’re not willing to take your time with the job and learn how to paint brick, you would be wise to hire someone to take over. When it comes to painting brick, the prep work and priming are just as important as painting. Only by being patient and thorough will your brick-painting project be a successful one.

Check out our Exterior Painting page for even more information on exterior painting, paints, and products.