Design Dilemma: Should You Paint that Brick? | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Should You Paint that Brick?

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To paint or not to paint. That is the question.

And when it comes to brick, it’s a difficult question to answer. The joy of brick is in the material itself. Hard-wearing and low-maintenance, brick doesn’t require a lot of effort to maintain but makes a definite statement. So why ruin it all by applying paint that will need to be reapplied every few years or so?

And yet, sometimes, brick feels heavy and dark. Or it sets the wrong mood. Or it just gets tiring. And that’s when that troubling question arises. So should you go for it? Should you pull out that paint can?

The answer to that question depends on a number of factors. Before you grab that paintbrush, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself:

1) What shape is your brick in? This is hugely important. Although you might feel like painting brick that is chipping, moldy or otherwise slowly crumbling, counterintuitively, brick that is in poor condition is also a poor choice for painting. Why? Because paint blocks the natural pores in the brick’s surface. And that means just like the blocked pores on your face, trouble can get started. Any water that seeps into the mortar and that gets absorbed by the brick cannot easily evaporate away. Among other problems, this will mean that any paint applied to the brick won’t last too long.

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2) Are you prepared to repaint your brick every three to five years? Yep, that’s how often you will need to repaint exterior brick like on the house above. Depending on its condition, interior brick may need to be painted less often, but it may still be prone to flaking if you live in humid conditions.

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3) Are you willing to live with painted brick anyway if you don’t like the paint job?

The baby blue brick fireplace might look cute in your child’s bedroom, but what happens when you are ready to turn that bedroom into a sophisticated den? You can repaint the brick, but without the use of toxic chemicals, you will never be able to remove the paint. And even with the use of chemicals, there is no guarantee that you will be able to completely remove every trace.

4) Are you attempting to cope with another issue by painting? Sometimes, it’s not that you want to paint brick because you don’t like brick. It’s just that you don’t like your brick. If this is your situation, take a good look at what the real issue is with your brick. Is it moldy and damp? Then what you may really need to do is repoint and repair your brick against moisture, not just repaint. Are you dealing with that white residue that sometimes builds up on older brick due to salt build-up within the brick?  If so, you may need a professional to address that situation which will not be resolved with a simple coat of paint.

If you’ve asked yourself the hard questions and you still want to paint your brick be sure to take these steps:

  • If your brick is brand new, wait a year before painting to allow the brick to dry out.
  • Clean your brick before painting it, allowing at least 24 hours before painting or applying a water repellant.
  • Use soap and water to clean your brick, not acid cleaning solutions which can cause paint to chip.
  • Eliminate mold using weed killer.
  • Be sure to seal and repoint before painting.
  • Use porous paint for exterior paint which is exposed to the elements.
  • Use a paint made specifically to cover masonry.
  • Explore staining your paint rather than painting. A stain penetrates the surface of the brick and will last much longer.

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