How do You Paint Brick?

Painting brick

Tricks for Painting Bricks

Painting brick isn’t for everybody. But if you don’t like the color or texture of your brick, deciding to paint over it can open up your design choices, as we explored prevously. So, once you decide to paint your bricks, what are the tricks? Whether you’re working indoors or outside, you’ll need to start with a good scrubbing. And you’ll need to leave plenty of time for drying, because bricks are porous. They soak up moisture and require extra cleaning attention.

Brick Wall

Cleaning Brick

“No matter what, you have to make sure the surface is clean, dull, and dry,” says Hirshfield’s Outside Sales Manager Paul Bergevin, a NACE certified coatings inspector who has worked with contractors for more than 35 years.

He’s seen every kind of brick painting project, and says you can clean interior brick with a scrub brush, but if you’re working on a fireplace, beware of soot and staining. “You’ll need to get all of that out before you start.” In those cases, he recommends ABR Waterless Fireplace Cleaner. “It’s actually used in the church restoration business where they run into that all the time. It’s applied like a thick glue and you peel it off and all that soot just peels right off. Brush it on and peel it off.”

For older homes with glazed brick, you’ll need to use a deglosser or special primer, because the surface needs to be dull for paint to stick. And it needs to be dry. You’ll have to wait at least a couple days after cleaning before you can start painting, depending on the humidity in your home.

Some Brick Just Begs To Be Painted – Young House Love

Outdoors, Paul says, you’ll probably need a power washer, “and you need to let dry even longer, because you’ve injected water into the pores of the brick.” He says you’ll probably need to wait a week before painting – if it rains, even longer. But he has a good trick to tell whether it’s dry enough. “You can check for moisture by putting a plastic bag over some of the brick with duct tape,” he says. “If you get condensation, let it sit longer.”

Once it’s clean – and dry – the painting can begin. Paul says that’s the easiest part. In fact, he says well-washed interior brick won’t even need a primer.

Painting Brick

“Usually there’s quite a bit of texture on a brick that any acrylic will adhere to,” he says, “but Hirshfield’s has our A.M.P. primer, which is made for masonry brick, and then you can top coat with any coating after that.”

You may consider Elastomeric paints for exterior brick. They are made to expand and contract with the brick, but Paul usually recommends acrylics. “Elastomeric is more often seen in commercial buildings” he says. “It could be used on a home, but it’s kind of overkill.” His main concern is that Elastomeric paint can trap moisture inside the brick, a problem if your wall is also adjacent to a bathroom or other source of moisture.

Exterior acrylic paints:

  • Hirshfield’s Select 1000
  • Hirshfield’s Housecoat
  • Hirshfield’s Platinum Ceramic

Interior acrylic paints:

  • Hirshfield’s Platinum Ceramic
  • Hirshfield’s Wash & Wear
  • Hirshfield’s Reserve

Whitewashing Brick

Another treatment for brick is whitewashing. The process is a bit like staining, as you can see in this post on the Young House Love blog. You wipe a thin paint onto the brick and then rub it away, letting some of the brick’s original color come through the pigment. When it’s done well, it makes the brick look like it’s brand new.

Whitewashed Brick
Whitewashed Brick – Young House Love


Whitewash is also more breathable, because there’s a thinner coating on the brick. But if you want to try it, Paul has a warning: “You really need one person to do it, because if you have two people doing it, they’re going to wipe it off differently from one side to the other, and once they come together,” he says, “you’re going to see the difference.”

If you’re looking for more tricks to handle brick, visit your nearest Hirshfield’s location in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. We have advice and product for all of your projects.

Since Frank and Elizabeth Hirshfield opened their first store in 1894, it has been our mission to do the best job possible meeting customer needs and solving customer problems. Hirshfield’s. People and products you can trust.

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