Should I paint the brick trim on my house?
August 27, 2018 6:34 PM   Subscribe

I bought a house (yay!) with brick trim. Is it ok to paint it?

The brick is a bit discolored and I'm thinking of painting it white or off-white. You can see it here. I was thinking painting it would cover the discoloration, make it look a little cottagey, and I could also paint the bricks around the large tree in the front.

Is this a good idea? Are there any problems with painting brick?
posted by mulcahy to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered power washing it to see how it comes out?
Painting bricks is pretty hard to undo (sand blasting)...
posted by HuronBob at 6:40 PM on August 27, 2018 [9 favorites]

I would not paint it; I’d paint the house white and leave the door red and paint the shutters black. It looks like a great house!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:48 PM on August 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you paint it, you have to maintain the paint job. Sandblasting to remove paint can also damage the brick. +1 don't paint
posted by momus_window at 6:59 PM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Painting brick makes bricklayers cry. That is not a use brick are made for. My dad was a bricklayer and painting brick is anathema to my family values, ymmv.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:12 PM on August 27, 2018 [18 favorites]

Yes, paint it! First, it's your house and, second, I am a big fan of painted brick after having lived in a similar home for many years. I'd start by getting estimates: any type of house painting tends to be very expensive, especially trim, but your local professionals can give you the best and most specific feedback.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:13 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

It can theoretically be removed but no one's going to do that when (not if) it's left unmaintained. Do the people buying your house in the year 2058 a favor and leave it natural.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:14 PM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Painted brick only works if it was painted a long time ago, on unfired bricks, and only on certain styles. Not now, not fired brick, and not ranches.

Bricks naturally have some variation in color. Are the bricks stained with dirt, or overzealous tuckpointing that wasn't cleaned?

Instead, look into a good powerwash with proper cleaning solution by a bricklayer or tuckpointing company.
posted by notsnot at 7:17 PM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

It's going to take a fair amount of work to keep whatever stains or mildew discoloring the brick from bleeding through to discolor the paint. That said, the aesthetic is pretty dated and it's not the world's largest expanse of brick, and I do think it would look fresher and more cottagy with white paint on both the brick and rest of the exterior, and black shutters and obvs. some plantings in your foundation beds. That also said, if you had decent foundation beds you wouldn't notice the brick one way or the other nearly as much.
posted by drlith at 7:20 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

You have to budget maintaining the paint. It fades, and gets grungy very fast. If you live in a high traffic area, it was get much dirtier, much faster. White is a beautiful colour, and hell to keep clean.

If you are willing to put in effort and pay for it, then do it, but try to look into potential unexpected costs and downsides before you decide.

Good luck!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:33 PM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Great looking house! Add another vote to not painting the brick, and just washing it. Painted brick often looks tacky, and when the paint starts to wear it looks really grungy and has to be maintained. Worn brick on the other hand still looks good!
posted by DTMFA at 8:44 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

That white discoloration may be efflorescence. It is caused by moisture leaching the minerals out of the brick or mortar. If there is moisture, paint may peel, and the brick may degrade.
It's probably better to find the source of the possible moisture.
posted by H21 at 8:54 PM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am not against painting brick. I painted my red brick fireplace white and don't regret it a bit, even after several years.

But I would probably not paint exterior brick without thinking long and hard on it. Mostly because of the dirt and upkeep issue. I like the way your house looks as-is. Plant some nice plants, and leave the brick alone is my vote.

Also, I recommend people wait for a while before doing anything to a new house unless it's pretty essential. New House Hypomania can lead to poor choices (I would know). Three-month cooling-off period, minimum.
posted by bennett being thrown at 10:01 PM on August 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

In your picture, it looks like the brick has a coating of minerals probably from watering the lawn. That would have to be removed if you decide to paint; when the coating is gone, the brick might look good enough to keep plain.
posted by Cranberry at 12:38 AM on August 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Everyone here saying "No" is correct.

However, if you _must_ paint brick, please understand that what you need to use is a mineral paint that does not seal in moisture. These are limewash or silicate paints. Your color options will be limited. You may need to locate a specialist dealer. There is a price premium for these products.

The upside is, if properly done, these coatings will last a very long time.
posted by Glomar response at 4:46 AM on August 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

There is a huge problem with painting exterior brick and that is long term maintenance of the brickwork beneath the paint. Over time, the joints in exterior brickwork can wear down and will require repointing in order to maintain structural integrity and prevent water damage into your home. This wear is significantly harder to see and harder to repair if your bricks and joints are all painted over with one color. Because of wear being harder to observe under paint, painting exterior brick is a trick house flippers often use when brickwork is in poor condition and they don’t want to fix it before selling. Repointing isn’t cheap, but it’s important.
posted by donut_princess at 4:48 AM on August 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd paint the house a better color to match the brick. I'd plant a tree in a better location that isn't directly in front of your front door so you can eventually cut that one down. If you really don't like the brick, instead of painting it, hide it with a raised patio. Your house is up quite a bit, and a small patio may be more expensive than painting brick but would also be much more useful.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:22 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might want to look into brick staining instead of painting. Yours seems like a pretty small job, so the cost might be reasonable.

I have no affiliation with the aforelinked company, they popped onto our radar a year or two ago because we hate our brick and it looked like a promising option. I've seen brick staining in practice at least once, and it actually looked quite good.
posted by howling fantods at 8:04 AM on August 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

(...also, if you're painting the rest of the house please remove those shutters first. They're not fooling anyone ;-)
posted by howling fantods at 8:09 AM on August 28, 2018

Be careful painting brick it needs to breath. If you paint the bricks make sure they & the mortar are completely dry inside & out or you'll trap moisture in there which will expand & contract with heat & cold & damage the bricks & mortar. You'd want to pressure wash the bricks before painting anyway & that might remove the discoloration anyway.

I'd suggest looking into brick staining as it doesn't seal the brick in the same way but allows it to breath still. It does cost more, but there is also less chance of it peeling away from the brick like paint can & less worries with rising damp etc as the moisture can evaporate & wick away. Staining is even harder to remove than paint though, which is hard & expensive to remove can involve caustic chemicals.
posted by wwax at 9:10 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

My brother bought a house with painted brick. It looked quite nice when he bought it but now after a couple of years the paint is flaking in places. Likely the sellers just slapped some paint on the house to make it look better for the sale without any consideration to how long it will last. So if you are going to paint it make sure that the painters do a proper job.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The brick is really cute and provides a depth of color and texture that you can't achieve with paint. I'd keep it, but look at ways to clean it up, or maybe the staining mentioned above.
posted by hydra77 at 10:03 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

If pressure-washing alone doesn't give you a look that you like, you can have it cleaned with an acid. If you're very careful about not getting the acid on your skin, you could do it yourself, but it would take you a lot longer than it would if you hired a pro.

You could also have the brick covered with a porous, stucco-like material.
posted by wryly at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

For reasons listed above, don't paint the brick. If you don't like it, hide it behind interesting landscaping.

Lovely tree, btw. May I suggest that you avoid taking straight-on shots of the house that line up the tree and the front door. Rather shoot at an angle that allows you to see the entrance and the tree.
posted by she's not there at 8:59 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

OK folks - I think I’ll follow the mandatory three-month waiting period then try cleaning the brick myself (mild cleaning solution, natural fiber scrub brush). If that isn’t successful I’ll go with power washing. Hopefully that will do the trick because I certainly don’t want to make any bricklayers cry … Down the road I’ll consider painting the house a better color - white, or something that will go with the brick and trees (suggestions welcome!)

And regarding the tree. Someone suggested I cut it down. I love the tree. It’s epic! RE photo with it right in front of the door - that was from the realty listing. I thought it was odd but they included off-center photos too. Like this one. Even the back yard has great trees!

Thanks everyone! I’ll leave this thread open a couple more days in case anyone has more suggestions. This has been very helpful!
posted by mulcahy at 8:38 AM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

What kind of tree is that?
posted by she's not there at 6:15 PM on September 3, 2018

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