Should I paint my bricks white?
July 22, 2007 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Should I paint my red bricks white?

I have a small 1960s brick ranch house that looks similar to most other houses on the street built during that period. I'd like to paint it white, grow ivy up the side, overhaul the landscaping and a few other things to make it more appealing from the outside. Does painted brick impact your resale value if people find it hard to maintain (chipping)? Is it actually hard to maintain? Are there other unwanted side effects? Is it something I can do myself? Thanks in advance.
posted by deern the headlice to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can only speak for myself, but we have a brick Tudor, and I resent every day that past owners chose to paint certain bricks gray. It doesn't chip, but it looks unnatural and ruins the charm of having a brick home. They did it to match some trim, but we don't like gray so repainted the trim and now have these stupid random gray bricks.

To me, the charm of a brick house is the natural, old-fashioned red-brick look, and painting it wrecks that for me.
posted by GaelFC at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2007

You should whitewash your brick house. Don't paint it.

It's probably an hellish amount of work but you can definitely do it yourself.

Whitewash degrades nicely and preserves the brick charm IMO.
posted by uandt at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2007

Leave it original. If some other person wanted to paint it, when you sell, they have the option. Just design your landscaping to take into account the natural red.

Also, watch out for that ivy, depending on your actual plans. You don't want it munching on your brick wall and damaging your house. Ivy belongs on a trellis, not growing on your main structure, as far as I know.
posted by Listener at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2007

No, please don't! Every painted brick house that I see is less attractive than an unpainted one. Plus, as stated above, it might limit the resale value.
posted by la petite marie at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2007

Ivy can pull a brick wall down. I would not let it grow on any house I owned.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2007

I would not have bought a home with painted brick. Whitewash? Possibly, if it was nicely aged.

Contact a Realtor in your area to learn if painted brick would be a problem on resale. Perhaps it's more common and marketable in your area.
posted by 26.2 at 12:51 PM on July 22, 2007

No. No. No.

There are dozens of other ways to make your house stand out. Landscaping for one. A well landscaped house can increase its value ridiculously so. Pick up a book in the bargain bin of your local book store and see some nice designs. Since you are in a ranch (not a raised ranch, correct) you don't have too much vertical space to cover up.

But please, for the love of god, don't paint your charming bricks white.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

The only time ivy can damage brickwork is if the brickwork is crumbling/old already. It doesn't send any kind or "root" into the brick itself, but only adheres to the surface. Most of the damage is done when the ivy gets ripped off the wall, pulling the surface of the bricks with it. If the bricks are sound, though, with no sign of spalling, then it'll be fine. Until you want to get if off the wall.

WRT the original question, don't paint it. It'll flake off, and you'll have to do the painting all over again. Bricks will look after themselves. Unless you like the idea of fighting your way through plants to paint a wall. :)
posted by Rabulah at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2007

Painting brick is done by sane folk to hide poor quality or deteriorating brick and as such would make buyers who are not offended by the aesthetics wary.

If you've absolutely convinced yourself that you want to do it, you should seek counseling or, in the very least, consider the cost of removing the paint into the cost of putting it on.

Be careful of paint selection as I've seen most of these ill-advised jobs blister and/or peel. Every coat added is a little worse the building will look. Dirt and age will also make the paint lose its vibrance over time.

Whenever an old, left-for-dead structure around my neighborhood has paint removed from its brick, it's amazing just how much better the building looks even if that's all that's been done to the exterior structure.
posted by pokermonk at 1:05 PM on July 22, 2007

I have to chime in for the other side here. My aunt and uncle used to live across the street from a house that was white painted brick. Granted, it was in a beautiful old (and expensive) section of Richmond, Virginia, and was a lovely house, but I always thought it was beautiful.

Of course, I never saw it the old way, and that is probably really significant.

Could you post a picture of what it looks like now?
posted by 4ster at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2007

No. No, no, no, no, no. You are taking a perfectly maintenance free surface and turning it into something that now requires work. Why make more work for yourself or for someone else in the future?

I have two sayings in my life that I try to live by.
1) Don't paint brick.
2) Don't mess with chimpanzees.

I guess the second isn't really relevant here.
posted by procrastination at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

I live across the street from a gorgeous Victorian painted brick house. The brick is a dark green with lighter green trim. It has won awards. To me there is nothing special about a 60s brick rancher that needs preserving, paint away.

*pokes a chimpanzee*
posted by LarryC at 2:21 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

However--get some professional advice on how to do it first. Don't screw up the prep work.
posted by LarryC at 2:28 PM on July 22, 2007

Ivy = vermin condominiums

I have no opinion on the bricks. I grew up in a brick house and never thought it was "charming," but that's me.
posted by clh at 3:02 PM on July 22, 2007

could you put some kind of cladding on the front instead of painting it? don't know if "cladding" is dialect.... i'm australian, but like a second skin, or false wall, kind of thing....
posted by taff at 3:37 PM on July 22, 2007

Don't do it. Bricks will last for a very long time just fine by themselves, so why would you cover them with paint, which is going to flake off much sooner than the bricks are going to deteriorate? Sooner or later, you or someone else is going to have to scrub that loose, flaky paint off of the wall and then paint again. Also, pokermonk is right: painted bricks look cheap, because they look like someone decided to slap a coat of paint on their crumbling wall, rather than repairing it.
posted by ssg at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2007

I lived in a painted brick home built in 1920 in New Orleans for about 15 years. It was painted when I moved in and is still painted today. That is a total of 30+ years of the same coat of paint. The only maintenance was hosing off the dust. A garden hose works perfect, power washers will blow the paint off the bricks.

Some bricks can be down right ugly. I have painted a few brick walls and fireplaces in my day. I say go for it!

I do agree not to let any vine cling to the brick (painted or not) .
posted by JujuB at 4:43 PM on July 22, 2007

If your mortar is not completely sound, ivy will work its way into any tiny crack and cause it to crumble. Check your wall carefully from top to bottom before planting any ivy. I agree that it's a much better idea to build a trellis and have the ivy grow on it, no matter how sound your masonry wall is.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:18 PM on July 22, 2007

Your really have to take into consideration the style of the house when you are thinking about painting the brick white. The only white-brick homes I've ever seen that looked anything close to good were all very old (as in circa 1920s - 30s) and tended to have a lot of dainty little detailing.

I grew up is a 60s-era brick ranch and can't imagine the kind of ass it would look like is ever painted white. Natural brick just looks so warm and solid.
And, leaving aside the very real issue of what it will do to the mortar, ivy on natural brick will look far richer and elegant than on white.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2007

If you paint on brick and then someday want to remove it, it's a bitch and a half to get the paint off (especially if it's textured brick, not smooth). Buyers know this too, so this is one of the reasons it can negatively affect your sale price.

Also, as people have pointed out, you have to maintain painted brick like any other painted surface, whereas natural brick is maintenance-free (mostly).
posted by litlnemo at 4:21 AM on July 23, 2007

For what it's worth, my previous employers painted their large brick tudor house white. They said they absolutely detested the look of it so hired some contractors to come and sandblast it. As the white paint started to chip and fade, it left the most beautiful effect on the house. I guess it would be close to what everyone has described as whitewash. It was the most stunning house in the neighborhood and they regularly had it painted white just to have it sandblasted again. I say go for it, because it would still be beautiful even when it needed the maintenance.
posted by Ugh at 4:13 PM on July 23, 2007

Ugh, constant sandblasting like that can be bad for the brick. You're losing a bit of brick each time. (At least, this is my understanding from when I was reading up on how to get the damned black and white paint off our fireplace).
posted by litlnemo at 4:27 PM on July 23, 2007

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