The process of decorating the exterior of a house can be a daunting one. Not only do you have the aesthetics to consider, but anything outdoors will inevitably be impacted by weather, sun exposure, and other external factors that are difficult or impossible to control. The materials used are a primary factor in deciding on those efforts.
Painting a brick house is a big decision. Any full structure paint job takes time, money, and effort. It has its pros and cons, and you have to decide if the end result is worth it. Knowing how it looks and that it can withstand the years and elements and improve your curbside appeal may help.
Read on to learn more about the good, the bad, and the ugly about painting a brick house. It just may be the very thing to take your residence from a house to a home.
The Pros of Painting a Brick House
First, we’ll look at the positives of painting a brick house. You’ll find that there are several reasons you would want to do so, especially if you’re trying to bring some new life to an old structure that has seen better days. It could also be a great move if you plan to sell.
Let’s see what could drive your decision towards a new paint job:
Painting a Brick House Increases Curbside Appeal
Everyone is looking for ways to up the value of their home. Curbside appeal might be a bit of a shallow indicator of that value, but there’s no denying it’s effective. When your house looks good on the outside, people are more interested in seeing what’s inside. Since a house is such a major investment, you want to ring out every possible penny.
Since something as simple as painting a front door can boost the worth of your house, and color coordinating the entire paint job is still more effective, you can imagine what a complete overhaul might do (source).
Paint Covers Up “Problem Spots”
When referring to “problem spots,” it doesn’t mean places where actual damage has occurred. It refers to the regions on the house where discoloration may have occurred in the sun or the bricklaying was slightly uneven at the time of construction. It’s more common than you’d think and a frequent complaint of homeowners everywhere.
Paint can cover a multitude of sins, especially when multiple coats have been applied. The brick may have to be smoothed first or areas filled with caulk to improve the lines before you apply the paint.
But it is worth the effort, especially if you only have to fix a couple of highly visible spots from the street. You could be taking the exterior from “OK” to “flawless” with only a single added step.
Unfortunately, actual damage, especially cracking or rot, is a different matter. More on that later.
Multiple Coats of Paint Add Insulation
Believe it or not, painting your brick house could have more practical benefits than just the look alone. Experts say there’s scientific proof that certain types of paint, such as Nansulate and Insuladd, will improve a home’s insulation. That means cooler summers, warmer winters, and lower energy costs. What more could you want?
Technically, you can get that effect from any kind of paint, as long as you add multiple coats. The prevailing wisdom is three for the best effect. But insulating paints that are made for that purpose will do so more efficiently, and anything worth doing is worth doing right, as they say.
With advances in paint technology (yes, that’s a real thing), you can choose from various colors for your project. They tend to be longer-lasting and better for the material of your house as well. So you’ll be protecting against further damage with each stroke of a brush.
Paint Seals Out Moisture
One of the biggest fears of any homeowner is causing permanent damage to their home. The exterior of a house is more prone to problems thanks to weather, sun, and humidity.
That’s why people with cabins and other wooden houses are so adamant about sealing and staining every few years. Sadly, that thought doesn’t always extend to brick, which can still face those challenges while not at the same level of risk.
The enemy is moisture. It seeps into the mortar and causes gaps to expand, leading to warping, cracking, and even rot that eats its way through the bricks. It’s almost always the culprit if you’ve ever seen a brick house with crumbling or soft spots.
Paint is delightfully helpful in this scenario. As long as it’s being set over healthy brick, it’ll help seal in the dryness and avoid water damage over time.
Just make sure the siding is both clean and dry before you paint it and that you follow all the steps listed later on in this article before you get out those rollers.
The Cons of Painting a Brick House
Now that we’ve gone over all of the reasons for painting a brick house, we have to turn our sights to the downsides.
While these can be worked around, you should definitely take them into account before you get started. Knowing the cons can help you make an informed decision and avoid the risk factors if you go through with the update.
Painting a House Is Expensive
Like most home repair jobs, painting a brick house is an expensive undertaking. The final cost will depend on a few factors:
- How many square feet
- Type of paint
- DIY or hiring a service
- Damage needing repair prior to laying a coat
- Number of coats
- Number of floors to be painted
- Mono or multiple colors being used
According to Home Advisor, the average cost to paint a 2,500 square foot (232.25 sq m) brick house is $7,000. They estimate between $1.40 and $4.20 per square foot (0.09 sq m), which depends mostly on paint and if you hire a laborer to do it for you. They say it can cost as much as $10,500, though you should plan at least that amount if you have a larger house (source).
You’ll Be Washing the Outside
Bricks have an automatic aesthetic benefit: the rustic color hides dirt and grime very effectively. Paint, however, does not. You’ll see all of the streaks and imperfections thanks to the bright colors, even if you choose more muted tones. You won’t have the positives of those brown and reds that hide everything from the naked eye.
That means washing the outside of the house every so often to keep it clean. Some will recommend a powerwash, but that can damage the brick. It might also chip paint or worsen cracks or other problems you might now see.
Painting Can Hide Issues
Are you sure your house is in perfect condition? Brick can be harder to gauge since wood and other siding tends to warp more aggressively or get spots where it’s soft enough to push in with a finger.
The same rot can happen to brick but be harder to see. If the crumbling starts from the center, you might not know until more serious signs start to show.
When you paint a brick house, you’re risking further covering those signs as they develop. While the hope is that a few coats of paint will help protect your home, it isn’t foolproof.
And if there’s already damage that has been hiding, you might end up with a serious issue being covered for a long period of time, leading to damage down further the line that could have been avoided.
Hiring painters who can come and assess the property before painting will help prevent these costly mistakes.
Best Practices for Painting a Brick House
According to experts, painting brick is relatively simple. However, you still have to do it the right way, and missing crucial steps can lead to big problems down the line.
That includes chipping paint or even structural damage as improperly sealed areas begin to rot or warp with time. Doing things correctly the first time will save you a lot of grief later (source).
Gather All Your Tools
Have you ever had to stop in the middle of a project to go to the hardware store for something you need? Ever had to do it multiple times in a single day? Of course, you have; we all have!
But doing that when you have a coat of paint drying is not recommended. You want your paint job to be nice and even, so stopping when it’s partially done will lead to bad results.
Properly Prepare the Brick for Painting
Before you do anything:
- Make sure you’re ready.
- Do a thorough inspection of the house, or hire a professional to inspect it for you.
- Check every inch of the exterior for signs of damage or severe wear.
- Look for any cracks or gaps, especially between the bricks themselves. If you find any holes, check the inside to see how far it goes and ensure you don’t have an infestation or rodent issue before proceeding.
Once you assess the condition, fix any issues. Caulk up any gaps and cracks. Replace the mortar or bricks that are crumbling or aren’t as strong as they should be. Only then should you move on to the next step (source).
Apply a Latex Primer and Let Dry
Having a primer is a must before you paint anything, especially a material as porous as bricks. Not only does it help to seal it against any nasties before you paint, but it gives you a smooth, uniform look. It’ll hide imperfections that aren’t easily fixed and give you a sleek finish.
Best of all, it helps paint dry faster. If you’re going to be putting on multiple coats, it’s an involved process. Anything that expedites the process will be appreciated and might even cut down on labor costs if you hire painters who tend to charge by the house—that can sometimes include wait times.
Paint Several Times
Finally, it’s time to paint. You’ll see once you’ve applied the first coat that it won’t look too good. House paint can come out thin and almost transparent at times, depending on your selected color or shade.
Either that, or you’ll have the opposite issue and end up with something very thick and intense. In any case, it won’t be as smooth as you probably imagine in your head.
Every new coat gives you a more even and uniform finish. It’ll also reduce the risk of paint chipping and peeling or cover it if it happens.
Have you ever seen a house with patches that are missing their paint and showing the material underneath? They didn’t put on enough coats.
Consider doing as many as three coats. That seems to be a good balance between having full coverage but avoiding any goopy or overly thick patches that can look too bright or distracting. Pastels will also require more than solid tones.
The rule of thumb: if it doesn’t look good, do it again!
There’s no right or wrong answer as to whether or not you should paint your brick house. Painting a brick house is extremely helpful when it comes to changing the overall image of your home, especially if you are putting it on the market. But there are drawbacks that you also need to consider, and only you can decide where the scales fall on the issue.
As a homeowner, I am constantly experimenting with making the structure of my house more energy-efficient, eliminating pests, and taking on DIY home improvement projects. Over the past two decades, my family has rehabbed houses and contracted new home builds and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I share my hard-learned lessons so that you can save time and money by not repeating my mistakes.