How to Paint Brick Like a Pro

If you’ve ever thought about how to go about painting your brick, don’t worry, it’s a pretty straight forward process.  In this article, I’ll explain some brick painting basics and try to show you how easy it can be to paint brick.















 

However, if there are cars, houses, landscaping, and/or other valuable items nearby, spraying may not be a good option.  I’ve heard of parking lots of cars getting painted with overspray from a gust of wind. Ouch! 

Also, the paint materials used to paint your brick are going to be more expensive when using a paint sprayer because of the wasted paint material due to overspray. A paint sprayer uses approximately 25-40 % more paint material. But if conditions allow, spray painting brick can give huge benefits in terms of time and money spent and as the saying goes, “Time is Money”. Therefore,  when considering a sprayer, think about the limitations as well as the size of your brick painting project.

Now, the most common application method for painting brick, is still the brush and roller.  When I paint brick, I start out using a paint roller. I usually use a thick 3/4” non shedding roller that holds a large amount of paint material. Some might say that start with a roller is backwards, since most painting projects begin by using a brush to “cut in” the areas being painted. But since brick is porous, you’ll want to cover as much as possible by first using the quicker application tool, which in this case is the paint roller. Once the majority of the brick is covered with paint, you can finish cutting in the remaining brick using a brush. For this, you’ll want to use a decent quality nylon brush (usually $10.00- $15.00) designed for latex paint.

Most brick usually requires three coats of paint for full coverage.  Of course there are exceptions.  For example,  a slightly porous or light colored brick may only require two coats of paint whereas a porous or dark colored brick may require four coats of paint. As with any painting project, I would highly recommend taping and covering all valuable items before ever starting. These items include walls, floors, carpets, furniture, landscaping, concrete walkways, etc.  Use the long mask tape (usually blue or green in color) for delicate items such as painted or wallpapered walls, furniture and hardwood floors.

Finally,  most paint can labels will list other specifications associated with surface preparation, paint application temperatures, and paint drying times. Each manufacturer’s specifications vary somewhat, so be sure to follow these to get the best results and keep your warranty in force.

Painting

Many large hardware and paint stores carry various brands of primers and paint designed specifically for masonry and brick painting applications. A list of the most popular paint brands and products with specifications for painting brick can be found here. 

Regarding primers, you should know that many of the newer paints are designed to be self-priming. This eliminates the need to purchase additional primer material. Self- priming paints will also save time and money since they also eliminate an extra step in the painting process.

Most paint designed for painting brick and masonry is latex and can be thinned with a small amount of water to help with spreading and workability of the paint.  The first coat of paint can be thinned to help it flow into the brick and mortar crevices. Thinning paint however reduces the color’s intensity as it cuts the amount of paint pigment and alters the paint color slightly. For this reason, I wouldn’t suggest thinning the paint material being used for the last application.

There are many application tools that can be used to paint your bricks. If you have a large quantity of brick to paint, you can consider purchasing or renting a paint sprayer.  Of course, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of using a sprayer.  For commercial and certain outdoor brick painting projects, a sprayer can apply paint much faster and depending on the project size can even cut a project’s time by up to  80%. 

Before painting your brick, it should be mentioned that there are some interesting alternatives.  One such alternative is a company called

Brick Transformers, a service that artistically changes the look of brick by using stains, glazes and other masonry products. If you are looking to change your brick without the painted look, you might want to research this type of option.

Preparation

To start your brick painting project, you’ll want to prepare your brick by making sure it’s clean from dust, dirt, smoke, soot, and/or efflorescence.

If you’re painting brick on the exterior of your home, you’ll want to lightly power wash the bricks surface so that it’s clean from all foreign elements. Once cleaned, allow the brick to completely dry for a day.  If you’re painting brick on your fireplace, you’ll want to brush and vacuum the brick to remove any dust and dirt. You’ll also want to make sure that any smoke or soot stains around the firebox are removed.  If your brick shows signs of efflorescence, the source of it should be identified and corrected before painting.  If your not sure what efflorescence is or would like to read more about it, click here. After cleaning your brick, allow it to completely dry before applying one to two coats of latex primer/sealer to any residual smoke or soot stains that you aren’t able to remove. For some additional cleaning instructions and details, click here.

Most natural brick surfaces are porous and accept paint very well. Because of this, there is usually no need to sand or abrade the surface when you’re painting brick unless the brick is glossy,  glazed or has embedded glass chips

If this describes your brick, you’ll want to lightly sand the brick’s surface using 100 grit sandpaper before priming and/or painting the brick.

Additional preparations when painting brick include filling any loose mortar joints with new mortar and protecting all walls, floors, and other surrounding surfaces with masking tape and drop clothes to avoid any potential damage during the painting process. 

Calculating Paint Materials

Before purchasing your materials for your brick painting project, you’ll want to calculate the correct amount of paint you’ll need.

A gallon of paint usually covers anywhere from 175 to 275 square feet of brick.  Depending on how textured and porous your bricks are, you can apply a number from this range and divide it into the number of square feet of brick you’ll be painting to calculate the number of gallons of paint needed per coat.

For example, if you’re painting brick on a wall that measures 40 ft. x 8 ft. and the brick has average texture and porosity, your project will require approximately 1.5 gallons of paint  (320 sq ft./225 = 1.42 gallon) for the first coat. Additional coats of paint will have a spread rate approximately 20% better than the first coat. Using the same example, you would need approximately 1.20 gallon of paint (320 sq. ft./ 270= 1.18 gallon) for the second coat. Assuming only two coats  are needed to cover your brick, your painting project will require a total of 3-4 gallons of paint.

When painting fireplace brick and calculating the number of square feet, you’ll want to remember to enter your fireplace’s depth, the surface of the fireplace hearth (if brick), and the firebox opening into your calculation. Typically then, the calculation is (length x width of the fireplace front) + (length x width of the fireplace sides) + (length x width of the fireplace hearth) - (length x width of the fireplace door or firebox).

Calculating Project Time

Before starting your brick painting project you might be interested knowing the amount of time that will be required. You can calculate how long painting the brick will take by using this formula.