white brick house with black shutters surrounded by green trees

EXTERIOR Q & A: Should I Paint My Brick?

Pros, Cons & Everything you need to know if you want to Paint Your Brick

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Should I Paint My Brick House? YES! But also…maybe no?

There are no straightforward, easy yes or no answers when it comes to exterior design—even more so when brick or brick veneer is involved! So, I wanted to pull together some of the questions I ask myself when working on custom exterior designs to help you make this big decision about your exterior.

HEADER PHOTO BY Elijah Boisvert on Unsplash

Jump to a section:
History of painted brick
Should I paint my brick?
Can I DIY paint my bricks?
What are the best products for painting bricks?
Unpainted Brick Ideas
How to decide if you should paint your brick

History of Painted Brick

The idea of painting a brick exterior is not a new invention.  Homes built before 1870 often had brick fired at lower temperatures, which needed to be protected with a finish.  Otherwise, the bricks would be too soft to stand up to the environment. Once bricks could be manufactured at a higher temp, they could stand on their own, and color was determined by the soil and minerals used to make the brick instead of its final coat. 

PHOTO BY Khürt Williams on Unsplash

Should I Paint My Brick?

I ask myself a few basic questions before I ever suggest painting a client’s brick facade: 

How unique is the brick? 

Is it a unique shape, unusual or special color, or a brick made locally in your town or state?  Or is it a pretty easy color to work with, like grey, white, or a weathered finish?  If the answer to any of these is yes, then that tells me the brick is NOT a good candidate for re-finishing. 

Here are some real-world examples:

What condition is the brick in?

Cracked, broken, or missing bricks means the surface cannot be painted until those conditions are fixed. Anywhere water can enter the brick surface is a problem that needs to be dealt with immediately to prevent larger issues. Get a mason to check it out and get if fixed before talking with a painter. 

Does your brick have a powdery finish in some spots that come off on your hands?  That could signify Efflorescence, which you’ll want to deal with before you consider painting. Efflorescence on brick surfaces is a powdery residue caused by moisture during installation. It is harmless, usually disappears with time and rain, and is simple to scrub off with clean water and a stiff brush. If it persists, it may indicate water-related issues behind the brick – which you have to address the cause of before painting. Once fixed, your painter may consider using a primer to prevent future efflorescence.

Paint is not the move if your brick looks anything like this and you don’t plan on getting it fixed, first:

Has your brick already been painted?

If so, it is a good candidate to paint again.  But you definitely want your painter to inspect everything and clean it thoroughly before starting to make sure there isn’t any damage that would be obscured by a fresh coat of paint or cause any other issues down the road.

PHOTO BY Thierry Lemaitre on Unsplash

Does the style of my house or the look I’m going for make sense with painted brick?

Not all styles do!  Not all architecture does!  And if your home is historic or architecturally significant, there is no way I’d feel comfortable suggesting you paint that brick. Doing so would damage that significance, and there’s no easy way to get that back once it’s gone.

Here are some examples of both Modern & Traditional Painted Brick:

Have the other homes in my neighborhood painted their brick?

Now, while I am generally on the side of, “It’s your house, and you should have it look exactly as you want it to,” changing brick is one of the few things that can affect your home’s overall value and sellability in a bad way.  So, if all the houses in your neighborhood have the same brick, and no one else has painted theirs, I might take a beat to consult with my realtor to get a gut check on what changing that brick finish might do to your home value.  Maybe nothing, maybe a lot, which is why it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Because…

Am I into the look of painted brick for the long haul? 

Painting brick is a permanent thing—no takes-backsies!  And while yes, anything can technically be reversed, it’s expensive, time-consuming work that can permanently damage the brick if not done correctly and by a professional.  Painted brick also requires more routine maintenance.  So you better be truly in love with the look.

PHOTO BY Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

Can I DIY Paint my Brick?

In a word – no.  Because of its porous nature, brick can be very easy to damage.  There is PH testing involved in the prep work, and if any of the many steps of painting a surface go wrong, it can permanently damage the exterior of your home.  So this is one to leave to the experts – and to make sure that whomever you’re hiring to do the work has the necessary experience.

However, there is an exception—mineral wash. In my experience, this is a very easy coating over brick to work with, as long as you take your time and follow the instructions.  And if you like the light and bright look!

What are the best products for painting bricks?

The easy answer here is: “Whatever your painter suggests using” because you’re not going to DIY this! However, there are a few products that I suggest when refinishing bricks, which I would ask your painter about and double-check are included when you review your quote.

Best Paint for Brick

For Paint, you want to make sure your Painter will use at least a primer and possibly a paint made specifically for Masonry surfaces. The best one is the Loxon line by Sherwin-Williams, which allows you to use most exterior paints over the top of the masonry primer. This finish will be solid, with none of your original brick color showing. It also allows you the broadest range of paint colors and sheens. 

Best Limewash for Brick

For Mineral Washes, which are much more straightforward, nothing beats the Romabio line.  If you’d like, this finish can let a bit of your original brick color shine through and has the most beautiful velvety finish.  Pictures really don’t do it justice. 

The one drawback to mineral paints and washes (or ‘limewash’) is that the color range is extremely limited because it uses natural pigments that won’t give you a deeply saturated color.  Some places will tint it, but you will not be able to get a perfect match to any other color, as the minerals just don’t take color that well.  However, Romabio has a beautiful color range of pale neutrals, which are a great foundation for other color accents like doors, shutters, and accessories. 

My favorite color of theirs to work with is Avorio White because it’s a true neutral that goes with everything!  Here are some of my favorite accent paint colors with Romabio Avorio White:

Best Stain for Brick

I love the Dyebrick color range for stains. While it’s very straightforward – you simply brush it on – staining brick is very time-consuming. But it can transform a brick into a completely refreshed ‘non-painted’ look. This is particularly true because it doesn’t affect your mortar color. If you have a two-toned brick and want it all to match or simply want to completely change the look of your home, brick staining is the way to go.

Unpainted Brick Ideas

Listen. It’s a totally valid decision not to paint your brick but instead to work with it in its original state, even if it’s a difficult color like red, pink, orange, or yellow.  I support you! But, like, how do you make red brick look good?  How do you make the yellow brick look like it was what you wanted all along? And what in the world will make pink brick look right?

Anytime you have a very strong color on the brick, you want to work with an extremely limited color palette. Like, ONE other color besides the brick. And not even a color per se, because I always let the brick itself be the ‘color’ and then neutralize with a neutral tone on the other parts. (This goes for other parts of your exterior, like roofing and windows as well.)

So, for strongly colored bricks like maroon, orange, pink, or yellow, you want to work with the brick’s undertone tone and pick a color that neutralizes it.  (Just like concealer or hair color; work with your skin tone, not against it.)

Here are some real-world examples of unpainted brick:

I’ll usually make the trim dark if the house’s architecture is modern or you want it to look that way. If it’s traditional, I go with a mid-tone or white. And if you have two brick colors (like ‘trim’ is yellow and the rest of the house is red), then I’d treat the trim color to match the main body of the house.  Stain is great for this!

Here are my neutral faves for trim with unpainted brick:

How to Decide if You Should Paint Your Brick

If you’re thinking about painting your brick, here are a few reasons I’d consider doing it, and a few reasons that would make me think twice about painting:


  • It’s already been painted
  • It’s a difficult color (red, yellow, maroon, pink)
  • It’s NOT a unique size, shape, or color
  • You never want the house to be natural brick again
  • Your house is NOT historically or architecturally significant


  • None of the other houses in your neighborhood are painted
  • It’s an easy color to work with (grey, white, tan)
  • It’s a unique size, shape or color
  • It’s damaged in any way (cracked, powdery, broken)
  • Your house is historically or architecturally significant

And there you have it! If you ever need help making this—or any—decision about your house, I’d love to help you make the right choices with a Custom Exterior Design.

Best of luck with your brick, and I’m sending you the most successful renovation vibes!

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