How to paint a Brick Wall.
If you’re me.

Brick Wall Front


The brick wall project is almost complete so I thought I’d give you a look at where I am right now with it and how I got here.  As a reminder, this is what the wall looked like before …

Brick Wall

And this is it after.

Brick Wall Side



Before you start to shoot poison out of your toes because you liked the before picture, know that I did too.  But it just wasn’t going to work.  There’s rough and then there’s drunk tank rough.   This wall was drunk tank rough.

I tried a few things with the wall including whitewashing it and distressing it so that the older brick showed through in spots.  But this wall is already rough without faking it.   The actual bricks are rough, they aren’t all flush, plus the wall was filled with holes and bits of old wood.  All those characteristics add up to … character.

And it all showed up better with the walls painted a flat white.

Now I know it looks like all I did was paint the wall white, but like with most home improvement jobs (and minor plastic surgeries) there was a lot more to it than that.

Brick Wall Steps

I still have a few gaps and holes to fill with wood and once I cut and chisel it to size, that’s exactly what I’ll do.


The other thing I had to contend with was the the very small slice of wall in between the door frame and the brick wall.   That’s what the piece of antique board you see in the before picture was for.

I found the board in my mother’s garage and it was love at first site.  If it were legal to marry just a hunk of wood I would.  Heh.   I wanted to use the board to run from the floor to the ceiling like an old beam. It would cover the mangled drywall between the door and the brick plus it would tie in the wood doors I have on the other side of the kitchen.

The only problem with the board was it was too wide.  It measured 10″ wide and I needed it to be 7″.  Well, just cut 3″ off it you think, right?  Wrong. The beauty of a board that’s at least 120 years old is it looks 120 years old.  On the outside at least.  Once you cut it, it looks brand spankin’ new on the inside.  Like mouldy cheese.

So if I were to cut 3″ off  the side of the board, that one whole edge would look brand new, with light wood and sharp edges.  Ewww.

My sister with the pink suede tool belt came up with the obvious solution of cutting 3″ out of the centre out of the board and pushing the two sides together.  That way the original old edges would remain intact.

So if it was off to my sister with the pink suede tool belt’s house,  because she has even more tools than I do.  Including a table saw which I once saw her try to fit into her tool belt.

Look!  She’s even wearing a pink tee shirt.  That’s her husband helping her cut my board.  All the tools are hers by the way.
Cutting Barn Board


To get two pieces of wood to fit together almost invisibly,  wood needs to be cut at 45 degrees, NOT 90 degrees.

Once the edge was cut off of the board, we cut the middle section out on the same 45 degree angle and then glued the edge back on.  Like so.
Cut Corner

And there it is!!! The pink suede toolbelt!

Gluing Barn Board


Then we clamped.  And by we, I mean her.  I was the official photographer of the night.

Clamping Barn Board


The 10″ board is now 7″, with its original rough edge.  You can see how it went together here.  Once we clamped this end it was as invisible as I needed it to be.  Rough wood like this makes it pretty easy to make it look good because the wood is already cracked and craggy.

Barn Board Edge


The board’s new old edge (pre-clamping).



The board is just leaning up against the wall right now. I’m going to have to move the light switch and electrical box out a few inches and set it into the barn board beam.

It’s a GREAT old piece of wood with huge square nails and a lot of smashes and bashes.

There are still a few fiddly things to deal with in terms of the post and the brick wall, plus the mess that is the ceiling above it, but I thought I’d show you how far I’d gotten with it.

The whole process of cutting the board and painting the brick wall took about 8 hours.

Which in terms of this kitchen renovation?  Is a spit in the paint bucket.


  1. Raymonde says:

    O.K. This is brilliant! I have gorgeous old wood planks that aren’t the right width. Now, I know how to deal with them! Thank you from the bottom of my wood pile!

    P.S: Where did your sister get that pink suede tool belt? I want one. I really, really do!

  2. NikiDee says:

    Brilliant! Which thing? The wall. The barn board. The board cutting. The PINK tool belt (I want one). But even with all that brilliance… I can’t get over the fact that I thought your hair miraculously grew out like one of those Barbies that you’d just pull the hair out of the top of its head. Magically short then long. Then you went and said it was your sister… for one second the most brilliant thing was the magical hair growing.

  3. Marti says:

    So when is the post on minor plastic surgery coming?

    Nice pink suede belt. Even more fascinating is how she manages to keep that white hoodie so darned white!? Wow! She must be a very prissy tough renovations kind of sis. Probably kick my… keyster. Looks like a good job on the board though. Now I just have to figure out where the heck that thing is going because otherwise, I really don’t get what all the fuss is about.

  4. Lesley Williamson says:

    Wow. All this time I thought you were kidding about the pink suede tool belt.

  5. Hope says:

    I didn’t believe you about the pink suede toolbelt….I thought it was hyperbole, storytelling licence, stylish embellishment! But there IT was! You share some very handy genes!
    The board is to die for and what a brilliant solution!

  6. Mark says:

    No poison shots from this direction – like the white brick much better in this case!

    Very clever way to keep the character of the old beam and make it the size needed. It feels so obvious after seeing it but I don’t think I would have ever had that particular light bulb go off.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Mark. I love the old board and finding in the rafters of my mother’s garage was the BEST! I’ll have to post a photo of the nails in the thing. Big, huge square things. ~ karen!

      • Liesl Joubert says:

        I wonder what other useful things are to be found in the rafters of your mother’s garage? Perhaps a similar solution for that ceiling?

  7. Cynna says:

    Looking good! I love beat up old wood, too. You might think about laquering the heck out of the wall to give contrast against the roughness of the wood. Oops, sorry–I’m a designer who loves her work too much!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Thank you for the input but I like the flat paint on the wall. Lacquered walls do have a place in this world but don’t have the whole rustic Swedish farmhouse feel I’m going for in this case. 🙂 ~ karen

  8. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Very nice hunk of wood girl..Like the brick wall..Your sister looks kinda familar..hummm..maybe I met her somewhere……

  9. Grammy says:

    Although I’m fond of old brick and liked the wall before, I really like the way it turned out. Somehow the paint makes the quirks interesting.

    I, too, lust after that old board. Your sister’s solution (and her execution of it) is brilliant. Betty is the luckiest mom!

    And I always believed the pink suede tool belt actually existed, but seeing it in action is a friggin’ thrill. Make sure Sis knows that she’s a rock star around here.

  10. Jane says:

    I’m exhausted just reading about the work you’ve done ( and photographed!!) but that beautiful old board was worth it!! The first time I painted a brick fireplace white, my husband kept trying to talk me out of it. Loved it much better….we moved and when I painted the bricks behind a woodstove white, he ended up liking it, too. But I do love old brick when it is in good shape….love yours…can’t wait to see the rest!! Lucky you to have such a handy sister.

  11. Liesl Joubert says:

    Also, I cannot remember what goes in front of this wall (if anything) but will you consider putting a strip of lighting down the centre of that wall? You could cover it with some frosted glass… or something-else-genius-you’ll-think-of. Or you could light the wall up from the top somehow? I LOVE the uneven shadowing that great lighting casts on a brick wall. But feel free to veto my budding design ideas for YOUR (not my) kitchen!

  12. Jody says:

    I love it. I love that you filled the square hole in the middle of the wall with old wood. Guests in your home will be looking for the other end of the “beam” on the other side of the wall. Your sister is one smart cookie and wood savvy. I CAN NOT wait for the huge reveal.

  13. Ev says:

    Nice wood! Our house is 207 years old. One of the rooms upstairs has a floor of planks that are 20 ” wide. Some are smaller, some are bigger. That wood was milled from trees that grew right here. And that floor will never be covered up in our lifetime! We love “old” here, and your brick wall is beautiful! My sis-in-law has more tools than anyone I know. She, however, does not have a pink tool belt! Hats off to ladies who use tools!

  14. Suanne says:

    I like the white. It brings out the flooring quite nicely!

  15. Kim says:

    This is what your sister needs with her pink belt. Pink suede steel toe work boots! Or maybe she already has them and you are saving them for another posting?

  16. beth says:

    Todays post was like waiting for a present that finally came. As usual your choices and hard work are “TOTALLY AWESOME” she said while flipping her eighties hair sideways! The cutting on the beam is such a genius solution. The old fashioned milk paint company makes a soapstone sealer and wood wax that is dead flat, might be a great sealer if you need to seal that gorgeous HUNK of wood. I used it on my farmhouse island top, makes water bead right up and makes the surface washable. Can not wait to see the next phase completed!

  17. beth says:

    Tell your sister we are all jealous of her tools…belts nice too.

  18. Mary Werner says:

    Nice post today – I think you can stain leather with Ranger products Color Wash. Had to watch Betty verses the Brick Wall again for the 8th time. I use it like medicine when my daughter fusses at me when I ask her to fix my computer or camera or remote. I laugh every time she asks about editing. Tell her she is just like Clint Eastwood = she makes my day!

  19. I’m also kind of in love with the pink tool belt… I never bother with a tool belt though and just carry the tools I need from here to there. Obviously I need to take a page from your sister and get with the program!

    And I really WISH I were the type of person or had the type of house that could use a beautiful distressed piece of wood like that, but I’m pretty sure my son would destroy it somehow. Or eat it. Because that’s why we can’t have nice things. (He’s 2, so I’m hoping he will grow out of it…)

  20. Lisa says:

    Can’t wait to see the finished kitchen…just wondering, why didn’t you put some sort of mortar in the smaller holes and paint it white along with the bricks? Are you going to paint them or leave them wood?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lisa. I’m leaving the wood natural looking. I like the look, it brings in other wood from the rest of the kitchen and gives the wall interest. PLUS, that’s how walls were mended and built in the 1800’s. If you go through any old building you may notice various bits of wood in the brick walls. ~ karen!

  21. Patti says:

    Genius solution, it looks great!

  22. Deb J says:

    I wondered what you were going to do with that honking big beam. LOVE it! And love your solution for shrinking. Not surprised it took 8 hours – it is trickier to do than it looks. Well done. And if you need more wood, I discovered a bunch rather like it in a maze-like Home Hardware just off Danforth in east Toronto. I was buying (and having cut) some new wood (my tools were at home in Ottawa and I was doing some stuff for my daughter) and spotted it while waiting for my 1×4. Seriously considered coming up with a project just so I could get some. Didn’t. Scoring one in your mom’s basement is awesome!

  23. toekneetoni says:

    you ladies, betty’s girls, are pretty impressive.

  24. Barbie says:

    Looks GREAT! You need to take your sissy and her husband out to dinner or something! That was a brilliant idea! LOVE LOVE the pink tool belt….I want one!

  25. Love what you did with the wall!! A genius fix to keep the charm of your wood!

  26. Sharon says:

    Your Awesome!! I love how you kept the origional wood showing. And I love your sister and her pink toolbelt. Shes my hero! LOL

  27. Irene says:

    Excellent idea regarding the re-sizing of that lovely wood! Watching your kitchen ‘happen’ is pretty cool, although I doubt anything will beat the Betty vs the wall video. 🙂
    Just one thing that made my eyes stop dead, and only because it was so unexpected in a very articulate and witty blog; “love at first site”? Kaaaaarennnn! Nooooooooo! :-O

    • Karen says:

      Yup. You’ll have to forgive the odd typo or grammatical error. I’m not an idiot and do know the difference between site and sight, your and you’re. These things just happen the odd time when you’re in a rush. As I always am. ~ karen!

      • Irene says:

        Sorry honey, I didn’t mean to come across as some bitchy ‘grammar nazi’.
        In fact, I’ve never called someone out on their spelling or grammar before, because eh, internet.
        I did sort of figure it was an inadvertent mistake and that you do know better, which is why I pointed it out, more as a “Gasp! Karen! Giggle giggle’ thing than a ‘Oh my gaaaaaawd, you’re such a ….. (fill favourite put-down here).
        Again, my apologies if my comment came across as offensive; I REALLY don’t think you’re an idiot.
        Here, have a hug. 🙂

  28. kate-v says:

    it’s looking so good!! , but what are you going to do with that slash or gouge thingy above the spot where the electrical outlet was – above where you put the ‘beam’ end?

  29. Leslie says:

    Progress! Yay!

  30. Jill says:

    I have serious C-clamp envy. And I want a pink suede tool belt. And a huge old hunka wood.

  31. Ruth says:

    I did think about cutting from the middle as well, but my ‘commoner’ mind would not have envisioned the 45 degree cut. It makes perfect sense though, and now I need go present a case study to hubby. I need to ascertain whether he would have thought of this solution. If not, I get to appear all knowledgeable and stuff. LOL!

  32. Looks fabulous Karen! Genius way to alter the board without ruining it. I do have a question though…is it warped at the bottom? It looks like it does not fit flush against the wall in the second photo…unless I am mistaking where you installed it. I would trip over that or stub my toes. I stub my toes a lot.

  33. oops I guess it the 3rd photo I was referring to.

  34. Susan says:

    Lookin’ good! Excellent choices being made. I can’t WAIT to see the whole thing done, but I’m going to guess that how I feel is about 1/1000th of how you feel about it ultimately getting done. 🙂

  35. Leona says:

    I’m pretty sure I just got a girl crush on your sister. Suh-weet solution!

  36. Nicholas says:

    Wow, would love to see the final product. There is so much character in the piece of wood!

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