The Painted Brick Wall. Do I Still Like It?

Afraid of painting a brick wall in your house? Maybe it’s a fireplace or an old exterior wall? Give it some thought, consider the pros and cons – and then just do it. Start whitewashing away the brick you don’t like today.

Antique brick wall painted white in dining room with harvest table and white Panton S chairs.

Painting an interior brick wall is the kind of thing only an a) brave b) stupid c) bored or d) mentally deranged person would do.  It’s a project I was terrified to do. I stared at a brick wall that I hated every single day for 17  years before I decided to finally paint it.  

So why didn’t I?  I was scared.

Should I paint my interior brick wall??

Yes!  There’s no reason not to. Other than the whole, you can’t undo it thing. But if you hate the wall as it is, you’re not going to hate it any more when you’ve painted it so at the VERY least you’ll break even.

Painting brick isn’t 100% irreversible, but it’s pretty close.  It’s like gaining 600 pounds. You *could* lose that weight but it’s gonna take a lot of work, a lotta tears and enough swear words to fill a penitentiary.

Even though the original brick wall was beautiful, it didn’t make my room beautiful.  At all.   I put LED strip lighting above it to brighten it up.  That worked(ish).  But not enough.

Natural antique brick wall in exterior of home.

I told many people I was going to paint this brick wall over the years and I had many people tell me back “NO!“, while simultaneously whipping their hand up in the universally recognized stop position.  “You cannot!‘.  

No one ever had a really solid reason for me, other than they didn’t think it should be done. 

White brick walls are having a moment right now but unlike some other fads, this one not only looks good but it’s actually a fairly classic look. 

A lot of white painted brick walls are done to replicate the look of efflorescence.

What is efflorescence you ask?

Antique stone or brick walls turn splotchy white over the years. It’s actually a layer of salt. The process is called efflorescence and it happens when moisture from outside, travels through the brick or stone. The water picks up salt from the brick, stone or cement  on its way through and then the water exits out the other side of the stone and evaporates. Unlike the water, the salt it picked up doesn’t evaporate, it sits like a powder on the stone.

I also ripped up all of the floors in my house on a whim. That didn’t go quite as smoothly as painting the wall. You can read about the floor debacle here. 


And then one day in 2017 I thought suck it and I painted my brick wall on a whim. And I’m still love it.

I started off thinking I was going to completely paint my brick wall solid white.  Then on a whim (again) I decided to whitewash it. 

Whitewashing Interior Brick

Materials

  • Water based paint (latex)
  • Water
  • Paintbrush

Instructions

  • Wipe cobwebs and dust off of brick wall.
  • Mix equal parts paint and water.
  • Start painting.

Whitewashing a brick wall (or anything) is as simple as using 50% water mixed with 50% paint.  The paint has to be a water based paint, not oil.  If the result seems too solid still, just water it down a bit more.

Then paint the “whitewash” on the surface of whatever you’re painting and blot the runs with a rag right away.

How to paint a brick wall.

I didn’t like it.

I didn’t like it one bit.

How to whitewash a brick wall

I got out my primer and started slapping it onto the wall with a brush and a roller, realizing I’d have to just paint the whole wall in a solid white.  Because my bricks are so old and irregular it was almost impossible to get into every groove and hole so I gave up on that after a while and just brushed the primer on quickly, thinking I’d go back and clean it up after one quick coat.

But as I stood back I liked it exactly like this.  Not a perfectly painted brick wall.  Not a Pinterest brick wall.  An interesting looking, aged, antiqued looking brick wall.

It’s chalky looking which gives it the look of being authentic; as though salt and lime have dusted the walls over centuries.

How to paint a brick wall.

And just like that I knew I was done.

How to antique a brick wall
 
How to Antique a Brick Wall
  1. Slap some primer on the wall being careful not to cover every bit of it.
  2. Clean your brush, put your paint can away.

I did finish priming the entire wall, but after I was done a quick coat of primer I packed up my paint, washed my brush and started sending photos to family members and friends.

how to paint a brick wall to look old

Well guess what.  They liked it.  I mean, they gasped of course, but they liked it. A few people asked me if I was finished.  I told them I thought that I actually liked it the way it was. To which they replied, “Yeah, I think I like it like that too.”

Do you know what’s funny?

How to paint a brick wall.

Never once, in 17 years has anyone ever walked into my dining room and commented on how beautiful they thought my brick wall was.

Not. Once.

So I don’t know what everyone’s issue with painting it was.

The truth is I’m glad it took me this long to paint the dining room wall because had I done it  6 or 7 years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to leave it the way it is, half-assedly painted.  

I’m also glad I didn’t know I was going to haphazzardly paint my wall.  If I knew I wanted a “random” look to the wall I would have given WAY too much thought to what areas got more paint than others.

I would have stood back and assessed and made it way more difficult than it needed to be.  By not knowing what the hell I was doing, I got a genuinely random look. The kind of random look I never would have been able to achieve if I was trying.

Painting an Interior Brick Wall

Painting an Interior Brick Wall

Active Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours

How to paint a brick wall inside your house.

Materials

  • Primer
  • Water based paint

Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Roller

Instructions

  1. Vacuum your brick wall to get all the dust off of it that you can.
  2. Using a brush or roller coat the wall in primer.
  3. Once primer has dried go over it with 2-3 coats of interior latex paint.
  4. See notes for additional options for painting a brick wall.

Notes

To whitewash a brick wall mix together 50% water and 50% latex paint into a container. Using a brush, paint the thin mixture onto the wall watching for any drips and cleaning those up as you go. Do a test patch first to see if you like the sheerness. If you don't then either raise or lower the amount of water you've used.

For *my* brick wall I ONLY used primer. I never went back and put any sort of actual paint onto the brick. The primer stuck really well and I like the sort of chalky appearance of it.

I know; you maybe liked the brick wall natural.  I know; it was a beautiful brick wall.  I know; it’s very difficult to lose 400 pounds.  But it can be done.

I’m not sure why I was so scared. Everything I fretted over painting in this house like the  kitchen brick wall, or my interior trim I’ve loved.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a wall to look at.

How to paint a brick wall but keep its authenticity!
The Painted Brick Wall. Do I Still Like It?

133 Comments

  1. Melissa says:

    I saw the title of your post and was feeling bad for you (and a little surprised, given your love of white) but figured you had really good reasons for the regret.

    Turns out, you’re just a tease— about walls and cats.

    The wall looks great, and will – as you replied in a comment up north – accommodate a wreath during the Christmas holidays much better in its current color styling.

    I am a SODS alumna who painted her brick completely. It was such ugly brick it had to receive layers of color to hide what it was. Good frog eating!

  2. marilyn meagher says:

    Paint..like a facelift only cheaper! Love it

  3. Katharyn says:

    Wood and brick – to paint or not to paint, since there is no going back.
    Good instincts to try the whitewash first. The look enhances the age of your home, brings light to a dark place. Margaret approves.
    My 70’s orange/purple fireplace brick begged to be painted. Had to go solid white, but voila! There was light! Now my paintings look fabulous.

    • Karen says:

      That’s the thing. EVERYTHING hanging on an orange wall looks gross. EVERYTHING hanging on a white wall looks great! Congratulations on having brick painting guts! ~ karen

    • Catherine says:

      I also had a orange(ish) brick wall and it was just “off”. I painted the surfaces of the bricks chocolate brown and it made all the difference. It was a small wall right next to a bank of windows so the chocolate brown didn’t make the room dark. It still looked like an original brick wall but now it was easy on the eyes and art work hung on it “worked”.

  4. leo muzzin says:

    Looking at the wall, every eight’th brick course is set at 90 degrees, indicating that the wall is double brick and probably an outside supporting wall. If so, there must have been a plaster stud wall in front which was removed for the brick effect. I thought the old brick looked very striking.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Leo! Yes, it’s the original outside of my house (which is double brick). The dining room is an addition that was probably done some time around 1900. So it was never covered with drywall. They just built the addition leaving the original brick wall exposed. ~ karen!

  5. Kelly says:

    I like it, Karen. I painted my ugly 80’s-dated fireplace, too even though my husband howled at me. Why is it people (men especially) think you shouldn’t paint brick or wood? When we moved, not long after, I painted my wood-planked wall in my living room because even with a southern exposure it dragged the room down. Especially in the winter it was so dark. People remarked at how good and bright it looked. So I have determined to go with your gut. If you hate it, paint it. After all YOU have to live there! Next are my oak cupboards. It is gettting DONE!

  6. Carrie says:

    Well “Heavens to Betsy” (lol) doesn’t that look great!!
    Love old brick but it definitely changes the look of the room besides brightening it up. A wreath will pop up there!
    Funny no one has commented on the brick.

    I love period pieces,Austen novels etc. so I am drawn to that painting. When you look at her it makes you wonder all sorts of things. Well,if you’re like me anyway.
    Have you ever told the story of where you got her?

    Its all fabulous but nothings better than your first cat Karen!
    Hahahaha😱😱😻😻

  7. Rose says:

    It does look great. Now the floors look more beautiful.

  8. Marie says:

    Well done! And you got me with the cat story :)

  9. You committed to white!!! You did it !!! You did it !!!!!

    Whooooohoooooo !!!

    It looks s.t.u.n.n.i.n.g.

    I’m so excited I just pulled my t-shirt over my head and ran around the room like a footballer after scoring a particularly spectacular goal. I’m chuffed.

    Whoop whoop

  10. Leticia says:

    Karen, is your brick wall original to the house? It doesn’t look like it to me, it looks like a layer of bricks in front of a stud wall.

    I am a big fan of original, old brick, exposed. Although I am not sure I could live with it. But if it’s added on, c’mon, it’s no sacrilege. Actually, it’s your home, do with it as you please.

  11. Thandi says:

    I luuurve it. And I loved the brick wall, but I didn’t have to live with it. My apartment is a dark cave which gets virtually zero sunlight, if I had brick walls I would have become completely homicidal. Not that it wasn’t touch and go when we first moved in, because the previous tenant had painted the entire open plan living area in alternating colours, Halloween purple and orange. Orange, purple, orange, purple, orange, purple. Paint: it’s a miracle cure for orange.

  12. Marna says:

    Looks great!

  13. Ev Wilcox says:

    Did you leave the LED light strip up? If so, I would really like a shot of it on, at night. Before paint, the light really brought out the natural uneveness of the bricks. Does that show now?
    Don’t know if I would have done it-but it’s your home and good for you! It looks great.

  14. Sue Bouchard says:

    Love it! If you ever get tired of the plain white, stencil some kind of old (or new) advertising on it. You can always change things with paint…and go back! [make it look brick again with more paint :) . Did a faux brick wall sign with a Coca-cola ad on it, for my son…he loves it.] I think Margaret loves looking at it, too! Great job!

  15. Jenna says:

    This is great. I love that distressed white washed brick look. Bonus that it’s easier than pinteresty white brick too. And way easier than gaining and subsequently loosing 400 pounds. I actually like that the brick color still shows through because that little bit of brick color brings out the gorgeous wood of your table.

  16. dana says:

    I love it, Karen! Really nice. We had a house built abt 20 yrs ago and I wanted to do something on the vaulted wall in the great room but I didn’t want anything trendy like sponging or stenciling. We decided to stamp it like brick. It was so cool. It was one of those I-love-it-more-than-I-thought-I-would moments.

  17. Deborah Burns says:

    It looks great Karen!

    I like the craggy whitewashed look, it’s patina!

    I have paneling in my living room which I hated when I bought my house 20 years ago and have wanted to paint it. But what color looks good over paneling?
    Dither, dither, dither………
    Eventually I gave up on color and decided on white, because I finally got over my dislike of white walls born of years of renting apartments painted “Navajo White”.
    I decided to paint my paneling (actually a beautiful veneer of golden wood) white…. Time happened
    Then guess what!
    Now I LIKE the paneling! HaHa

  18. Angie says:

    I started reading the post thinking, “Oh, hell, no, don’t ruin that awesome-looking brick wall.” Then I saw the pictures. I’m a convert. It looks great. Way to go!

  19. Pattie Meyers says:

    Girl. Waaaaay better looking wall now. And I predict Margaret will end up hanging out there. I think your first instinct was right.

    • Karen says:

      Hi pattie! I can see why you think that my first instinct was right (I thought it was too!) but it wasn’t. :) The room is a much better balance with her where she is plus you can see her a lot more for some reason. She is where she is. :) ~ karen!

  20. Raymonde says:

    It’s only lime wash, it looks like watered down skim milk, it goes on translucent and becomes opaque when it dries, which is part of the fun! :-)

  21. Jane says:

    Looks great!!! Very rustic like that’s how it always was. I also painted an orangy brick fireplace white, the red brick behind my wood stove white, and “solid pine paneling” (what I was told ) white….all against my husband’ saying no no no!! All scared the crap outta me, but love them all. This summer stained my concrete driveway….scary, too, but turned out amazing. It’s just paint….right? ; )

  22. Valerie says:

    Karen I am sure you will think that this sounds dumb and very uncool but I think it needs another few coats of paint.
    I like the whitened look of the wall and prefer it to the exposed brick.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. No, it just sounds like you want a solid, white, brick wall. Which is exactly what I decided I didn’t want once I saw the wall as it is now. This is just more me, and I’m sure a solid white wall would be more you. ~ karen!

  23. Raymonde says:

    I love it!
    I did that on some the old stone walls in my house, but I did what they did in the old days, I lime washed them! It’s really easy to do, very inexpensive and it looks great! :-)
    Here’s what it looks like in my bedroom.

    • Karen says:

      Ohhhh you live in that billion year old house in Quebec! Love the lime plaster. I’ve used it on my cob oven (if that’s the same thing … I think it is, but with a wash instead of a plaster). Looks great! ~ karen!

    • Carlene says:

      Ohhhh, that looks amazing, Raymonde (and so does your wall, Karen)! I always feel like interior stone/brick should be treated completely differently that exterior stone/brick. Karen, the added light in your living room is fantastic.

      Unlike 90% of the population, I’m a total sucker for a (properly weatherproofed & color-coordinated) painted brick building. I live next to the amazing city of Troy, NY, which looks like the 1800s never left. Every single downtown building is brownstone or historical brick, and the residents throughout the years have done a lovely job of maintaining that “step back in history” feel. There’s an entire street of painted brownstones where they’ve filmed quite a few movies due to how amazing it looks. So, paint your bricks, says I!

      (I attached a photo of them filming “The Age of Innocence” in Troy, just for fun)

  24. Kim says:

    Wow. It REALLY looks great white. And I am an exposed brick lover. But this looks so much better. It reminds me of the walls in a Chinatown near where I live.

    Good work!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kim. And actually it doesn’t translate nearly as well in photos as it does in real life. I can’t even STAND how much better I like it. It’s made a huge difference in the room. I can’t wait until it’s Christmas so I can hang a HUGE wreath on the wall. I couldn’t before because … ick. ~ karen!

  25. Toni Guerrero says:

    Loved the story of how you painted your cat. Genius! 😉

    • Karen says:

      Hahahah! I’m so glad you liked it the cat story! ;) ~ karen!!

      • Brenda says:

        I’m going to have to find that cat story. My ex painted my cat green when I was in Florence, Italy studying for a year. Never let your ex have your cat for a year.

        The wall looks so great! So does Margaret. Win. Win.

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