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. Brenda says:

    Here’s the technical reason why you shouldn’t paint brick.
    Brick is a porous material and “breathes”. When you have an exterior wall on an old building, painting the brick seals it and prevents it from drying out efficiently, this could be true on the exterior or interior side of an exterior wall. Because brick is porous, it will always absorb some moisture and leaving it natural helps with the drying of the wall. There’s a lot more to it than just this, and some situations are different, but for an old building, that’s it in a nutshell.
    That said, looks like your wall is an interior wall (air conditioned/heated on both sides of it), so this probably isn’t as much of a big deal (not knowing your house, that’s just a general assumption). But for any of your readers who are thinking about painting the outside of their brick house, I just recommend they fully research and understand the building science behind brick as a material and know what they might be in for.
    Liking painted brick as a look vs. non-painted brick is just a personal preference, but when it could interfere with the building’s integrity, it’s important to understand how the whole system works.

  2. Jennie Lee says:

    I was hoping to see how neat it looks with the LEDs on, at night. Great shadows, I’ll bet. I really enjoyed a Canadian making a Trump joke. Would you like to babysit him, for a while? Please? By the way, WHY is autofill so touchy, where we put our name? It always takes me several tries. I put in 2 letters, then quickly try to click on my name, below, and it vanishes before I can do so. I never have that problem anywhere else. It’s like Whack-a-mole.

  3. jeanne says:

    I love the wall!
    You were right, it was too orange…

  4. Karen Too says:

    I like it! Very brave of you. And I thought I was the only person who used the term
    “half-assedly”!

  5. There’s something in the air! Here’s what we did last week.

    • Thandi says:

      That’s amazing!!

    • Karen says:

      GAHHHHH!!! Is that the finished paint job??? I lord I hope so. That is SO great. Those painters did a fantastic job. I’d love to know if there was a technique or watered down paint or just slapping it on. There isn’t one single person in the world who could claim the before looked better. NO ONE. ~ karen!

      • Kim says:

        Thanks! That’s the finished brick, yes. We love it! The trim is done now, too (below). We used Romabio BioCalce Classico paint, which mimics an old-fashioned lime wash, but is way easier to deal with. You can brush or dab it on—they brushed it on for our job— and then use a hose to remove as much as you like. It cures completely in 5 days. During that time, it’s too dry to hose off, but you can use a power washer to remove it. Oh, and it’s non-toxic for plants, too! So far I’m really pleased.

    • Linda Pottage says:

      Kim, where can I see your wall. I really want to paint mine? Thanks Linda Pottage info@bluehousestudio.net

  6. Jody says:

    Fan-tab-ulous! Do you know who Margaret is? Who was the artist?

  7. Mia says:

    That wall looks fantastic, great job and great idea! I’m sure aunt Margaret will love her new home<:}

  8. Charlene says:

    Karen, Take a moment from admiring your newly painted brick wall and watch Idris Elba read you a bedtime story. Not just a bedtime story but a story about a chicken. It’s a win win! But who the hell can sleep after watching Idris Elba? Love that man!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/close-your-eyes-and-allow-idris-elba-to-read-you-a-bedtime-story_us_59b6a16ae4b036fd85cc9c31?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

  9. Kathy says:

    I love painted brick…….such a clean new look. I painted a fireplace that went across the entire room and hearth. I did have to fill in every little nook and cranny. Brightened everything up.

    Later on, I filled the horizontal space under each row of brick so it resembled adobe.
    Fun painting cause you can just slap it one.

  10. Kris Wilson says:

    Love it! It actually adds more character than just the plain brick. Margaret probably shows up more now because of the contrast and light the paint adds to the whole room. And I’m sure she prefers having a permanent place to ‘hang’, instead of leaning around waiting! You, as always, are inspiring.

  11. Dianna says:

    I absolutely LOVE that Margaret picture!

    I love your style and enthusiasm. So glad I ‘met’ you here!

  12. Linda says:

    But why do you feel sick?

    • Karen says:

      “I feel sick. I’ve wasted 17 years worth of time and energy hating that brick wall; I should have painted it years ago.” ~ karen!

  13. Erica says:

    We are about to paint our orange “worm hole” type brick fireplace. We were going to do a stone facade and maybe we willlater but can’t right now because we are still woeking on the kitchen we gutted. I want gray and think this looks really great! Kind of what we want but in white ish gray!
    And yes everyone says we are nuts but they aren’t living with a huge ugly orange fireplace!

    • Melissa says:

      Erica, I am intrigued by your “worm hole” description. I painted my own fireplace bricks because I hated – what I called – their “worm trails.” I did mine a putty-type gray, if you want to see it, lmk.

      • Erica says:

        Oh my gosh yes please!

      • Melissa says:

        Erica, I can’t figure out how to make one of those montage photos that shows before or after, otherwise, I’d just upload that. Doh!

        If you want, you can PM me at melissam36 at icloud dot com, and I’ll send the photos so as not to litter Karen’s site with my project.

  14. Kipper says:

    It looks great!

  15. Stephanie says:

    Looks great Karen. In all your other posts showing that wall, I can’t recall one that showed how short that wall actually is (I always pictured it being longer/wider) – even in the lighting post… or when you had the white buffet there. Anyway, love your choice not to put Margaret there since that wall does stop short and enters a hallway – not much of the wall would have shown with her there. She’s happy in that corner. And I did notice, before I read the line, that you hung her.
    I was at Christie’s fall antique show on Saturday and looked for you. Didn’t see you, but paid homage to you by getting chip truck fries and gravy. The old couple sitting across from us at a picnic table, went off to buy some after we made them hungry for some (after they just finished sharing a huge strawberry sunday). Love!

  16. Judy says:

    I think your “imperfect” paint job looks way better than 100% white would have, anyway. The imperfect paint job is what retains the character of the brick! It is gorgeous. Serendipity for the win!

  17. Heather says:

    I look for Margaret in all your posts.

  18. aine Kunst says:

    I loved your brick wall. But I LOVE the way it looks now. Well done!!

  19. Janet says:

    Excellent choice. That old orange brick did not enhance your decor. Might have looked good “back in the day” but, not now with your style
    When I brought my first house it had dark stained woodwork. I hired a painter who did not want to paint it. After much discussion and threats of bodily harm he agreed. When he was done all he could say was , you were right. Of course, I knew that all along.
    Go for what your gut tells you, that’s what guys are for.

    G

  20. michelle says:

    Love it! I painted my brick fireplace several years ago after hating it for years and years. It changed my life. I love that you knew when you were finished and stopped. Perfection is over rated. Well done!

    • Karen says:

      Like I said, 6 or 7 years ago I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to stop where I did. :) Yay for painting brick! ~ karen

  21. Peggy says:

    Love it! Hurray!

  22. Ron R. Parkin says:

    I don’t like to paint over brick or stone. Takes away from the natural look. If you wanted white brick, then install white brick. My preference would have been to just leave it ‘brick’. What can I say, I’m a brick person. I think that it looked better.

    • Karen says:

      That’s because you’re a man, lol. Most men are horrified at the thought of painting wood or brick. ~ karen!

      • Ron R. Parkin says:

        True. I don’t do paint. And the source of this horror? I think it was because as a young person, I spent every summer, at the behest of my parents, scraping and sanding peeling paint from wood, metal, and brick; only to have it painted again. Why?
        In this day and age, for these types of surfaces, paint is obsolete. Drywall excluded.
        Just a thought. I do enjoy your blog. Interesting at times.

  23. Jody says:

    I love exposed brick walls, but hate, hate, hate orange brick. Good job!

  24. terri says:

    Hmmm….my family room has a rock wall with a fireplace. Since the house was built in the 70’s, the rocks are orange/pink/brown. There must have been really good drugs in the 70’s because it was common to spritz the rocks with water so algae would grow. When I told my neighbors I was going to paint the rock wall, they unanimously said “NO!” Because then I could never get back to the natural rock. Screw them…I’m going to follow your lead and paint the rocks white.

  25. Wendy says:

    Love it! I’ve painted brick & wood paneling white….anything to brighten a room

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