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. Anthony J Vera says:

    Just came across this tutorial and I loved it. Soooooo…I SHOULDN’T be terrified of doing this to my brick wall?? Ugh….I’m scared.

  2. Emily says:

    Hi karen! I think you made a wonderful call on painting the brick. I just moved into a new home and want to paint the exposed brick white as well. What primer did you use for this project?

  3. Roger says:

    For painting masonary or “that” wall, buy one to two gallons of Sherwin Williams Loxon primer.

    First clean and prep the wall, knocking any loose mortar and/or repairing any mortar. For cracks, use a polyurethan sealant such as Sakrete’s mortar repair within a caulk tube. (Found within Home Depot’s concrete/brick/masonary dept.)
    Remember to use backing for larger cracks. Polyurethane sealant requires a week cure time prior to painting, but it’s well worth the wait, as the results are apparently fabulous. Cheaper grades of caulk (found within Home Depot’s caulk/paint aisle) are not as strong and durable as polyurethane caulk/sealant/repair.

    Using an ordinary two inch paint brush and paint roller, paint the brick wall with primer. Stuff is like an extra thick primer, and much messier than regular paint!
    Then use any type of regular interior house paint. (Since I’m a guy, I’d just roll some base white satin sheen.)

    Yea, I know my advice has no story like your wonderful story. I’m just a smart guy who gets things done. About the only fun I have is usually when repairing electrical receptacles without switching off the circuit. A guy at heart.

    Loxon primer, some great stuff. Although I’m not an interior decorator, I would have cleaned the brick wall, applied sort satin clear sealant, and framed it in some manor … maybe a dark wood stained frame. Then added some incandescent lighting, avoiding the overly blue fluoresent/LED lighting. Another option if it’s not a support wall is to remove it, or if it is a supporting wall, add a layer of cement backer board and tile it with some really nicer looking brick? Lots of options! (Important to find out if it is a supporting wall prior to modification.)

  4. Lily says:

    Can’t fathom why people paint beautiful brick walls, I mean the beauty of a brick wall is that it looks so organic. Sorry but the wall looked 1000% better au natural.

  5. I prefer the original brick, but that’s just me. An option for keeping it natural and brightening up the room would be to purchase and hang a large 6×6 foot plain white framed canvas from an art supply store. Cost – about $75.

  6. Handyman in Newham, London says:

    Well, it still has a nice look. I am a huge fan of the white and the colour gives an interesting outlook on the brick wall. No worries! Keep doing nice stuff.

  7. Glenda says:

    Brick….pffft! I have a bossy, ugly fireplace that I am now just able to convince the hubby to reface. So often it is muddled, mucky and old but not in a good way (wait, what old is good?! ). #wine.duh

    Good for you, so brave as usual.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jim says:

    I’m not a fan of red brick. At all. I think painting it white was a great idea, not just because of the way it looks now, but the versatility an unlimited palette brings to the room. If ‘dark and scary’ was the problem, you could have tried an interim measure, though, and moved that painting somewhere.

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    OK…that’s it…I’m going to paint my brick inside chimney…looks great Karen!

  10. Kari says:

    I LOVE the painted wall. Very nice!

  11. Jackie Cameron says:

    Love it, Karen. We bought our house just about 12 years ago (it was built in 1985) and it has faux brick as a kitchen back splash. It’s not plastic but really looks like brick. I was ok with it for several years but noticed how dark it made the kitchen. I tried painting it white but didn’t get very far because I didn’t like it. The top part of my kitchen was an off white & they didn’t go together very well. So we painted the whole kitchen. The top is an off white like it was & the bottom 1/3 is a buckskin color (it was a dark country blue). We did the brick in the same color as the upper walls. I loved it – for a while. I really wanted to put in a new back splash but didn’t want the work or the expense. I have tried a few other colors & right now it is shiny metallic gold. I was looking for a metal look. I don’t really like it but my husband does. It has darkened the kitchen once again. I think I am going to try your idea but maybe match the upper walls again but not paint it too solid. I may just like it again. Little flecks of gold might just do the trick. Thanks for all your help & ideas. You make me a better decorator. I love how you always think outside the box.

  12. Jane says:

    Huh. I too thought Ack. You can’t! And the finished product isn’t bad– I suspect it’s amazing in person– And I loved the whitewashed version: huge better. So, lesson to me. Start small, but uh, do start.

  13. Christine Diaz says:

    The white brick looks good. Just curious if you ever considered throwing up a dummy drywall in the previous 17 yrs? I’m a house painter by trade, might have been what I would suggest if a moral struggle was in place!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christine. I thought of it but never considered it. It’s the texture of the brick I like. I didn’t want just a wall of flat drywall. :) ~ karen!

  14. Patricia says:

    I really really really like the brick wall. It looks a lot like the exterior of a house in my home town where a professor of architecture lived. I have never forgotten it – it’s just so cool to sort of paint it and keep the great texture of the old brick.

  15. Mary W says:

    I haven’t read any comments just so I can leave my opinion without undo pressure. I really like it. I like that you see a brick wall. I like that you see each brick. I like the white washed effect. I like the whiteness but not WHITENESS on a brick wall. It feels right at home in yours.

    By the way, we had 13 people 7 pets and IRMA all visiting the last few days. No electric. It really was fun. All the talk and laughter took the scariness away and it was a perfect Hurricane party. Not by choice (since we had all planned to leave) but by necessity. Three main roads North out of South Florida were bumper to bumper, no gas, no food/water in any store. So we stuck it out and had one persimmon tree fall on the chain length fence, tons of leaves and branches and lots of big balls of mistletoe. The dogs all got along. I hid the bird from the cats. The electric just came on and I can finally take a shower. We hurricane ate (eat anything you can get your hands on to eliminate nerves) but friends brought lots of lobster and so much cake and cookies and fruit. Lots of meat from freezers that were going to be without electric. We cooked on gas grill and it was actually cool last night so the windows got opened and fresh air in and two generators got hooked up last night for fans, freezer, and refrigerator. Man it was fun! So now everyone is going home, I’m tired and can’t face clean-up. (We carried pails of water from the pool into the bathrooms in order to flush.) I missed the toilet during the night and dumped the whole pail onto the floor. I need a flashlight! The cat was a maniac and she jumped on my little dogs back, dug her claws into each of my dogs ears and rode her like a bucking bronco all through the house. Very scary for poor Trixie but hilarious for us. The cat’s name is Painintheass. (payn in thee as) – Get it? We were so very blessed and so sorry for others that weren’t as lucky.

  16. Lynn says:

    Have to say Margret looks pleased with your choice of both not full coverage of brick an not moving her.
    Brick can look beautiful if it has the right area an size of area where it is. Otherwise it truly is the elephant in the room sucking all life an light from the area.
    As Brenda says painting brick can truly cause more damage than one might realize , as most people think of them as solid but they are not the breath an need air to keep them healthy. Those that paint solid colour on houses made of brick need to really to get advice about what they can an not paint them with.
    Interior brick is a different story as it does not deal with same weather conditions ( hopefully).
    I like you would have hummed an hawed maybe just as long about painting them , possibly even going so far as just to hiding them behind drywall .
    I love old house for there trim most of the time thought I would always think how much better it would look with said trim painted white… ( it just brightens everything) .

  17. Gina Reed says:

    LOVE IT!!!!

  18. Danni McLaughlin says:

    I’ve painted brick and stone and natural wood in all five houses I’ve had over the years. With the ones I had, it just looked SO MUCH BETTER. But since everyone keeps mentioning how hard it is to deal with orange tones….. out here in Oregon, most of the wood floors are red oak or fir. Both age orange, and I had to redo mine due to generally slothful housekeeping + a bunch of kids and pets… and when I restained them (ahem, supervised them being restained….) I picked a grey stain and it completely obliterated the orange-y tone and everyone who sees them goes nuts. They are sorta RH brown/grey/weathered. So there is NO SURFACE too precious for a new treatment or lick of paint! Thanks for giving people the courage to do what they want with their houses!

  19. Karen, I think you did a brave thing, and that you did it with trepidation. Brave can often mean, in the end, stupid, like Thelma and Louise, although they pretty much didn’t have many options – damn Brad Pitt – but doing something outside the ‘expected’ realms of decorating, and being a little unsure is the only way to go.
    Love what you did, love that your non-relative is hanging, and no longer leaning (I doubt she was ever hanged), and that you are happy with your wall.
    Unlike many, I care about opinions, but typically only AFTER the fact I’ve decided that I’m going for it, regardless, with “caution”.
    As always, love your blog
    Charlotte T

  20. Laurinda says:

    My father once told me that there’s a special place in hell for people who paint brick. So less than a year after I moved into a place with a brick wall in its windowless kitchen, I primed & painted it. Then the ugly-ass paneling that went 3/4 of the way up those other 3 walls gto the same treatment. All of that white sure helped that poorly designed kitchen!

  21. Nicole says:

    Love it! So much more interesting than a flat white wall.
    I did something similar with my pantry and front entry – both original exterior walls on my 1930 house. To be honest I ran out of steam after all the priming on some very thirsty brick, but I really like the not-quite finished look!

  22. Gwen H. says:

    I love the painted wall. Great decision.

  23. Wendy says:

    I did that once with a black wood desk. My dad had the desk for years, borrowed from his cousin. I coveted it for years, and finally got it for my very own. Kept it black. For years. And then when I moved to my own house with my fella, I sanded it down. I was sneezing black gunk, that’s how much sanding I did.

    And then I got to work with “Chinese Red” oil paint. I thought I’d paint multiple coats. But after brushing on one, the striated effect looked great. And the brass pulls looked better than ever before.

    It’s gone now, because it didn’t fit into my life anymore. But I get the idea of just doing something that you think you should do when the time is right.

  24. Jeffrey Mathews says:

    This is beyond words. It reminds me of the last several paragraphs of “Brideshead Revisited” and the artistic and historical truths conveyed by Charles Ryder in the Chapel.

    Truly TTFW: L’arts pour l’arts

  25. Melinda says:

    It looks stupendous!!! I am amazed by your courage. The 400 pound weigh gain analogy is so apt. Ha! I think Margaret must be very pleased.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to Instructions