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A historic brick home in Washington DC naturally carries a timeless appeal – but perhaps you are considering a change. Maybe you want to provide a unique flair to your home, or add a contemporary touch to its historic charm – or it could be that you are simply tired of the natural color of the old brick.  Before collecting color chips and buying supplies, you must weigh all the factors when deciding to paint a historic brick home.

Proper Preparation: The Foundation of a Good Paint Job

The quality of the bricks plays a vital role in deciding whether or not to paint. If your bricks and mortar are in poor condition, chipping, or deteriorating painting them might not be the best choice. It could be wise to consult a historic brick expert who can advise you regarding repair and restoration. Tuckpointing your old brick will restore a freshness to the home’s exterior and could change the way you perceive the natural brick color.

Once your bricks are in solid shape, if you make the decision to go ahead with painting, prepping the bricks is of utmost importance. Always clean your brickwork and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before painting. Simple water and soap should suffice for cleaning your brick, as acidic solutions can lead to paint chipping. If you notice a white residue, known as efflorescence, on your older brick walls, remove it with water and a stiff brush. If it reappears, it likely indicates there’s  water damage somewhere that should be addressed prior to proceeding.

Choosing the Right Paint for Historic Brick

The paint you choose for your brick home should be a porous formulation designed for exterior brick walls. This allows the brick to breathe, preventing water from becoming trapped behind the paint and leading to moisture problems like spalling. The inability to properly dry will cause the paint to chip and flake, undoing all your hard work.

You will need to take into account any restrictions on painting or more specifically, what paint colors you can choose. Depending on your home or neighborhood’s historic designation, you may be limited to customary colors that don’t conflict with the history of your home or the neighboring houses.

A Consideration for the Future

Remember that once you've painted, the paint is subject to the elements and not as tough as the underlying brick, meaning you've committed to a regular cycle of repainting every three to five years​​. If you do decide to revert to the original brick, know that it can be a complex process. Removing the paint requires professional expertise to avoid causing damage to the brick and mortar, and you’ll likely need brick repair and tuckpointing once the paint is gone.

To Paint or Not to Paint

Whether to paint your historic brick home, like every other aesthetic decision, boils down to personal preference. Remember, the unique charm of your home lies in its historic character, and sometimes the beauty of brick is best left in its natural state. 

If you want to add pops of color to enhance the curb appeal of your home,  without the long-term commitment, there are many less expensive options: painting your front door, choosing colorful accessories and furniture for your porch, or planting some colorful flowers in your urban garden.

When you make the decision to paint the entire exterior of a historic brick home, you will be creating a maintenance cycle; the painted brick will require upkeep at least every three to five years. It’s wise to have a historic brick expert evaluate the condition of your brick and mortar before painting. It’s crucial that the paint is applied properly to ensure that your historic brick home will look its best for years to come.

Renaissance Development, a leader in brick restoration and historic preservation, specializes in the repair and restoration of historic DC brick buildings. We love old homes and are committed to preserving their historic charm and value. If your renovation plan includes masonry or brick repair, contact us for a free site visit and project quote.




Post by Christina Wilson
7/6/23 8:30 AM