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Are you thinking about painting the exterior of your historic brick home? Whatever your reasons for a change, think carefully before making that decision. Once you paint brick, you are committed to either a cycle of repainting every three to five years or to removing the paint. 

One of the visual treats to be found in Washington DC neighborhoods of brick rowhouses is the variety and coordination of exterior colors. Natural brick facades blend in with painted brick houses – many of which display historically authentic colors. If you know the year your home was built, you can research paint colors from that era. Before you make a decision, here are some things to consider:

The Quality of Your Bricks

Brick that's in a bad condition - chipping, deteriorating, molding – is never a good candidate for paint. Existing problems in the façade can be exaggerated when paint blocks the natural pores in the brick’s surface. Water that seeps in through the mortar joints cannot evaporate through the surface of the bricks. Often this causes the paint to chip off.

If you see crumbling mortar joints or cracks in the brick, consult with a masonry contractor to determine the extent of damage. Any needed tuckpointing and repair should be completed before painting the brick.  

Download Free Homeowner's Guide to Tuckpointing

Preparing Bricks for Painting

You can avoid most complications by taking enough time to fully prepare the brick facades. Always clean brickwork and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before painting it. Use simple water and soap for cleaning your brick — acidic solutions can result in paint chipping.  

Efflorescence is a white residue often found on older brick walls, made up of water soluble salt deposits. This residue should be removed with water and a stiff brush. Before painting wait to see if it returns; if it does, contact a professional to determine the nature of the problem.

The Best Brick Paint

The Brick Industry Association advises using a porous paint for exterior brick walls so that the brick can breathe. Specific masonry paint products - conditioner, primer, and exterior latex paint - are available for painting exterior brick. Another alternative is brick stain, which penetrates the brick. It provides color without some of the long-term problems that come with paint. 


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
6/6/17 1:26 PM