Professional painters explore the pros and cons of painting exterior brickwork

Are you thinking of painting a brick exterior? Before you start, check out what the experts have to say to help you make the right choice

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes / Paul Massey)

Painting a brick exterior can bring new life to the appearance of your home. You can quickly transform to a clean, contemporary color that will give the outside of your home a modern look and added curb appeal.

But painting a house isn’t an insignificant upgrade to your brick exterior, so is it a good idea? Natural brick is a popular look for many homes, but you cannot change its appearance without painting it.

So we talk to contractors and realtors to find out why you should and shouldn’t paint brick and what effect it can have on the value of your home.

Is painting a brick exterior a good idea? 

As you might expect there are pros and cons for painting the brick exterior of a home. If your brick exterior is currently paint free then you seriously need to think about why you may want to paint your brick. If your exterior has already been painted, then you have two options - maintain and repaint, or remove the old paint to get back to brick. Here we get expert opinion on the options available.

A brick and stone house exterior

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

Reasons why you shouldn’t paint your brick house

Natural brick is considered a selling point in most cases and should be left alone. 'You don’t need more than one reason not to paint bricks – they look better without it,' exclaims Brandon Walker, Construction manager at ASAP Restoration. 'Painting brick is something you can never turn back from either. Once the paint is inside the porous cavities of the brick exterior, it will always have a patina of the painted color until the face of the brick has eroded - so be sure you like the paint color!'

But it's not just the aesthetic that should influence your painting decision. Once you’ve painted the brick, you are committed to regular upkeep and maintenance – not something you need to worry about with natural brick. And if you decide to go back to natural brick after painting, you are in for a long, laborious, and often expensive job.

Finally, painting brick removes its natural ability to breathe and can trap moisture behind the paint. This can have two effects: one, it will break down the brick, and two, it will cause the paint to peel.

Reasons why you should paint your brick house

You may not like the look and color of your current brick exterior and painting it is a cost effective way to refresh and upgrade. It gives you the option to choose a color you like and the opportunity to change when you want without too much fuss.

'Painting a brick home gives it a fresh face and can add value to the property by providing a clean, modern look that appeals to many buyers,' explains Kate Terrigno, realtor with Corcoran HM Properties. 'In a local market like Charlotte where brick is extremely popular, painting it white can provide a more contemporary look and increase curb appeal and value.'

Brandon Walker provides a more pragmatic view on why you paint bricks. 'If they are already painted, you are refreshing the existing paint job to make it look new again. When paint chips off of brick it looks unsightly, and a refresh can liven up the appearance and also protect the home from mold and mildew exposure.'

A modern home extension with a white painted brick wall

You may also choose to paint your internal brick walls.

(Image credit: Future / ANNA STATHAKI)

How To Paint A Brick House

Painting a brick house is a job that a competent DIYer can tackle, and save a few dollars at the same time. You will need a few tools including a stiff brush to clean the brick, a wide paintbrush and a roller or paint sprayer. Don’t forget dust sheets and a ladder or platform.

Brandon Walker recommends you follow the steps below to get a good finish:

  1. Clean the brick and check for any needed repairs and make them prior to painting.
  2. Apply primer using a masonry specific primer to get the best adhesion. Let the primer dry.
  3. Paint the brick with the color that you have chosen. Use a roller, or a sprayer, and roller combo to feather out any overlaps.
  4. Apply more coats until your brain hurts from seeing the same color applied to itself in a slightly wetter format. Usually two or three.
  5. Inspect for needed touch ups and make them before the final coat dries. Clean up the work site.
  6. Maintain the paint job regularly. Even the Golden Gate bridge gets painted anew every seven years. Your house bricks will need it too.

What paint should I use to paint a brick house?

There’s a lot of paints on the market to choose from, but Brandon Walker offers his three recommendations for painting brick.

- Dunn Edwards - Evershield

Sherwin Williams - ProMar 400

Behr - Masonry stucco and brick paint (this is sold exclusively in Home Depot)

The key to using any/all of these is to use a good primer first. Primer is key to getting all of these paints the best adhesion they can achieve. Brandon suggests the following:

- Dunn Edwards - Ultra Grip Select

- Dunn Edwards EFF-Stop primer (if the brick is effervescent)


A terrace house with a contemporary brick extension

(Image credit: Future / Paul Massey)

How can I remove paint from brick?

If you decide that you don’t want painted brick anymore you can remove the paint. But be warned this isn’t a quick or inexpensive job, but it is one you can do yourself. The best way to remove paint is to use a paint stripper. Other options such as power washing or sandblasting can damage the brick.

When using a paint stripper, remember to read the manufacturer's instructions. Typically you apply with a brush, leave for a period of time and scrape off. For harder to reach areas you can use a wire brush.

Is it expensive to paint a brick house? 

It is comparatively inexpensive to paint a house, especially if you are going to tackle the project yourself. The first thing you will need to do is decide what you are going to paint. Are you painting every side of your home from top to bottom? Or, are you just painting the front of your home? As you can imagine, painting four sides is a lot more costly than painting just one side.

To work our costs you will first need to work out the square footage of each side you are going to paint. For example, if painting one side and it measures 20 foot x 20 foot, you will need enough paint to cover 400 sq feet. Remember this will be for one coat only, double it for two coats.

How much it will cost obviously depends on what paint you purchase. As a rough guideline 1 gallon of Kilz Self-Priming Masonry, Stucco and Brick Paint from Amazon costs $60 and covers up to 400 sq feet. So to paint a 400 sq foot area you will need to double or triple the cost to get the right finish.

Does painting a brick home devalue it? 

Ask yourself is the brick an essential part of the character of your home and will painting it destroy the aesthetic or add extra appeal?

'Painting a brick home might be a double-edged sword when it comes to value,' suggests Saddat Abid, Senior Property Buyer & CEO at Property Saviour. 'In some cases, painting makes an older home look new, fresh, and updated, gaining more appeal to buyers. But, on the other hand, most investors and appraisers place higher value on natural brick mainly because of its endurance and low maintenance.'

But if your brick exterior has already been painted, then it's a tough task to remove. So you will need to maintain it, says Abid, 'Once the brick is painted, it more or less has to be painted again and again to prevent chipping and fading - a definite turnoff for potential buyers.'

Keeping brick paint fresh will 'make a home appear better maintained and cared for, which can add value, but it's very important to balance that with the potential downsides, and also the preferences in your local market.'

What color should I paint my brick exterior? 

The beauty of painting brickwork is choosing what color to paint your home exterior. You don’t need to stick with the original brick color. This allows you to choose a contemporary color to modernize the outside of your home and add curb appeal.

Whites, creams and earthy tones are currently a popular choice for home exteriors. These offer a fresh aesthetic and timeless appeal. These colors are also a good choice for warmer climates as they reflect heat. Pair with a contrasting trim and accents to help create more curb appeal.

Is painted brick high maintenance? 

Once a brick home has been painted you will need to regularly maintain it to keep it looking its best. Leave it for too long and the color will start to fade and the paint will start to bubble and flake.

A couple of fresh coats of well-prepared and applied paint should last for at least five years. However, environmental factors such as extreme weather can play a part in how long new paint will last. If you live in a high heat, high humidity region (like Florida) you may have to repaint more often.

When giving your brick exterior some much needed TLC it's the perfect time to think about what else you can do. Check out our How can I make the exterior of my house look expensive?, The best way to maintain, wash and restore garage doors and Should your front door be lighter or darker than your house? guides to help add maximum curb appeal.

Steve Jenkins
DIY specialist

Steve has been a homes writer and editor for two decades, regularly contributing to brands like Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience transforming and renovating homes. He specializes in painting and decorating but has strong all-around building skills, having worked in the industry for ten years.