Pros and Cons of Painting Brick Exteriors

There are many different reasons why people decide to paint their brick exteriors. Some people believe that painting brick helps keep the bricks from absorbing moisture and, therefore, aids in keeping them cool during hot weather. In addition, a painted surface can be easier to clean than an unpainted one. Also, some homeowners simply like the look of grey or brown against their trimwork or white house siding.

An old wives’ tale among some contractors is that painting your brick home’s exterior helps protect it from termites; however, according to experts at Terminix , this is not true: “When it comes to preventing termite damage,” says the company on its website Terminix .com , “there is no such thing as a ‘termite proof’ home.”

While painting your brick may not harm it, that is not to say that the process won’t change its appearance. Brick painted grey will take on a darker hue than the original brick color; for example, red bricks will look more brown when painted. Be aware of this when considering colors and professional advice . If you think you want the dark colour in your house associated with age and tradition, then go for it. Also, be mindful that some new homes have paint jobs which are permanently sealed into the brick – usually white or black – so make sure you research first whether your mission is possible. Homeowners should also know that if a certain area needs to be repainted, thereafter any other areas touched by the ladder or drop cloths will also have to be repainted. Be careful getting the paint on window sills, doors and shutters; all might need attention after you’re done painting your brick house’s exterior.

Homeowners should also consider what kind of house their brick home is: A Victorian with a deep relief? A Craftsman with an uneven surface? A Colonial Revival that has sand-blasted bricks in its facade with horizontal lines? Is this home one level or two, or three, plus a basement? Does it face East for maximum afternoon sun reflection during Winter months? South for shade from Summer heat and cooling breezes? Do you want natural stone facing – which can differ greatly from brick depending upon the colour, age and quality of the brick clay? Are you keeping your home’s original look or adding some elements from a neighbors to meet with house codes in your neighborhood? Does your home have a HVAC – heating, ventilation, air conditioning system that can tolerate higher temperatures than if there was no HVAC ?

As you can see from this (admittedly partial) list of questions, painting brick is not something that should be done on a whim. Here are what some professional painters believe about painting brick:

Pros: Homeowners like the way painted bricks looks against their paint . Some people prefer grey as opposed to red; others white as opposed to brown. It does make cleaning easier , especially when it comes to bird droppings, ivy that has crept too close to the house and other organic stains. Painting bricks also helps keep them cool – if moss or algae is growing on your brick, it can be scraped off and then painted over with a high-quality exterior paint such as 2-Part Polyurethane rated for exteriors. Some people believe the paint helps prevent moisture from getting trapped in the bricks; however, this has been proven false by studies done at Powerhouse , an independent testing lab.

Cons: While some contractors claim painting the bricks will deter termites , Terminex disagrees . If you want to spare your original look of your home, think twice because painting a brick may alter its appearance and colour (as mentioned above). Another downside is that, despite the prime paint job you just did, at some point future owners may choose to repaint whatever part of your home they find appealing.

Tips and advice: If painting brick offers a solution for your exterior paint needs, invest in professional painters with proven track records . Ask them for references – these will be people living nearby similar homes who can testify as to the quality of work you are likely to receive. Investigate any complaints lodged against their licenses filed with state or city authorities because while most contractors have one or two complaints on file, there are those who tend to draw more negative reviews than positive ones. Find out what type of equipment they use and whether it meets professional standards. Make sure you get a complete price breakdown before you sign a contract. If you own an older home that can be painted in the same manner as a Tudor or Cape, make sure to ask your contractor about this up front. Most contractors will know whether their company has specialized equipment for this purpose.

When it comes to painting brick and other masonry work, Ethereal Painters recommends applying the “three Ps” – preparation, priming and proper painting techniques – for all surfaces . It’s impossible to foresee everything but having your home thoroughly prepared will give you a better chance of avoiding costly repairs down the road. Make sure to check out our roofing primer , exterior painting primer, interior painting tips for attics / ceilings / walls / doors and stucco primer pages for more information on how the right preparation can help you save money and time .

Regardless of your choice, make sure that any painting company offers a warranty. While you can’t get someone to pay for things they won’t do themselves, a good contractor will stand behind his or her workmanship. Make sure this guarantee is in writing , too (you’d be surprised at how many so-called guarantees are nothing more than promises). If something goes wrong, insist on seeking remedy from the contractor’s insurance agency before taking further action.


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