What every homeowner should know about painting brick

A fireplace’s brickwork can truly define a room’s feel often enhancing the space’s beauty.  For some though it can be the dreaded feature that makes the home feel dated and run-down.  It seems like everywhere you turn homeowners are now taking control of their living room and transforming their fireplaces using a gallon of paint and a brush.  It has quickly become a popular choice for the weekend warriors looking for inexpensive ways to update their homes.  Although it may seem like an easy DIY project, the process of painting brickwork can often be a tedious job requiring both planning and prep work.   While it can achieve some amazing results, the decision to paint or not paint your fireplace’s bricks should be carefully considered.

To Paint or Not                                                                                                                                              
When weighing the pros and cons of painting the brick surrounds, there are some factors to consider.  First you will want to determine the quality of your brick.  Bricks that are cracking, deteriorating, or molding would not be prime candidates for a DIY re-do.  In fact, paint often exacerbates underlying issues by sealing the brick’s surface allowing moisture to continue to fester.    Also, unlike other materials, it is extremely difficult to remove paint off of brick.  Once the paint is on, you are usually stuck with it.  Specially-formulated chemicals are required to remove it and often do not completely eliminate the residue.

Prepping to Paint
If you do decide to paint the fireplace’s brick, taking time to properly prep the area can ensure a lasting finish that won’t continuously needed to be retouched.  First address any repair issues such as sealing cracks and repointing joints.  Thoroughly clean the area with soap and water and allow the surface to dry completely.  If your brick has been plagued by efflorescence (a white residue caused by water-soluble salt buildup) remove the residue using a stiff brush and wait to ensure that is does not return.  Avoid using cleaners that contain acid as this can lead to paint chipping.   After the brick is allowed to dry for at least 24 hours, you are ready to prime and paint.



Best Paint for Brick
When selecting paint for brickwork, first choose an alkaline-resistant primer.  Although brick itself is a neutral material, the mortar surrounding often has a basic alkalinity.  There are both conditioners and primers specifically designed for brick.  Then use a breathable, high-quality latex interior paint for your top layer.  As always, neutral colors are best for creating a look that will offer long-term appeal for both you and potential buyers if you decide to sell in the future.  You may need to apply 2 or 3 coats for complete coverage.  Allow paint to dry completely before using the fireplace.

For homeowners looking to complete more extensive renovations, Lindemann has been a trusted partner throughout the Northeastern Chicago suburbs for over 50 years.  As a full-service contractor, we offer services covering every aspect of the fireplace from gas conversions to chimney inspections and repairs.  Contact us today for your next fireplace renovation.