19 June 2020

Historic Brick Exteriors: To Paint Or Not to Paint

Photo by Georgy Rudakov on Unsplash

The paint job of a historic home is one of the key components that characterize the elegant antiquity of the residence. The painting of brick exteriors is even more unique, as brick has a particular charm when it comes to home design. Whether you are aiming to renovate your home to achieve a specific aesthetic or to simply add another layer of protection to the bricks encompassing your house, you might consider a new coat of paint.

The wear and tear due to constant exposure to elements, such as heavy rain, may cause the brick exterior to appear worn and damaged, even early on its lifespan. (This might be something you, as a homeowner in Boston, are familiar with.) Painting the brick may be one of the first options you consider to resolve this matter; however, there are many factors to take into account. To assist you in deciding whether you should paint the brick exterior of your home, here are a few points to consider, and the possible benefits and disadvantages of each.

What to Consider Before You Decide to Paint Brick

First, understand that brick is often chosen as a building material due to its natural, beautiful coloring and its exceptional durability. Generally, brick is not a material that is intended to be painted. However, if you decide to go this route, you should know that caring for the painted surface requires a long-term, detailed maintenance plan. The Brick Industry Association suggests replacing paint on brick exteriors every 3-5-years.

The quality of your brick exterior should directly influence your decision to paint it as well. For example, brick that is suffering from chipping, molding, or is otherwise deteriorating should not be considered for painting. Instead, surfaces in this condition should be repaired or otherwise cared for before painting ever becomes an option.

You must also understand how the paint will affect the physical and structural integrity of the brick exterior. When you add a coat of paint onto exterior brick, the pores become filled and blocked, which can exacerbate existing issues with the brick. This is a big problem because it forces water to seep into the mortar, and from there, into the brick. With much of the surface area blocked off due to the paint layer, the moisture is then trapped, unable to evaporate from the brick. This holding of moisture is normally what leads to the paint chipping off.

Lastly, consider the effort it will take to remove the paint from the brick if you ever decide that you no longer wish to maintain that aesthetic. Removing paint from brick is a painstaking task, one that requires several hours, or even days, to complete. You cannot merely sandblast or power-wash the surface. Instead, it would be best if you used a paint-stripping solution. Removing paint from brick must only be done with expert help to avoid damaging the brick’s surface with the chemicals comprising the solution. 

Disadvantages of Painting the Brick Exterior of Your Home

Truthfully, there are not many disadvantages to painting the brick exterior of your home. The disadvantages primarily concern the requirement of more frequent quality checks for your home, not necessarily a significantly increased workload as far as home maintenance.  Keep these things in mind as you consider painting your brick exterior:

  • You cannot go back to a bare brick exterior. Once you have committed to painting brick, there is no going back. The moment you apply a new coat of paint on a brick exterior, you must always replenish that paint for the remainder of the home’s lifetime to maintain the structural integrity and quality of the brick. 
  • You will need to clean the exterior of your home more often. This is a double-edged sword because painted brick is easier to clean. However, dirt and other buildup show up much more clearly. This may mean you have to clean more often, so your home does not become covered in dirt, debris, and mildew over time. 

That said, you can always find a high-quality, affordable company to take care of maintaining your painted brick surfaces.

The Advantages of Painting Your Home’s Brick Exterior

Though there are a few minor drawbacks to painting the brick exterior of your home, the benefits far outweigh any potential negative consequences. For some, painting a home’s exterior is one way of customizing the building and owning its aesthetic. This is especially important in historic homes since you must maintain its integrity over time without allowing the exterior to become dull and drab.
When you decide to paint your brick exterior, the benefits include:

  • The exterior will be better protected from the elements. As long as you maintain a regular maintenance schedule that includes the replacement of aging coats of paint and regular cleaning, a coat of paint will improve its resistance to the elements. This is because it acts as a sealant, defending against the effects of seasonal changes. 
  • Your home’s curb appeal will be significantly improved. Whether you intend for your home to be yours forever, or you eventually wish to sell it, the curb appeal and value of your home can be enhanced by adding a layer of paint. (This is especially true for dark colors such as slate gray, or sharp, modern colors like white.)

Once you decide to move forward with painting the brick exterior of your historic home, the best option for exterior house painting in Boston is Catchlight Painting. Whether you need a new coat added, or an old coat stripped for renovation, you can depend on Catchlight’s 25+ years of experience restoring and painting many of the Boston area’s historic homes.

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