Painting tired or out-of-place brick, whether inside or outside your home, is an inexpensive, fairly quick route to an updated—or just cleaner—look. Before you get started, however, expect to do some prep work.
There are a host of reasons that homeowners choose to paint brick:
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• If a brick fireplace is out of sync with the decor of a room, it’s less expensive to paint it than it is to replace the brick with another material.
• A coat of light-color paint can alleviate the feeling of heaviness that a brick wall can impart.
• If a home’s brick exterior needs a makeover, painting it can give the property a fresh look, boosting curb appeal and perhaps even resale value.
Although any DIYer can paint brick, there are certain precautions and procedures to follow to ensure color success.
STEP 1: Clean and prep the brick.
Before painting brick, always clean it thoroughly so that your application of paint better adheres. Dirt and efflorescence should come off with soapy water and some diligent scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush. Need something stronger? Try trisodium phosphate (TSP). A half cup of TSP mixed into a gallon of water ought to do the trick. (If you happen to own, or are willing to rent, a pressure washer, consider using one, especially if you need to clean a relatively large expanse of brickwork.)
Where you encounter mildew, apply a solution of one part bleach to three parts water. After letting it soak for half an hour, proceed to scrub the area with a wire brush. Never use acid cleaning solutions, any of which might compromise your paint job.
Note: If the brick has been installed recently, it’s essential to allow it plenty of time to dry and acclimate. Wait at least a year before painting it. If the installation has already been in place for decades, check the mortar for signs of damage and repair small cracks with acrylic caulk. With more pronounced issues, repointing the brick may be necessary. Whether or not you make any repairs, remember that brick must be completely dry for the paint to adhere successfully.
After cleaning, delay painting for a period of at least 24 hours.
STEP 2: Apply primer.
Depending on the area of the surface you wish to paint, use a brush or roller or paint sprayer to apply a coat of latex primer. Put additional coats on those sections that have been affected either by efflorescence or mildew. Whether you add one coat of primer or a few, let the primer dry completely before going any further.
STEP 3: Pick your paint.
Many favor the use of elastodynamic paint for brick. It features (as the term implies) a high level of elasticity, which makes it excellent for filling cracks as well as preventing them. Plus, elastodynamic paint performs well in all weather—not only precipitation but also high humidity.
If you cannot find or don’t wish to use elastodynamic paint, don’t hesitate to opt instead for regular acrylic latex exterior paint. In fact, for exterior brickwork, acrylic latex may be the superior choice, because it’s designed to stand up against mildew and to quickly evaporate any moisture that it absorbs.
STEP 4: Apply paint.
The easiest way to paint brick is with a paint sprayer. Weekend DIYers’ favorites are available from manufacturers such as Wagner, Tacklife, and HomeRight.
If you are painting a relatively modest surface area—if you’re painting a brick fireplace surround, for example—brushes or rollers are sufficient. In fact, for those with no experience operating a sprayer, these low-tech painting tools are recommended. If you plan to use a roller, choose one with a thick nap to ensure best results on brick, which is riddled with nooks and crannies and surface irregularities.
For interior and exterior brick, many experts recommend semi-gloss or gloss paint, as either type accentuates detail and, compared with other paints, is easier to clean as time goes by.
If the brick stands in decent condition, you have another finishing option: stain. Quicker and easier than painting, brick staining highlights the material’s unique texture, whereas painting does much the opposite.
Preparing brick for staining is no different from preparing it for painting. In either case, clean the surface thoroughly, allowing it to dry completely before moving forward. If you do not intend to stain the mortar, then seal it off with painter’s tape. (You can also use this trick if you decide to paint after all.)
If you decide to move forward with staining, be sure to test the stain on an inconspicuous part of the brick. Note that you can darken or lighten the tone by adding pigment or water, respectively.
Once you have a mixture that imparts a color you like, spread on the stain by moving the brush in a uniform direction. Alternatively, for a more even application, use a clean rag to wipe the stain onto the brick. Spread the stain as thinly possible, wait 24 hours, and then add a second coat. Along the way, remember to wear goggles and gloves.
Keep your hand Steady while painting
Do you worry about wobbly edges and lines when you are painting or are forever trying to avoid touching wet paint? Actually there are ways of solving this. There’s a tool for steadying!
When you are painting fine details it’s hard to be exact if your hand is waving about in mid-air. What you need is something to rest your hand on but you don’t want to touch the work itself in case you mess it up.
Signwriters and oil painters have this problem and long ago came up with a tool to support the hand holding the brush. This painter’s aid is called a ‘mahlstick‘ or more obviously, a ‘painter’s arm rest‘ or a ‘signwriters stick‘.
These sticks can be bought with several levels of sophistication designed for easy transport and packing away. The pole may be made of wood or aluminium and the ball shaped pad can be made of rubber or cork covered with leather or chamois.
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It’s a simple idea. A thin pole is padded at one end to rest on a dry part or outside the work without slipping or scratching, the pole is held at a low angle over the painting and the arm or hand rests on the pole above the part you want to paint.
Depending on your methods of painting the pole can be up to a metre long, but you can use a much shorter one if you are painting small things.
If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy this traditional Mahl Stick made up of two pieces so can be used long or short.
|How to make your own Mahl Stick|
|Using the Mahl stick|
|A Beginner’s Remark|
|Painting Techniques and Preparation|
How to make your own Mahl Stick.
You will need :
- A length of wooden dowell about 1 cm thick
- A ball made of cork or anything that’s not too hard
- Chamois leather to cover (can be fake) or similar lint-free fabric.
- A short length of cord to secure
Paint Brush Sticker
Make a hole in the ball to fit it on to the pole. The ball needs to fit tightly on one end of the pole so that it doesn’t pull off accidentally. Wrap the fabric or leather over the ball, gather it at the neck of the pole and tie it securely with the cord. If you feel it needs to be softer you can add a second layer.
Notes: If you can’t get a cork ball, you could try a small rubber bouncy ball or make a rounded end with air-dried clay and use extra padding before wrapping in chamois. The aim is to make a rounded end with a bit of ‘give’ in it that’s wider than the stick or dowell.
Suitable fabrics might be an offcut from a protective table cloth that has some padding.
Dowelling is generally made of strong dense wood so it can be thinner than a stick you might pick up or cut from a tree. We have trees and shrubs that have to be pruned each year and I always keep a few straight poles in case I need them for something and for this, I would choose one that’s not too heavy or cumbersome but that will not bend.
Using the Mahl stick
You can use the mahl stick or painter’s rest upright with or without an easel, or flat on a table for smaller items. If you need to stand on a ladder be aware that you usually need two hands to use this tool and take precautions accordingly. I think it would be better to change to a working platform with a safety rail if you need to work at height.
To illustrate working with an arm rest I’m going to use a walking stick! It has a rubber ferrule on the end so it shouldn’t slip. Now don’t go doing this rashly! This is only a demo and the ferrule could leave black marks on the wall or on your work. Better to make yourself a proper signwriter’s stick or buy one.
Hold the pole with the non-painting hand and rest the ball on a firm point of the work, the table or on the wall behind, keeping the other end away from the surface of the work at a shallow angle . If you are using an easel you can ‘hook’ the ball end over the top bar of the easel and let it be almost vertical in front of you. The main idea is to make a space between the area you intend to paint, and the pole.
Rest your painting arm, edge of the hand or some fingers on the pole you will find you can keep the brush steady while you paint. Don’t lean too hard and be careful not to dent a canvas.
When working flat on a table you’ll find you can lean a little harder as long as the ball is resting on the table, not your precious work.
You can use the pole as a guide for straight lines or lean gently for freehand curves, but try not to let it restrict the use of your wrist and fingers.
A stick used as a Guide for Drawing Lines with a Steady Hand
Use a stick to Steady your Hand when drawing fine details
The stick is usually used for painting with brushes but you can use it for drawing details with charcoal or chalk so as to avoid smudging drawings.
Using a stick can help when you’re painting very small objects that you can’t hold because they are still wet and you don’t want to smudge anything.
A Beginner’s Remark
This article was prompted by a chance remark by a visitor who was new to painting and had just ordered her first set of Outlines paints. Kirsty Glover makes wooden animal figures and was keen to paint them. She sent me a message saying:
“I will be looking through your articles hoping to find something that tells me how to steady my hand! Can’t wait to get started on my projects (painting wooden animals for my children).”
Kirsty has made several toy animals for her children and is working towards making some to sell.
Painted baby antelope painted by Kirsty Glover with Holztiger animals
Kirsty uses a scroll saw to make the outlines of her own animal designs sanding them to a smooth finish before colourfully painting them. She will soon be offering some of her painted wooden animals for sale.
Kirsty was brand new to painting and I was happy to know her beginner’s concerns and write about them.
Techniques and Preparation
Paint Brush Stick
Wobbly lines and scratchy edges are not always a problem in art because some styles celebrate and emphasise such things but if your work needs to be precise, the surface you are painting needs to be smooth and have a coating that allows the brush to glide. Once you have that, plenty of practice will improve the control you have in your painting.
The way you hold your brush is important. A paintbrush should not be gripped tightly nor held right up close to the bristles. Tension in any part of the hand will make control harder. Hold the brush about halfway up the handle, gently held between finger and thumb and control the movement of the brush with the remaining fingers, keeping your wrist relaxed.
So remember to prepare your work properly; if it needs another sanding, do it again with a finer grit and realise that the time spent in preparation will always save time later on.
Practice painting over and over, the more you paint the better you will be able to do what you want.
Final thoughts and conclusion
Some kinds of painting really need precision, such as signwriting. Other examples are making art for advertising or book illustration and painting very small objects, although even these use a loose style at times.
Sticky Paint Brush
Have a look at this traditional Mahl Stick which comes in two pieces that can be joined by a screw to use it long or use one piece for a short supporting stick.
Paint Brush Stick Holder
Does your work need careful control and fine lines? If you have other ways of making it easier let everyone know in the comments below! Your comment may take a couple of days to appear so bookmark the page and come on back!
Paint Brush Hockey Stick