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Can You Stain Bricks? If So, How?

Photo collage of Bricks and spraying tool.

Bricks are one of the sturdiest materials available in the construction industry for new buildings. Bricks are also sturdy and durable when used in building homes. Some people enjoy a brick accent wall or brick fireplace in one or more rooms of their home.

Bricks, over time, start to decay or show other signs of weathering or fading in the exterior and the interior of a home. Some people just grow tired of the same look in their home, and want to do an update. Considering an update to the brick exterior or interior is an excellent way to improve the look of the brick or to completely change the color of the brick.

How do you update the brick on the inside or outside of your home? Can I paint the brick or should I stain the brick? How do I do it?

These are questions that people are likely to ask when they want to update the appearance of the brick in their home. 

History and Durability

Historical ancient bricks structure.

Do you have a painted brick wall, a brick fireplace, or brick surfaces on the exterior of your home? Brick lasts a long time, but eventually needs an update to maintain, or to change, its appearance. How long does brick last? Brick Architecture indicates that brick dates back to 7000 B.C.

Bricks were used in Jericho, Turkey, Rome, Tunisia, and Egypt. They were used during the Byzantine Empire. The oldest modern structures include a 300-year-old home in Medford, MA, and homes in Virginia that date to the 1600s.. 

Although you may not need to update the 10 million bricks of the Empire State Building, updating the brick inside or outside your home requires that you take an approach that will last a long time. You do not want to re-do your brick update every year or two. So, should you stain or paint the brick? Let’s compare the options. 

Painting vs. Staining Brick 

Beautiful interior of apartment.

Do you think that providing an update to the brick in your home may increase the value of the home? You are likely right. The Chicago Brick Company reveals that brick homes sell for five percent to 10 percent higher than average homes that are not made of brick.

An interior brick wall, a brick fireplace or mantel, or other brick areas inside your home may add value, as well as timeless beauty, even if the exterior was constructed of other materials. Which is better to improve the appearance of the worn brick or to provide a fresh update to the brick inside or outside of your home? I think that many people would likely think of painting brick as an easy way to refresh the look of the brick, or to completely change the appearance of brick walls, mantels, columns, or fireplaces.

Painting Brick

Male arm in glove painting abstract grey wide even linear pattern textured concrete brick wall background.

It is true that painting brick seems like a quick and easy solution to improve the look of worn, faded brick or to change the color of the brick. Is that the right solution? Painting is “usually the way to go” for easy application, indicates the American Homeowners Association.

Apply one or two coats of paint with a roller or paintbrush and you have a brand new, updated look to the brick façade, columns, mantel, wall or fireplace. Making the decision to paint brick may seem like an ideal approach to changing the look of the brick. There are some issues that you need to consider before you go out and buy lush red, white, or another color of paint suitable for brick, and get out the paint roller and don your old tee shirt and jeans. 

Painting the brick may offer you more color options, compared to staining the brick. There are several issues to consider before you decide to paint the interior or exterior brick surfaces in your home. Painting brick requires that you provide more regular upkeep, compared to if you stain the brick.

Paint covers the surface of the brick, but leaves it subjected to possible peeling and is not as durable as staining brick surfaces.  Some people choose to paint brick surfaces because the choice of colors offers a modern look to brick walls, fireplaces, mantels, or exterior brick surfaces. This is true, but it is not very durable.

You will likely find yourself having to repaint every couple of years. Paint does not adhere well to some brick surfaces, so your project may fail to give you the desired look that you have for your vision of an updated painted brick surface.

Can You Stain Bricks? 

Varnishing of a brick wall.

Yes, you can stain bricks, both inside and outside brick surfaces. Staining bricks brings out the natural beauty of bricks, and provides a durable way to update the appearance of exterior or interior bricks. One reason that staining bricks is often the option that many homeowners choose is because the bricks are porous and absorb the stain.

Compare this to the fact that painting bricks applies color to the surface of the bricks. Staining brick preserves the natural appearance of the bricks and does not damage the bricks that you stain on the interior or exterior of your home. Staining brick is considered a permanent solution, which The Spruce explains provides longevity and breathability to brick surfaces. 

How to Stain Brick 

A various painting tools on white wooden background.

Staining brick requires more effort, compared to painting brick surfaces. There are many interior or exterior brick stain shades to choose from to provide new life for your brick wall, fireplace, or other brick surface. Is the brick sealed?

How do you know? Splash a little bit of water on the brick surface that you want to stain. If the water beads up, you need to remove the sealer with a power washer or call a professional to do the job for you. 

The first step, once you buy the stain, is to gather your materials that you need for the staining project. Gather your stain, painter’s tape, a bucket, a wooden pain stirrer, a drop cloth, waterproof gloves and safety glasses. Bob Vila also recommends that you have a paint sprayer.

Several sources recommend using a paint sprayer to apply stain, including This Old House.   First, clean the brick. Use water and mild soap to clean the bricks.

Work from the top to the bottom for the best outcome. Tape any areas around the brick surface that you want to stain. This protects other surfaces.

Use drop cloths to provide further protection around the area where you wish to stain brick surfaces. Mix the stain according to manufacturer’s instructions before you load the paint sprayer or paintbrush. Mix the product until all the pigment is dissolved.

Now, you are ready to start your brick staining project. Are you applying the stain with a paintbrush? Dip the brush into the stain and run your brush across the brick surface in smooth coats.

Staining takes several coats to thoroughly stain the bricks and to achieve the updated look that homeowners usually want when staining brick surfaces. Are you using a paint sprayer? You do not have to spend a lot of money on an expensive paint sprayer.

A budget-friendly sprayer does the job. Remove the hopper. Fill the sprayer to the “max” line. Reattach the hopper.

Twist the spray nozzle for a vertical spray pattern. Sweep the sprayer left to right, holding it about 12 inches from the brick surface. Start at the top of the wall, column, fireplace or other surface.

Overlap the last pass by half. Once you completely stain the surface, let dry between coats. Apply another coat once the first coat is completely dry. 

Let each coat dry before applying additional coats of the stain. Clean up puddles or uneven areas with an old paintbrush or a clean cloth. How long will your stained brick last?

 Designing Ideas reveals that stained brick surfaces typically last between seven and twenty years. 

FAQs 

Why do some sources indicate that stained brick only lasts several years? 

Although some sources indicate that staining your brick surfaces will bring out the natural beauty for a number of years, many sources consider staining brick surfaces to be a “permanent” update. 

Can I take on a staining brick project if I have never done it before? 

Staining brick surfaces does not require a professional unless you have a large project or you prefer to hire a professional. A novice can easily stain bricks by following instructions. 

Why does paint peel when applied to brick surfaces? 

Paint adheres to the surface of the bricks. Stain absorbs into the bricks, providing a longer-lasting solution for worn, weathered brick surfaces.