Home Sweet Home – Part 25 – The Painted Brick Dilemma

Let’s tackle a hotly-contested argument. Should you paint your brick?
Brick is one of the oldest building materials dating back for centuries. It is durable and considered to be relatively low maintenance. The color of the brick varies based upon a number of factors – but primarily based upon the color of the clay used. This factor used to make brick color indigenous to the area, explaining why we saw red brick in areas of the country with red clay.

But of course, with mass transportation and modern manufacturing, there are now a variety of color choices for brick. And when it comes to the color of someone’s home, color preference can be deeply subjective and personal. These preferences are also influenced by color trends. The traditional red brick in the south became dated and the new preferred brick color was a brown brick. This color trend coincided with “builder beige” in all types of materials. But that too went by the wayside.

Brick Color

Enter the 2020s, and we are in the thick of the farmhouse white phase. Newly constructed homes can be seen with a variety of white and light-colored bricks. The modern version of farmhouse includes stark color contrasts and the use of white and black brick.

Now that farmhouse white is all the rage, homeowners are painting their traditional red brick homes white. The first one gets painted: “Wow – what a beautiful transformation”. Then you see another one. “Oh – that’s nice too.” But by the 5th or 6th white brick house you begin to wonder, is this a good idea? Adding paint to perhaps the lowest maintenance finish? Once painted, there’s no practical way to go back! When the farmhouse white trend becomes dated, will homeowners have white painter’s remorse? Or will they simply keep up with color trends by repainting?

Unpainted Brick Painted BrickREMODELING
One of the 2023 Best in American Living Award winners is a stunning example of before and after with painted brick. Ah – but there’s more to the story than just the paint color. In this case, the house was expanded. Can you imagine trying to match brick on a home built 10 or 20 years ago? Perhaps you can come close to the original color – but how has time changed the brick? What about the color of the mortar? The color of the mortar selection can have a significant impact on the look of the home. In the case of this award-winning home – painting brick not only gave the home a fresh new feel but it also allowed for a seamless expansion of the home. Truly a win-win.

RemodellingAlternatives to Painted Brick

It is possible to give a brick home a fresh new look without having to paint it. While these changes weren’t as dramatic as repainting the brick, they were also less expensive and allowed the unpainted brick to stand out.

Color trends come and go. Indeed, every paint manufacturer has their color of the year – though I caution against painting your house a color of the year as these are mostly for interior colors. When it comes to exteriors, trends seem to be more long lasting. Duh – it costs more to paint the entire exterior of a home versus a single room.

People tend to feel very strongly about painting brick one way or another. You either love it or have a deep disdain for it. If you ask me – it depends! Unless the home is on a giant estate, the other homes in the neighborhood should be considered. No one wants to see an entire street of white houses – just like we grew tired of seeing entire streetscape of beige. Self-control is recommended before painting brick. Perhaps fresh landscaping combined with a new shutter color and door color is a more practical alternative.

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog