Masons aren’t big fans of painting brick, for aesthetic reasons as well as maintenance and structural integrity issues.
“I like the natural look of the brick,” said mason Mark Vaughan.
Some question whether paint can trap moisture in the masonry wall, especially in softer, more permeable old bricks. Old bricks, dating to before the World War period or even earlier, weren’t fired to as high temperatures as modern bricks, so they are more porous and need to be able to dry out, Vaughan said. With newer bricks, he noted, it doesn’t matter quite so much.
Vaughan, who stained the Shearers’ home, says the stains he applies are breathable. And modern latex paints are better than older paints.
If you do paint brick, you will need to repaint it every five to 10 years for proper maintenance. (A good repointing job lasts about 50 years, masons say.)
“A building is happier unpainted,” Vaughan said.
Capitol Hill mason Tom Michaliga warns against painting brick that has had red oxide treatment, which was popular in the 1950s, as it makes all subsequent paint jobs flake. You can tell if this color-enhancing treatment was applied to your brick because the red color will rub off on your hands.
Sandblasting is a big no-no for removing old paint from brick, as it abrades the surface.
If one does want to paint after repointing, masons suggest waiting three or four months, even a year, before painting to give the mortar, especially lime mortar, a period to cure.