brick house in Sandwich, Kent before an exterior wall coating

The pro’s and con’s of painting exterior brick walls

In the better weather, many home owners often think seriously about updating or refreshing the external appearance of their homes with a coat of fresh paint but what if you have bare brick walls and you want to paint them? Is it a good idea?

The most important word to remember about painting brick is: permanence.

It’s a one way street and there is no going back!

If you paint, or plan to have painted, a brick wall that has not been painted previously, it is a permanent finish and you can’t remove it once it has been applied.

This also applies to exterior wall spray finishes, trowel applied external render coatings and such like.

How do you paint a brick wall and should you?

Wall coatings for bricks are outside wall finishes that are designed to be semi permanent.

Although we recognise that there are various products available like paint strippers and brick acid, they will never get the walls totally looking like new again, so if you are considering having the external walls of your home painted for the first time, please be sure that this is what you really want as you can’t change your mind once it has been done!

The only exception to the above, I would suggest, is listed buildings where previous owners have painted, and you are looking to get the outside restored again. This is possible but has to be done by specialist company and can be very expensive, and, if the building is listed, it can also mean lots of British bureaucracy to get it done too!

Some times bricks can benefit from a clear weatherproof wall covering, which will stabilise the surface and restore the bricks without changing how they look.

Ongoing Maintenance of brick walls

The day you apply the last coat of paint to the bricks on your home, is the first day paint degradation begins. Sooner or later the bricks will have to be painted again, maybe sooner than you expected?.

Any house in Britain that has paint applied on the outside walls, will see the effects of paint being broken down, after the first winter.

If you are resolute in keeping the external walls of your house in tip-top condition, upon painting the brick walls, you have just committed yourself to repainting them, or having someone paint the walls, every single year until you move, or until the house falls down, whichever is the soonest!!!!!!


A 1970's brick-faced house with a 1980's pebbledashed extension
A 1970’s brick-faced house with a 1980’s pebbledashed extension


It has now become a never ending process. You will spend far more in the long run painting your brick over and over again then you would ever have spent in up-grading to brick work on your home in the first place.

So a quick fix, like painting bricks you don’t particularly like, can often be an expensive mistake. Bricks will need to be re-painted more frequently than the rest of your home as well because of the risk of water entry which can cause severe damage.

Brick walls suffer water damage –

The next point to remember is this: bricks need to breathe.

What do I mean by that? Well bricks breathe naturally expelling moisture from the wall.

When you coat them with paint you have effectively closed the pores of the bricks preventing them from breathing. In a perfect world this doesn’t sound like a bad idea because it effectively keeps the water out as well.

poor condition bricks eroded
How to repair bricks

In real world situations though, paint will begin to crack fairly quickly.

Minute hairline fissures will open allowing water to enter the masonry system with no way to escape. Unfortunately at this point it is hard for you to recognize or see the effects of the water entry, as it is hidden behind the paint.

As each freeze thaw cycle comes and goes real deterioration of the brick takes place and by the time the problem manifest the damage has already been done. Large portions of the wall area will have ‘brick face de-lamination’, or spalling, and many more areas you can’t see will have de-lamination but will be held together by the paint.

A close inspection for damage will be necessary. I cannot stress enough how important it is that any paint or coating that is applied to your exterior walls, must be breathable, similar in properties to a human skin.


What do I mean by breathable paint?

Well, a quality paint or wall coating system, has to breathe, and it does that by microporous technology. It allows damp and moisture out but not in.

When humans exercise, they sweat, its the body trying to cool itself, and this happens with a house also, but when a human takes a bath, they don’t soak water up like a sponge (urgh what an awful thought!) and that’s how a good quality paint or coating should behave, and if it does, and its applied by professionals, there will no problems at all

Now you not only have your ongoing paint maintenance to deal with but deteriorated brick repairs must be done as well.

So you can see how the seemingly simple remedy of painting your bricks to change its colour can have far reaching implications and consequences. If you must go this route then I would suggest that you contact a local masonry repair expert for advice on how to protect external masonry before painting and how to proceed with the painting process.

The only way to avoid the above is to either have the house pebbledashed, which is now out of fashion, or to have someone come around every single year and paint it (which in the long run can be expensive), or contact the team at NPA on (0800) 970 4928, who can show you a much better way to have brick outside walls painted, and not have to do them again for up to 20 years!

No, there’s no catch, it isn’t massively expensive, and a quote is totally free, and no you don’t have to buy from them if they come to see you, they are not that type of company!

Why not contact NPA for a free quote, or even just more info, they can save you pouuuuuuuunds!!!!!!!


Like this page? Please SHARE! Thank you, it's appreciated!
Scroll to top