What’s the quickest way to paint brick?

Painting brick can make a wall more colorful, match a fireplace to a redecorated room or spruce up a home ready for sale. The process requires two steps: prepping and painting. If you have recently set bricks, you’ll want to let them dry for at least a year before painting.

First, check to see whether the mortar is loose. Small cracks can be repaired with acrylic caulk. Large cracks and loose mortar will require you to repoint the brick. Repointing is the term for renewing the external part of the mortar joints between the bricks. Use mortar that is as close as possible to the original.

For exterior brick, use a natural brush with stiff bristles to remove cobwebs and dust. Do not use brushes with metal or wire bristles, as they can damage brick. If the brick is only slightly dirty, spray the walls with a garden hose. If the brick is very dirty, use a pressure washer, but only if the brick is unpainted. If mold, mildew or moss remains after the cleaning, make a solution of one cup white vinegar to one gallon warm water. Wear a face mask and gloves while spraying the solution on soiled areas and gently scrubbing the brick.

For interior brick, remove dust and cobwebs with a dust rag, feather duster or vacuum. Use warm water and soap or the vinegar-water solution to clean the brick. After cleaning brick, rinse it and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours.

You will need to consider additional cleaning options if there is burnt material on the brick, if a crystalline white deposit (called efflorescence) has formed on the brick, or mold or mildew have penetrated the inside of the brick. Your options include oven cleaner for burnt material and boric acid, ammonia, naphtha soap and the most powerful cleaner, trisodium phosphate (TSP) for all other concerns. Avoid acidic solutions. When cleaning brick, work in a well-ventilated area. Start small and gentle, then work your way up to harder scrubbing and more powerful solutions.

Use a brush, roller or paint sprayer to apply a single coat of latex primer on the surface. Add more coats to brick affected by mildew or efflorescence. Allow the primer to completely dry. Then, use acrylic latex exterior paint or elastodynamic paint.

Acrylic latex is often seen as better for exterior brick because it is highly resistant to mildew and moisture. Semi-gloss and gloss paint are good choices for interior and exterior brick. They reveal details and are easy to clean. When you’re done, your brick should look bright, crisp and solid.

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