How to Whitewash Brick – Whitewashing Tips for Brickwork
This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission from purchases made through them, at no additional cost to you.
Picture this: You just inherited your grandparent’s beach house, and instead of it having that authentic wooden feel, the builders used face-brick…which is truly distasteful in your eyes. The bright reddish color of the brick contrasts with the mortar in-between, but what can you do to soften that contrast? Can you give the house that beachy feel without removing the brickwork? Why not try whitewashing those bricks? If whitewashed brick is something that appeals more to you, then you will find what we have to say here very interesting because we will teach you how to whitewash brick. From whitewashing fireplace bricks to creating a whitewashed brick house with whitewashed exterior or interior brick walls. We will also discuss the best whitewash paint for brick and the differences between lime-wash and whitewash.
Table of Contents
- 1 Lime-Wash vs. Whitewash vs. German Schmear
- 2 Which Paint works Best for Whitewashing Brick?
- 3 How to Whitewash Brick
- 4 Final Whitewashing Suggestions
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Lime-Wash vs. Whitewash vs. German Schmear
Ancient Romans used a lime paste to coat the walls of the people’s houses, made from a mixture of crushed limestone and water. Once mixed, the paste should be allowed to age, after which, pigments can be added for color. Lime-wash does not cover a substrate in the same manner as paint does. Instead, a chalky layer of lime-wash will accentuate the imperfections of the brick, while softening the color.
Those ancient Romans were very clever to use lime-wash because it is naturally resistant to microorganisms. This means that the people were living in healthier environments because the surface of their homes was not a dirt collector. The only limitation with lime-wash is in the saturation of color you can achieve, even these days.
There are those who prefer to create their own lime and water mixture for their whitewashed brick house, and there are those who prefer to buy the paste already mixed. Many people like to mix their own so that they have more control over the consistency, ability to play around with the pigments. But, did you know that you could also just add some water to your latex paint to get the same effect of whitewashed brick? You just have keep reading to learn how to white-wash brick using both methods.
In addition to lime-wash and whitewash, you could also employ a method of altering the appearance of brick called a “German schmear” or “mortar wash. German schmears make use of a mortar wash, similar to a latex whitewash over the bricks or a lime-wash. The effect of a German schmear resembles that weathered look you get on old country homes. There is not much difference between a latex whitewash, a lime-wash, and a German schmear in terms of aesthetic, but there is their applications and consistencies.
Which Paint works Best for Whitewashing Brick?
This tutorial is all about learning how to whitewash brick, so, naturally, we will talk about whitewashing brick for a whitewashed brick house appearance. This is an ideal method for toning down the color and contrasting aesthetic that face-brick has, without losing the look that brickwork provides. A whitewashed brick wall will shine brighter with its softened look.
Specialist whitewash paint for brick can be purchased from just about any paint supplier, but you could also simply use the left-over white latex paint from when you redid your walls recently. Just add some water to make its consistency thinner, and then apply that to your brick wall for that whitewashed brick feel.
How to Whitewash Brick
There is a bit more technique required when applying a lime-wash vs whitewash, as opposed to just painting the brick another color. The main differences lie in the amount that you lather on, how much water was in the mixture will define the opacity of the wash, and how you choose to distribute the whitewash. It is not as complicated as it sounds, as we will explain in this next section.
Deciding on a Whitewash Paint
We recommend using a latex paint if you wish to give your home a whitewashed look. There are a variety of white shades, so you do not have to stick with the standard whitewash. You could also choose a slight off-whitewash, or an eggshell-wash color if you prefer. It is important that you steer clear of glossy finishes as they will prevent any chalky appearance.
Preparing the Project
As always, we recommend preparing the workspace before you start with the messy painting. There is nothing worse than spilling paint on the floor because that might be hard to clean up. We recommend you protect the floor, no matter where you are working. Even if the floor is fine to fill a bit of paint on, a large amount can lead to a lot of mess. Laying a plastic tarp down can be your best move yet.
Keep in mind that you can only paint the bricks on the mantle or chimney breast of a fireplace, not the inside. Only specialist paints can be used on surfaces directly exposed to intense heat. Any other paint will suffer extensive damage and give off potentially toxic fumes in the process. Whitewash is, however, a great option to use for exterior brick walls.
Remove Dirt and Old Paint from the Brick
If you have read any of our tutorials, then you will know by now how important it is to clean whatever you are working on before you can apply most products. The dust particles and the grease stains will ruin the end result of your whitewashing. You could start with a simple wash of soapy water, and if that does not work, try out something more effective.
TSP soap is commonly used amongst many industries, and can sometimes be found in the odd kitchen cupboard, or tool shed. Its full name is Trisodium phosphate and it is famous for how efficiently it removes grease that is stubbornly hard to remove. The ratio needed when working with TSP soap to clean the brick wall before painting it is using half a gallon of weather with half of a cup of the TSP, and you have the perfect solution.
As an alternative to TSP, you can use Boric Acid instead, which is only a little less potent than TSP. You only need a single tablespoon mixed with a gallon of water. If you have a chlorinated pool, then pool acid (hydrochloric acid) will also do a great job of cleaning dirt and even cement from bricks before painting. Just take care to wear gloves and eye protection when using any type of acid.
If your brick wall has been painted before, or has some paint spills on it, is very important to remove all of that old paint from the brick before whitewashing. Use a paint stripper, or wire brush to thoroughly clean the brick before applying your mixture.
Mixing the Whitewash
Now for the part where you make your whitewash mixture. It is up to you how opaque you wish your brick wall’s whitewash to be, and that all depends on the amount of water you add. The more water, the more transparent the whitewash will be, and the more of the brick’s color will shine through. You can always test out sections that are not as visible to see how our mixture fairs, that way you do not have to risk not appreciating the whitewash you end up with, provided the mixture was not accurate.
There is always the benefit of creating more whitewash to cover a larger area by simply adding more water. If you like the idea of using more water to stretch you paint supply, but you don’t like the more translucent effect, you could add another layer of whitewashing paint on the brick to make it more opaque. That way you could also choose for certain areas to be more translucent than others. Luckily, you will not have to wait long in between the different layers, because water-based paints dry fast.
Now for the part you have all come to this tutorial for – the application of your whitewash. Make sure that you are happy with the ratio of paint to water before you start because once you begin, you will have to complete the wall to keep an even whitewash unless you like the uneven look for a rustic feel.
There are various methods to choose from when it comes to whitewashing your brick walls. You could choose the standard paintbrush method, which easily gets into the grooves where the grout is. Work from one side, and then gradually end on the other, moving in left-to-right motions, and making sure you first focus on filling the grout.
Keep in mind that brick is very absorbent, so the paint will soak into the brick as fast as you can apply it. If the consistency of your mixture is quite watery you might want to keep a cloth at hand so that you can catch any dribbles that might ruin the end result. The cloth can also be used to help distribute the whitewash so that you can see more of the bricks shining through. This can also accentuate the whitewash effect.
You could also choose the spray bottle method, which means you need a cloth to help spread the whitewash over the bricks as well. This method is hard to get into the groves where the grout is, and you might find that you will need a paintbrush with a small tip to get into those harder-to-reach areas.
Final Whitewashing Suggestions
- Always make sure you have cleaned the surface of the brick. Dust and the grime will ruin the color and consistency of your whitewash mixture and could prevent in from adhering to the bricks
- Remove any existing paint from the brick. You will need to strip the paint before you can apply the whitewash, especially if the old paint is flaking
- Use color samples in the form of paint swatches. You can get these from any paint supply store to help you choose the right color
- Determine the transparency or opacity of your whitewash. You can do this by altering the amount of water you add to your whitewash mixture
- Test before you paint. Before you whitewash an entire wall with the mixture you created, first test it out on a small area that is less conspicuous to make sure it is the right mix
- Keep paint brushes on hand. Even if you are using the spray bottle method to apply the whitewash, you will still need to use a small paintbrush with a narrow tip to get into the groves where the grout is
- Make sure you have a tarp of some sort. To prevent a massive cleaning operation later on, use a floor protector that covers the area you are working in
- You can add color to your whitewash mixture
- Use a cloth to help distribute the whitewash
Whitewashing your brick house can completely transform it while still retaining the unique look and feel of a brick home. The only thing that might be tricky with whitewashing your home, is the mixture you make, and how transparent you wish the whitewash to be. But, now that you know how to make your own whitewashing mixture, and how to apply it yourself, you can begin to whitewash just about anything! From fireplace mantle pieces to the wall surrounding your property.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Most Suitable Paint for Whitewashing Brick?
If you are going with the whitewashed look for your brick home, the most ideal paint to use for your whitewash mixture would be latex paint. This is because it is water-based, so it can be mixed with more water to make it more transparent.
How Quick Is Whitewashing Dry Time?
It might feel like it is dry when you touch the wall after a couple of hours, but the full drying time for a typical whitewash is about 24 hours. The manufacturer will also stipulate the drying time on the product’s label.
Does Whitewashing Last Long?
Because whitewashing is done using latex paint that is mixed with water, it is not much different than if you were painting with latex paint by itself. This paint gets absorbed into the surface of the bricks, making it very hard to remove.
Will Whitewashing Damage Brick?
The brilliant thing about whitewashing is that it not only protects the bricks somewhat from the weather conditions, but it also allows the brick surface to breathe underneath. This is because the thin consistency of the paint does not clog up the pores of the bricks.
Is White the Only Color for Whitewashing?
If you use latex paint or tinted lime-wash you can make a whitewash in just about any color. What you won’t get is a very bright or intense color. You could make a whitewash mixture in a pink shade, which might make your home look like it is blushing, or you could even use a grey tone. All you need to do is pick a color, any color, and mix in some water to the paint and apply it using your preferred method. Just make sure you choose a color that suits the aesthetic of your home.