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Painted Brick Vs Limewash

Both paint and limewash and excellent ways of coloring your red brick white. But the methods used and end result are very different. So which is best? Painted brick vs limewash? Which costs more? What’s the major difference other than how it looks? And which is right for your house?

Painted brick and limewash are both methods of coloring red brick white. But that’s kind of where the similarities end. Painted brick is just that, paint. You have to use a paint that’s specially formulated for brick but it’s still paint. It’s an opaque solid white that sits on the surface of the brick covering every inch of the brick and mortar. You paint a brick wall white just like any other wall and the coverage is total.

Limewash on the other hand is very different. It’s a much thinner mix of water and lime that’s designed to penetrate into the brick rather than sit on it’s surface. The limewash isn’t opaque and the coverage isn’t total, which means you can see a lot of the red show through the limewash. And some areas of brick aren’t colored at all. The look is very similar and sometimes mistaken for a whitewash or German Smear.

Both of these methods for coloring bricks white are very good. But they have a very different finished look and style. Painted brick is considered to be a more modern look while limewash is more rustic or antique.

Ahead we’ll discuss both methods in more detail along with some pros vs cons, pictures, info and tips.

Closeup view of a brick home painted white. Country front porch with a real wood front door, wood ceiling and a wood bench swing.

Closeup view of a brick home painted white. Country front porch with a real wood front door, wood ceiling and a wood bench swing.

Painted Brick

Painted brick is a look I’ve always liked a lot. There’s just something about the look of brick when it’s painted white that really appeals to me. It’s a great way of brightening up and modernizing an old brick home. And it’s very easy to do. If your flipping or renovating a home with old ugly brick then painting them white is a lot cheaper than redoing all the brick or re-siding the house.

I wrote an entire article about how to paint bricks white which you can read HERE. But in a nutshell, what you need is special paint formulated for masonry. Brick is a form of masonry that can soak up and retain a lot of water. It’s very important to use a paint that’s been specially made for masonry because it can breath. If the paint can’t breath then water trapped inside the brick will cause the paint to bubble and peel. It’s also important to let the brick dry out before you paint.

I recommend an acrylic paint with a flat finish. If you want a little sheen then try eggshell. I’ve seen semi gloss used before and it’s a bit too shiny for my taste.

Painting bricks white will completely transformation a brick home. You can have the oldest, dirtiest brick house and a fresh coat of white paint will bring it to life and make it feel like new. But keep in mind there’s no going back from it. You can’t strip white paint from brick so make 100% sure it’s the look you want before you do it.

You can spot painted brick vs limewash because paint is totally solid and covers everything. Even the grout lines will be white.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of painted brick.

Pros

Painting your bricks white will give your house a fresh, modern look. Whether it’s new construction or a remodel, painted bricks have the same effect. But it’s really cost effective when the home is older. Instead of re-siding an old brick home you can give it a much cheaper paint job to make it look and feel like brand new. It’s a great way to renovate a brick home with an outstanding ROI.

It’s cost effective when the home is new too because you can use the cheapest bricks on the market. There’s no need to buy expensive bricks because you’ll be painting them anyway. Just make sure all your bricks match and have the same texture. Some times cheaper bricks can have varying textures so inspect them before you install. The money you save on cheaper bricks should more than pay for the paint job.

Another pro is the additional layer of water protection a layer of paint brings. If you paint an older brick home it will extend the life of your brick.

Painted white brick is very in style at the moment so your home will have a of of appeal. This will help a lot if your building new or flipping a home.It also works on just about any style home so it’s a safe choice.

Many people like the look of brick and the texture it has but they don’t like the color. Red brick is often seen as old fashioned. With paint you get all the benefits of brick with the clean, bright look of white. Throw in some black frame windows and you’ve got yourself one of the hottest home designs on the market.

Painting brick is a great DIY project.

Cons

While traditional non painted brick is practically maintenance free other than an occasional cleaning, painted brick isn’t. You’ll eventually have to re-paint it and a white surface will need cleaning more often then an unpainted brick. Painting an entire house isn’t cheap, especially if your home is two stories or more.

As long as you use the correct paint, trapped moisture won’t be a problem. But if you don’t then your paint can easily peel, crack, or cause mold build up.

There’s no way to undue painting a brick white. There are ways to strip paint from masonry but I’ve never seen it done 100%. There always seems to be areas where the paint just doesn’t come off or leaves some white residue behind. And it depends a lot of the type of brick you painted too. If it’s a very smooth, solid red brick like a firehouse then it’s easier to remove than an old tumbled brick. The more textured a bricks surface the harder the paint is to remove.

Red brick home with a white limewash finish. Black frame windows & doors with white trim.

Red brick home with a white limewash finish. Black frame windows & doors with white trim.

Limewash Brick

Limewash is a paint made with just two ingredients. Lime and water. It’s much thinner than paint, so instead of sitting on top the brick’s surface like paint does, it penetrates into the brick.

Limestone is crushed, burned, and then combined with water to make putty. After the putty goes through an aging process, it is thinned with water to create a paint. This paint has a matte look with a chalky texture. It’s white which is the natural color of limestone.

The terms “limewash” and “whitewash” are often used synonymously because the finished look is very similar. But limewash is a specific type of whitewash which uses lime. Other forms of whitewash don’t use lime.

Limewash is an ancient way of coloring and protecting brick. It’s been used for centuries to protect brick structures from the weather. Limewash adds a thin layer to the brick and mortar which helps protect them from the elements. Buildings that were coated every few years developed a durable layer of protection against rain, wind, and the sun.

It’s a beautiful look that’s becoming very popular these days as more and more people color their brick’s white. The technique can give your house an old world European look or a rustic feel. When done correctly, it can give old brick new life, or make your new house look aged.

Limewash is a look that’s been around literally for centuries, so it’s hard to believe it’ll go out of style any time soon. And best of all if it does and you become tired of the look, you can always paint right over it.

Pros

Limewash won’t peel off or bubble like paint since it penetrates the brick and let’s them breathe.

It requires less maintenance than painted brick.

Because Limewash is an aged, rustic look, any natural wearing or aging of the brick will be less noticeable.

Limewash is all natural and doesn’t contain any chemicals like regular paint. For this reason it’s considered a “green” choice.

It’s a beautiful look if you have the right house for it. And it has functional benefits because the limewash coats and protects the brick from weather damage.

Limewash is a cheap way of coloring brick. You can by hyrdated lime and mix it yourself with water. A regular size house can be done for less than $50 bucks in material.

Limewash is highly alkaline which helps resist mold growth, fungi and mildew. All of which are common with brick.

Cons

You can’t use just any brick because some of the coloring shows through the limewash. If your comparing painted brick vs limewash then paint easily wins here.

Limewash creates a very unique look which is very artistic. It’s not like paint where anyone can do it and have the same end result. If 10 people limewash a brick home you’ll end up with 10 different looks. For this reason you really need an experienced person to do the job and a plan on how you want the end result to look. You can do thick limewash coats or thin ones with lots of brick showing. It’s always a custom job. Contrast that with painted brick where the finished product is the same no matter who does the work.

The look is very specific where painted brick is more broad. Almost any home style looks great with painted brick. That’s not the case with limewash.

Limewash erodes over time which means you’ll have to re-apply it every 5-7 years on average.

It’s chalky which means it can rub off in places.

Limewash can only be used on bare brick. If you’ve got brick that was previously painted, it won’t stick.

It’s a custom mix you generally do yourself which means batches can vary. Make sure you carefully measure your lime and water ratios. And don’t mix too much at once because it can dry out. Although the process of applying limewash is very easy, preparing it is harder than paint.

Beautiful home with red brick using limewash is a variety of thicknesses.

Beautiful home with red brick using limewash is a variety of thicknesses.

FAQ

We get asked a lot of questions about painted brick vs limewash and thought we’d list the most common ones here.

Is It Cheaper To Limewash Or Paint Brick?

Limewash is a lot cheaper of a material than paint. You can by hydrated lime and mix it with water yourself to create limewash. About $50 bucks worth of lime is enough to cover an entire average sized home. And water is free. Paint can easily be 10 ties that price. The brushes you use are the same but with limewash you don’t typically use a roller or sprayer.

In terms of labor costs, limewash is generally cheaper here too. Paint requires a thorough and complete coat of everything. You don’t want to see any of the brick or mortar colors showing through. The last thing we do on a brick painting job is to go over every little bit with a brush. All the small holes and cracks in the brick. It takes a while and costs money. You don’t have to do any of this with limewash because the coverage is supposed to be spotty and you want to see brick color showing through.

Another area where limewash is cheaper than paint is the prep. If your spraying then you have to tape all the windows and doors which costs money both in terms of supplies and labor. You don’t do any of that with limewash. In fact there’s hardy any prep at all. Paint is a much more exact finish and limewash is more rough. A limewashed home isn’t supposed to look as perfect as painted brick.

The long term value of painted brick vs limewash is better for limewash too. Both methods have to be redone eventually and the limewash is cheaper to re-apply.

How Long Does Limewash Last On Brick?

It’s generally recommended that you re-apply your limewash every 5-7 years. But it varies.

Things like the weather, the brick you limewashed, and the thickness of the initial coverage all make a big difference. I’ve seen limewash coats last 20 years without getting a new application and they still looked fine. it’s a good idea to eventually re-apply the limewash because it helps protect the brick but it isn’t always cosmetically needed.

Limewash is generally applied in several thin coats that build up rather than one thick coat. If you apply it properly and use the correct amount if lime in your mixture then you can easily go over 10 -15 years without needing a new coat.

Limewash is chalky and can rub off the brick. If you’ve got areas of limewash that get rubbed off then it could need a spot fix much sooner.

If you limewashed brand new brick that doesn’t need the extra protection then you can wait much longer to re-apply the limewash. But if you used limewash on older brick as a way of protecting them from the elements then you’ll want to re-apply much sooner. In this case you should stick to the 5-7 years recommendation.

Can You Limewash Painted Brick?

No. Limewash generally only sticks to brick that hasn’t been painted. You can try to strip as much of the paint as possible and hope you get enough bare brick for the the limewash to adhere to. But typically limewash only woks on bare brick.

How Many Coats Of Limewash Do You Need?

Limewash isn’t like traditional paint. It builds up over several thin coats. The application is artistic and not meant to completely cover the brick. Every application is different which is why you need someone experienced in using Limewash.

Generally I recommend at least 2-4 coats for maximum protection of the brick. Remember limewash isn’t just for show, it also adds a protective layer to the brick. Once you do the minimum 2-3 coats however you can add more to achieve the desired look your going for. Some of the nicest limewash jobs I’ve ever seen used a mix of thin and thick areas. Some spots getting as little as 2 coats while other =s got as many as 5 or 6.

Limewash is a little different than painting. It’s very thin and goes on easier so multiple coats isn’t as much work as with paint.

How many coat of limewash you need also depends on it it’s a first time application or a re-application. If your re-applying it, in some cases you may only need 1 additional coat. This depends on the condition of the limewash and how long it’s been since you last applied it. In general, a re-application will need less coats than the first time you do it.

Can You Apply Limewash With A Roller?

No. I guess you could do it with a roller but it’s better to use a brush. Apply several thin coats a coat at a time until you achieve the desired result. limewash isn’t like paint. Your not trying to get an equal and complete coverage of every brick. Some of the brick color is supposed to be seen and some bricks should have less coverage than others. It’s a very artistic process that should always be done with a brush.

Painted Brick Vs Limewash Gallery

Below is a gallery filled with some of my favorite painted brick and limewashed homes. Hopefully a few will help you decide which is the better look for your home.

Closeup view of a home with painted brick. exterior view of the grill area.

Closeup view of a home with painted brick.

Country style front porch with painted brick walls, stone floors and real timber posts.

Country style front porch with painted brick walls, stone floors and real timber posts.

backyard ciew of a beautiful custom home with limewashed red brick, black frame windows and cedar shake siding.

backyard view of a beautiful custom home with limewashed red brick, black frame windows and cedar shake siding.

Curb view of a beautiful custom home with limewashed red brick and black frame windows.

Curb view of a beautiful custom home with limewashed red brick and black frame windows.

Traditional custom built red brick home painted white with white windows, a black roof, black front door and a red brick porch.

Traditional custom built red brick home painted white with white windows, a black roof, black front door and a red brick porch.

Colonial brick home painted white with black shutters and a black front door.

Colonial brick home painted white with black shutters and a black front door.

Traditional home updated to look more modern with painted brick, black metal roofing and board and batten siding.

Traditional home updated to look more modern with painted brick, black metal roofing and board and batten siding.

Beautiful custom new home with red brick that's been limewashed featuring black frame windows, black gutters and black metal accent roofing

Beautiful custom new home with red brick that’s been limewashed featuring black frame windows, black gutters and black metal accent roofing

Summary: Painted Brick Vs Limewash

Both paint and limewash and excellent ways of coloring your red brick white. But the methods used and end result are very different. So which is best? Painted brick vs limewash? Which costs more? What’s the major difference other than how it looks? And which is right for your house?

Painted brick and limewash are both methods of coloring red brick white. But that’s kind of where the similarities end. Painted brick is just that, paint. You have to use a paint that’s specially formulated for brick but it’s still paint. It’s an opaque solid white that sits on the surface of the brick covering every inch of the brick and mortar. You paint a brick wall white just like any other wall and the coverage is total.

Limewash on the other hand is very different. It’s a much thinner mix of water and lime that’s designed to penetrate into the brick rather than sit on it’s surface. The limewash isn’t opaque and the coverage isn’t total, which means you can see a lot of the red show through the limewash. And some areas of brick aren’t colored at all. The look is very similar and sometimes mistaken for a whitewash or German Smear.

Both of these methods for coloring bricks white are very good. But they have a very different finished look and style. Painted brick is considered to be a more modern look while limewash is more rustic or antique.

Ahead we’ll discuss both methods in more detail along with some pros vs cons, pictures, info and tips.

If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time. We’d love to hear from you.

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