Let’s tackle a hotly-contested argument. Should you paint your brick?
Brick is one of the oldest building materials dating back for centuries. It is durable and considered to be relatively low maintenance. The color of the brick varies based upon a number of factors – but primarily based upon the color of the clay used. This factor used to make brick color indigenous to the area, explaining why we saw red brick in areas of the country with red clay.
Color Trends and Brick Selection
But of course, with mass transportation and modern manufacturing, there are a variety of color choices for brick. And when it comes to the color of someone’s home – color preference can be deeply subjective and personal. These preferences are also influenced by color trends. The traditional red brick in the south became dated and the new preferred brick color was a brown brick. This color trend coincided with “builder beige” in all types of materials.
When I first moved to Jacksonville Florida in the late eighties, pink, wood mold brick was the rage! Every brick house along the street seemed to be in this color. Enter the 2020s, and we are in the thick of the farmhouse white phase. Newly constructed homes can be seen with a variety of white and light-colored bricks.
The modern version of farmhouse includes stark color contrasts and the use of white and black brick.
A few years back, one of our client’s painted the brick on their model home white. It was stunning and so unique for the area at the time that random people would show up at the model to marvel at the home. In a sea of builder beige homes, it was a refreshing change.
Now that farmhouse white is all the rage, several homeowners are painting their traditional red brick homes white. The first one gets painted: “Wow – what a beautiful transformation”. Then you see another one. “Oh – that’s nice too.” But by the 5th or 6th white brick house you begin to wonder, is this a good idea? Adding paint to perhaps the lowest maintenance finish? Once painted, there’s no practical way to go back! When the farmhouse white trend becomes dated, will homeowner’s have white painter’s remorse? Or will they simply keep up with color trends by repainting?
One of the 2023 Best in American Living Award winners is a stunning example of before and after with painted brick. Ah – but there’s more to the story than just the paint color. In this case, the house was expanded. Can you imagine trying to match brick on a home built 10 or 20 years ago? Perhaps you can come close to the original color – but how has time changed the brick? What about the color of the mortar? The color of the mortar selection can have significant impact on the look of the home. In the case of this award-winning home – painting brick not only gave the home a fresh new feel but it also allowed for a seamless expansion of the home. A win -win.
Alternatives to painting
It is possible to give a brick home a fresh new look without having to paint it. Recently, we helped select new trim and accent colors for a home built in the sixties. While our changes weren’t as dramatic as repainting the brick, they were also less expensive and allowed the unpainted brick to stand out.
The Moral of the Story
Color trends come and go. Indeed, every paint manufacturer has their color of the year – though I caution against painting your house a color of the year as these are mostly for interior colors. When it comes to exteriors, trends seem to be more long lasting. Duh – it costs more to paint the entire exterior of a home vs a single room.
People tend to feel very strongly about painting brick one way or another. You either love it or have a deep disdain for it. If you ask me – it depends! Unless the home is on a giant estate, the other homes in the neighborhood should be considered. No one wants to see an entire street of white houses – just like we grew tired of seeing entire streetscape of beige. Many newly developed communities have implemented monotony rules prohibiting same color homes side-by-side or across from each other. In older neighborhoods there is no such restriction. Self-control is recommended before painting brick. Perhaps fresh landscaping or a new shutter color is a more practical alternative.
Where do you fall on the painted brick argument? Is it a refreshing option or has it been overdone? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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This post was written by Housing Design Matters