How to Whitewash a Brick Wall

Before

 

Like most people who are interested in painting or whitewashing a brick wall in their home, I was terrified. The idea always intrigued me, however, the actual process of doing it and whether it would come out right was daunting. In my case, I have lived with this brick for most of my life. My husband and I bought my childhood home from my parents, and it was always on our list of ‘things we wanted to change.’  I’m not opposed to brick in certain types of places. It’s definitely urban chic and appropriate in specific areas of living, but my house just isn’t one of them. My house has eves that automatically make it a bit darker so the harsh, reddish brick only aided in sucking any light or airy-ness out of the main living area.

We had two rooms in our house that had a single brick wall, the living room and the dining area of our kitchen. Because of the open floor plan, those two rooms are connecting and the walls somewhat meet. I was eager to lighten up both rooms but didn’t want to be responsible for possibly making a decision that I couldn’t ‘undo.’ I did feel personally responsible since my grandfather had built the house. It had been the same brick for close to 40 years, and my lack of DIY experience could potentially ruin something original to the house.

I began researching all the different options and pinned pictures from Pinterest. I knew from reading Young House Love that they had experience in painting their brick walls, so I felt confident that it was something I could attempt. But then, the more I researched and saw what my ‘style’ was, the more I realized that what I wanted the brick to look like was more of a whitewash, worn look rather than a painted wall to hide the brick. After all, it wasn’t the actual brick I hated, it was the dreary, depressing, sucking all life out the room I wanted to get rid of. I actually loved the brick and didn’t want to lose something that brought character to my home. It also helped knowing that if I screwed it up, I could always just paint it as a backup.

I narrowed down a few different websites that suggested techniques and after showing them to my husband, we decided on the method below. Everyone is different and while some have stronger feelings as to which methods works best, this is the one that worked for us.

First, we cleared the entire area of everything that was movable. We then taped along the floor and joining doorframe using painter’s tape we already had on hand.

 

We then took a dry cloth and wiped down the brick and in between the mortar to get rid of any excess dust, brick particles, etc…

We then mixed 50% water, 50% paint together in our bucket. We decided to start out slow so we could always add more paint if the consistency was too watery. We knew that if started out too light, we could always go back and apply more, but if we began with too much, we couldn’t fix it.

 

My husband started in the doorway first since they were smaller bricks and required more of ‘staying in the lines’ due to the molding.

 

Once we started on the main wall, it took a few bricks before we figured out our groove. When you have two different people attempting to apply paint using a certain technique, it’s important to work together to make sure you both are doing the same thing. At first, he was coating more of the bricks than I was. When he noticed that I smeared the brush of paint onto several bricks then lightly wiped with my rag so the brick was still shown underneath, our technique got better. We then started moving pretty fast. The paint is tricky because it’s so thin you automatically assume you have to apply a few coats to each brick but it’s not the case. As I said before, we wanted to start light so we could always go back later if it wasn’t dark enough.

Once we finished we were scared. We both kept staring at it and didn’t say much to each other. It was bright. Much brighter than I had anticipated. The color we chose was an off-white/white but given what we painted on, it now appeared like chalk white. We didn’t want it yellow since it meets with our white ceiling but this didn’t seem to have any color to it at all. We kept asking each other if it was really that white or was it just new to us so it was shocking.

 

But then… right before our eyes it started drying and it was PERFECT. The bricks started to soak up the paint, and they began looking an almost grey-ish tone, which is exactly what I was hoping for all along. Within a few minutes the entire wall was dry. What was even better was when we woke up the next day it again seemed more toned down as if the bricks were still sucking the color in. What we thought was a chalk white painted wall became this amazing wall of various tones from all the different color bricks underneath.

 

Not only did this extremely terrifying job turn out as planned, but it was actually quite fast. We had done no set up at all and from the time I put my daughter to sleep and began taking out all the supplies, to the last thing I put away from cleaning up, it was 2 hours total.

I have no regrets about tackelng this project, and now I just need to get that other wall done this weekend…

Here are some more before and after pictures:

 

After

 

 

Here are some links of websites that inspired us:

The Old White Cottage Blog

This Old House

Apartment Therapy

 

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Comments

How to Whitewash a Brick Wall — 14 Comments

  1. Jess that looks great! Good job to you both, I love how it came out.
    We have some knotty pine we are considering white washing and it definitely makes me nervous.

  2. This looks great and is exactly the look I want to achieve! I am moving to a house with a living room filled with knotty pine paneling and a red brick fireplace. I want to paint the paneling white, and replicate this paint technique on the brick. I am however concerned about the effect of the radiant heat from the fireplace on whatever paint I use on the brick.

    As you have a wood stove close to the wall I was curious as to what kind of paint you used, and if the heat of the stove and stovepipe had any effect on the paint. Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • Hey Brian! Thanks so much!

      We used regular Behr paint from Home Depot. Our bricks don’t get hot at all from the heat from the wood burning stove so in our case, no specialty paint was necessary. The same goes with the pipe, the heat is contained enough that it doesn’t have any effect on the paint.

      I know they make high heat paint so if you are concerned, you may want to ask an expert. However, most of the painted brick (or whitewash, in this case) I have read and seen, regular paint was more than fine for around a fireplace or wood stove. I definitely would purchase high heat paint if you plan on painting the inside of the fireplace.

      Good luck! Please send pictures of your progress and let me know if you have any more questions! I’m excited for you!

      ~j

    • Hey Sam! This brick was very smooth (if you see the other post where I did the other side of the wall, that one was extremely porous). I used a rag and applied very little at first. You can always add more after you apply it and you think it needs more. If you add too much at first, you run the risk of it looking painted and not whitewashed. I suggest adding a little to your rag and spreading the mixture out onto a few bricks at a time. You want to gently coat them and almost rub the mixture into the brick and drag it. When you get to the point of not being able to wipe anything off your rag, apply more.

      Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions!
      ~j

    • Hi Ashley! Thanks so much! I used flat finish. At this point I can’t remember why but I’m pretty sure I must have read somewhere to use flat. Or the person at Home Depot might have suggested :)

      Either way, glad we went with that choice. I wouldn’t have wanted to have shiny brick :P

      Let me know if I can help with anything else!

      ~j

  3. Love ur results and the way u explained things as if I could hear u! Thank you for all the great tips! I will be trying this on an exterior wall do u think I should buy exterior paint? My brick is an orange color I hate it but I recently have been gooling DIY on how to white wash a lot of people suggested lime wash but the I didn’t get the how to make it instructions! Also chalk paint but with my budget it seems expensive!

    • Thanks so much! I wish I could offer help but I really don’t know much about exterior brick. I did see all the lime recommendations while researching on how to do my own but I didn’t want to use it in the house. If you go the paint route, I would assume exterior paint would work the best. I’m pretty sure Home Depot has a basic white exterior paint you can buy right off the shelf.

      Good luck! Sorry I can’t be of more help! I was scared enough to do mine! Lol Please share your results!

      ~j

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