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How to Refinish Bricks

Tara Hornor

Refinishing brick can bring new life to the outside of a home or to a living room fireplace. Three options are available when refinishing bricks: restoring the mortar, cleaning and painting. The most common way to resurface brick is to paint or clean it, because restoring the mortar is much more expensive.

  1. Consider the condition of the brick. Sometimes the brick is nice, but the mortar is damaged and bleeding out. In this situation, it may be better to hire a contractor to tuck and point the mortar. You can have the color of the mortar changed when doing this. The only drawback is that it can be costly. Ask friends and co-workers for referrals. If you look up brick restoration contractors online or in your local phone book, be sure to ask for references.

  2. Clean the brick. For outdoor brick, power-washing with water is the best way to remove the dust, dirt, and loose particles that will get in the paint. For mold and stains, a weak muriatic acid solution can be used to clean them. Just scrub with a stiff brush and rinse the brick thoroughly. Use gloves and eye protection, remove all acid-soaked clothing, and shower immediately after finishing. For fireplace brick, use a broom to sweep off the large debris, and wipe with a damp sponge to remove dirt. Be careful when sweeping, as the large particles can make a mess. You may want to cover the carpet and walls nearby with plastic.

  3. Choose your color and paint. Be sure to choose acrylic latex and exterior masonry paint. Decide whether you want a low-, semi- or high-gloss finish. The more porous the brick, the thicker and more elastic the paint should be. Expect to apply two coats when purchasing the paint.

  4. Paint your brick using a tall nap roller. Typically a 3/4-inch roller will work for brick. For deeply recessed mortar, you may need to paint it with a brush before rolling over the brick. If this is the case, consider using a paint sprayer. Although a sprayer will require more prep time (you will need to tape and mask surrounding areas to protect from overspray), it will be faster than brushing the mortar twice. When rolling, watch for runs and missed recessed areas as you go. These are easily touched up with a brush when the paint is still wet. Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying the second coat.

  5. Warning

    Because muriatic acid is the industrial strength of hydrochloric acid, precautions need to be made when using it. Muriatic acid will corrode almost anything, and the fumes can burn your nose, throat and lungs. Don't use it indoors because of the fumes. Make sure to wear long sleeves and pants, eye protection and rubber gloves when applying the acid. Use plastic to cover objects within close proximity to protect from overspray, and never use on a windy day.