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Exposed Brick Walls: Good or Bad Experiences?

I’ve been in love with brick walls for a long while. Their beautiful texture and the amazing color are so charming that I am honestly considering adding one to my living room. But while brick does look stunning as an accent wall — if done right, there are a few things you should consider (call them drawbacks if you wish) before you start the whole renovation process.

One of our readers, Danijela Petrovic is having issues with the bricks in her home.

The old Serbian house that I moved in two years ago is quite stunning. The rooms are big and beautifully furnished, everything is well planned and the location, in one of Belgrade’s finest, make it a charming home.  I also have this small garden where I spend my evenings with my son, listening to music and enjoying the beautiful green walls and the colorful potted plants that I’ve added. But the reason I’m sending you this email is to ask what can be done about the pesky issues I’m having in the living room with my exposed brick walls.

Renovated not too long ago, the living room kept the natural brick wall for extra oomph. At first we loved it and thought the accent wall adds style to our interior design. It took us 4 months and we started to hate it. The brick crumbled when we touched it, began showing giant holes and we got to see ugly cracks caused by moisture and exterior car traffic. Speaking of moisture, it’s what we hate most — because Centipedes love moisture. And I can definitely tell you 10-12cm long Centipides are no fun when you see them in the morning.

We tried a few solutions, like painting the brick but eventually the cracks became larger and the Centipedes always found a way to bypass our sealing. Therefore I’d like to know more about caring for my brick wall. I wouldn’t want to lose it, because it looks gorgeous. I just need professional help!

Painting or sealing brick sounds like an easy DIY fix. But this home project has its downsides. Here’s what you need to know before you tackle this problem.

Water seeps in through the mortar

First thing you should consider is a good exterior insulation to prevent water from getting in. Moisture will deteriorate the brick. Simply painting/sealing/staining it from the inside won’t work because it will not allow water to evaporate off since the surface is blocked. Eventually this will cause the paint to chip off and you see yourself in the same spot where you began, with less money in your pocket.

Brick pores, incomplete mortar joints, sills, copings and other gaps will allow water to get in. Find them, seal the exterior and then give time to your brick wall to dry off. Use a hot air cannon if needed (for at least 48 hours) and start the project only when the brick is completely dry.

What products to use and how to prep brick

Normal brick shouldn’t affect the durability of paint because most of them are neutral. However, it’s best to go for an alkaline-resistant primer — the risk of long-term or immediate damage is less likely. For the exterior you should use a porous paint so that the brick can breathe, and a breathable latex would be a great choice.

Regarding brick preps, it’s quite simple if done correctly. Use soap and water to clean it up. Don’t go for acid solutions, they might do more damage than you think (and could result in paint chipping, as well). You’ll need to get rid of efflorescence — that white residue which sometimes appears on brick, wash off dirt and eliminate mold with weed killer. Then seal any cracks you may find. If you decide to paint it up, throw a water repellent before the conditioner and the primer, but make sure you allowed a few days for it to dry off.

If you decide to stain your bricks, our advice is to go for professional help; it’s more expensive but totally worth it. The advantage with the brick stain is that it penetrates the pores of the brick, rather then sitting on the surface like in the case of paint.

Brick Walls: Good or Bad?

Everyone seems to want exposed brick walls! What is your experience with brick walls. Have you had any issues? Or do you just enjoy the beautiful charm it adds to the room and don’t have to deal with any of the above?

Let us know in the comments and cast your vote below.

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Alex Ion

Alex started Decoist in early 2009, as a passion. With time, things have changed and Alex became more and more obsessed with fancy interiors and contemporary designs. Hence why all his attention today goes to running the magazine -- deciding what gets published, ensuring that our fans on Fa[...]

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