While brick is commonly known for its durability and low maintenance and is thus used for both interiors and exteriors, you might want to give it a fresh look.
You surely know about painting, but what about staining? It’s a long-lasting solution to dull bricks that need a new color. As long as the brick is structurally sound and the pores unsealed, you can easily stain it.
Learning how to stain brick is simple, you just need to test the stain and check the brick for sealant, clean the surface, mix the stain, apply it, and let it cure.
If you want to know more details about the process and discover the advantages staining has overpainting, keep reading!
What Is Brick Staining?
Brick staining is a technique that involves the application of a product that acts as a dye, keeping the original appearance of the brick, but changing its color. The stain sinks into the brick and becomes a part of it, so the stain can never chip or pull away from it.
The main and only function of brick staining is to add a new color to the brick surface. It does not protect the brick from wear, but you can find brick stain products that contain protective additives.
You can only apply a stain on a brick that’s clean, unsealed, and still fully porous because it needs to be able to stick to the brick surface. So if your brick has been painted or sealed, we’re sorry to tell you that you can’t stain it, unfortunately.
If your brick meets all the requirements, then the next step is determining which type of stain your project requires. There are two main types of brick stains you can choose from:
- Water-based brick stain: This is the option we recommend for most projects, as it’s easy to apply. It provides a breathable coat that prevents water build-up.
- Stain premixed with sealant: This type of stain creates a water-proof seal, and while this can be useful to prevent the buildup of moisture, it can actually be counter-productive over time. We recommend using it for small areas or old bricks that are damaged and have greater breathability.
Once that’s settled, you’ll need to gather some supplies.
What You’re Going to Need
Equipment and Tools
- Clean bucket
- Garden hose
- Paintbrush (about as wide as the brick)
- Stirring stick
- Nylon bristle scrub brush
- Plastic drop cloths
- Mild dish soap
- Brick stain
Personal Protection Equipment
- Waterproof gloves
- Safety goggles
How to Stain Brick
Before you can get started on staining your brick surface, you need to test the brick for sealant and also how the brick reacts to the stain. Testing for sealant is done to confirm that the brick will be able to absorb the stain, whereas testing the stain allows you to see what the final result would look like.
Both are very easy to do. To test for sealant, you just have to splash a cup of water or simply flick a few drops onto the brick. If you notice that the water is being absorbed into the brick, you can safely move on to the next step.
If, on the other hand, you see that the water is beading up and running off, it means that the brick may have a coat of sealant or that it’s of the non-absorbent type. This means that it can’t be stained, but that’s not the end of it. You can remove sealant from exterior brick with a power washer equipped with a wide spray nozzle.
Removing any dirt, dust, and grime build-up from the brick is essential to prepare the surface for proper adhesion and ensure penetration. You’ll need to grab a garden hose, a bucket, a nylon bristle brush, and mild dish soap, and do the following:
- Cover the floor with plastic if you’re working with interior brick, or the plants and garden beds if it’s exterior brick.
- Use a garden hose to saturate the surface with water to prevent the brick from absorbing the cleaning solution.
- Fill a bucket with warm water and add a few squirts of mild dish soap.
- With a nylon bristle brush, clean the brick working from the top down.
- Rinse with clean water.
- Let fully dry for 24 hours.
Now, let’s move on to the last stage of the process.
Here comes the fun part of the project! Put your PPE on and cover the floor from splashes with dry plastic drop cloths, and you’re ready to begin.
- Mix the stain thoroughly with water to dissolve the pigment. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and measure out the amount of water carefully for consistent color.
- Dip the brush in the stain and drain the excess.
- Apply the stain following the technique that bests suits the type of brick surface you’re working on, making sure you apply even coats. Run the brush across the brick in a single smooth motion for brick-and-mortar constructions, or use overlapping strokes for brick pavers and other surfaces.
- Stir the stain each time you dip the brush to mix the pigments again.
- Let the stain cure the amount of time specified in the product’s label. Curing times vary depending on the temperature, humidity levels, and airflow, but it can typically take between a day or two.
Learning how to stain brick is no rocket science, but we have a few extra tips to make the process go even smoother.
If you’re unsure about the proportions, it’s better to start with small amounts of stain. You can easily darken the shade, but lightening a stain once it’s been applied it’s incredibly difficult.
We recommend using a bucket that you don’t mind throwing away afterward. If you don’t have an old bucket, you can use any other kind of container as long as you can easily fit your brush into it.
Painting Brick vs. Staining Brick
Even though the process of staining brick is rather simple, you might wonder why can’t you simply paint the whole surface and be done with it. Wouldn’t that be easier? Well, while they’re both good ways of giving your brick surface a fresh, new look, they work very differently and are typically used for different goals.
The main objective for painting brick is covering all of the surface flaws, and if your brick has been sealed, painting it over might be the only option you have to freshen it up
By coating the entire surface, and even the mortar, you can give your brick a uniform, clean and modern look. Moreover, it adds a layer of protection against wear and the elements.
On the downside, paint requires frequent maintenance because it’s not absorbed into the brick, so it can crack and peel. It also seals up the brick and doesn’t allow it to breathe.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution that doesn’t require much maintenance, brick staining it the one for you. The stain penetrates the porous brick and gives it a thin layer of color, changing its appearance without clogging the pores.
However, you might need to apply several coats of this product to get the desired shade. For this reason, it’s not recommended for damaged brick because it’ll show through the stain.
How Long Does Brick Stain Last?
We’re down to one of the most important questions, especially when you’re weighing the benefits of staining brick overpainting it. As we’ve mentioned before, the stain is a permanent fixture because it becomes part of the brick, rather than simply sticking to the surface.
Because of this, the brick stain can typically last over 20 years, depending on the quality of the product you use as well as the condition of your bricks. With a decent product and a good application technique, you won’t have to worry about your bricks for many years to come.
While painting is a straightforward technique that can help hide damage on the bricks, it’s merely used for coverage purposes. If you’d rather just give your brick a new look that doesn’t require a new coat every few years, staining is the way to go.
Remember to bear in mind that brick staining is not an option if the surface has been painted or sealed before because the product won’t be able to sink into the brick.
Other than that, in five simple steps, you can give your brick surface a makeover!