Episode #65: Painting Exterior Brick

We recently painted two homes white in 2020, so we thought it would be a good time to do an episode all about painting exterior brick.

-Here’s a link to Simple Green, which you can use to scrub your exterior brick if it ever gets dirty.

-Perceived colors vs. compared colors. When you are choosing a paint color, it’s important to see it in the context and lighting you are using it in, not just against other paint colors. We explain how we used a soft beige with a tint of green to achieve what looks like “just white paint” to the naked eye.

-We talk about how painting exterior brick is different regionally. Do people do it where you live?

We loved this home. In addition to paint, we removed the storm door and replaced the lighting.

This is the home where we didn’t live very long (Covid pivot). The exterior paint was a huge upgrade, and we believe a reason the home sold so quickly.

This is our current home. I would post a more pulled back shot for you, but we have a lot of bad landscaping that needs to be updated and obstructs the views. Painting it made it immediately feel cleaner, brighter and more coherent. It’s a 1990s home that has some design flaws, especially the windows, and the white paint really helped to minimize those flaws. Eventually, we may decide to address the exterior further, but for now we are very happy with it!

Huge thanks to Leahlani for sponsoring this week’s episode! If you haven’t seen their holiday kits, you need to take a look— they’re amazing!


Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast this week, we’re talking all about painted exterior brick. I’ve learned so much from painting three houses in a row. And this last time we did things a little bit differently and I learned even more. I know the painting brick can be controversial, but we’re passionate about how much it can improve a home, like my nineteen nineties half brick, half stucco home. The difference is night and day. It’s magical. We’re also answering a listener question about wedding registry must-haves. This week’s episode sponsored by Leahlani. We’ll chat more about them later in the episode. All right, so let’s talk about painted brick. This is very controversial. Like, you know, the comments get heated. It’s like funny to me that it’s even controversial.

Emma: They do, people care a lot about painting brick and they care a lot about how you store and display your books.

Elsie: (laughs)

Emma: These are some controversial topics in our universe. OK, first off, how many times have you painted the exterior brick of a home?

Elsie: Not one, not two, but three times. All right. So first of all, about five years ago, we painted our first home when we moved to Nashville and we painted about a year after we moved in. And so we lived there for like four years with the brick painted — no wear and tear except for the front porch where we step down, where we walk on it. And it’s like also rains on and a little bit different. That we would touch up every year. But the rest of the brick, no wear and tear whatsoever. And also like painting a floor is very different from painting a wall. We all know that. This is obvious.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: And then our last home, so you know that we famously moved into a house and moved out four months later. So we painted that home.

Emma: It was a flip!

Elsie: Yeah, it was it was an unintentional flip. As soon as we realized that we needed and wanted to sell it quickly, I scheduled my local painter to come paint it. And he came the next week and painted it and he did a great job. It was very quick.

Emma: It looked awesome.

Elsie: It made it sell faster. But we’ll talk more about that later in the episode. Like, whether or not it adds value is definitely like a big question. And then our current home, where we just moved to, we had it painted a couple weeks ago and we used a new material that we’ve never used before, Romabio paint. And it is a lime-based paint. So it’s natural. It’s nontoxic. It’s not actually paint, but it’s like painting brick with brick is how they say it. So it can breathe. Like if you feel it, it still feels like brick. There’s no gloss to it all. There’s no sheen to it all. It’s perfectly matte. And it’s said to age really well over time. And we just thought it was cool that it was environmentally friendly and lasts a little bit longer. So…

Emma: Yeah, I also like that you’ve kind of tried a bunch of different options. So you can I mean, I just feel like that lends to your experience with painting Brick. So if people are interested, it’s like, oh well, should I use this type or this type or, you know, what’s the most affordable way to go about it or whatever it is.

Elsie: For sure.

Emma: So on that note, let’s get into some common things that people like to ask. Are your neighbors OK with it? You’re in a little bit of a cul de sac. So your neighbors are fairly close, not like right up against your house, but you can definitely see their houses from your house. And yours is the one white one. Everyone else has unpainted brick.

Elsie: So every where we’ve lived out of these three houses, it’s been mostly brick homes and our home kind of stood out once it was white. It was never the only like especially where we live now. There’s quite a few brick homes in the subdivision, but not right next to ours.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: So I think that it does stand out. But, yeah, one of our neighbors ran right over the next day after we did it and said to Jeremy that they had always nicknamed our house, the institutional looking house. And now it looks way better, which is so funny.

Emma: That’s a really nice, neighborly…

Elsie: It was a really nice thing to say. And we also like, yeah, we wanted to make sure that they liked it. So it felt good to know that, like they were cool with it. Our house is a little bit tucked back, so I didn’t feel like — it doesn’t really like show like you have to be right up next to it to it to see it. It’s not a house you would like just drive by when you were like out on a drive, let’s put it that way.

Emma: No, it’s kind of tucked away in the little cul de sac. But I also, just my own perspective. Even if I have a neighbor who paints their house exterior, something that maybe I wouldn’t have chosen, I always just love seeing when people are taking care of their homes. I feel like most neighbors feel that way. Of course, you want to check if you have an HOA and they have rules, or you have neighborhood rules and you’re not allowed to paint certain colors or whatever, of course, check into that. That’s very important because I think your neighbors might care on that one. But other than that I really think just like when you have neighbors who are taking care of their house, they mow their lawn and they take care of the landscaping, they don’t let things become, you know, kind of broken or in disrepair, even if they painted a color that isn’t my choice, which I love white, but if I didn’t, I would still feel like, well, at least they’re, you know, spending money on their home and upkeeping it and like that’s going to make the neighborhood a nice place overall, just that people care and are putting love and money into their property. So, that’s my two cents.

Elsie: I completely agree and I also think it’s a very regional thing like where we come from in Missouri, it’s not very common to paint a brick house. It’s like a little bit unusual. But here in the Nashville area, it’s very common and you kind of see it like on every block.

Emma: Yeah, it’s yeah.

Elsie: So it’s…and painting a house white is definitely the most common color to paint brick. So I don’t feel in that way, I feel like everyone’s like, oh that’s fine.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: OK, next common question, does it damage the brick.

Elsie: OK, so this is like a big part of the debate is that people will say that it’s damaging to brick and that it devalues your home. And I’ve talked to — so we’ve worked with three different professional painters in a row. I’ve talked to all of them about this at length and they just strongly disagree. So this is but definitely with this Robabio I feel like I’m saying it wrong. Romabio. I think that’s how you say it.

Emma: We’ll definitely link it in the shows.

Elsie: Definitely with this material, the lime based material, it’s a natural material. It’s a big part of the Earth’s makeup. (laughs) It’s sustainable. It breathes exactly the same as brick could breathe before. It’s not like blocking the breathability whatsoever. And it really shouldn’t peel off because it’s becoming a part — it’s like painting brick with brick. So, yeah, I definitely don’t think it’s a concern for devaluing your home or I mean, I’m sure that someone can find a home that was painted the wrong way, that where it’s peeling off and it looks bad.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: But that hasn’t been our experience at all. Mm hmm.

Emma: No, that makes sense. Can you tell us a little bit what the maintenance is like? Do you have to especially because you always choose white, so do you have to power wash it once a year, twice a year, every month? Like what are we talking here?

Elsie: So I will say after our last home, we did a lot of power washing on that home. But actually it was mostly on we did these like white flower beds along the front. And like, maybe I shouldn’t have done white, like, right against the dirt. That was the most thing we power washed. And that wasn’t even really the brick. So I think that the way you choose to landscape will either, like, hide dirt or make it show more. So choose a way that, you know, is generous…

Emma: It will hide…

Elsie: Right. And that’s definitely something I learned from our last house. Lance said that if you’re going to power wash this, maybe you just do it lightly. You, like he he was not like powerwash it constantly at all.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: And he said you can also use the product simple green, which I haven’t used that. But he said it’s like kind of a natural cleaner. And he said if there’s anything like really dirty, you can definitely use that and it’ll come right off. So good to know. Yes, but it has a 20 year warranty. It’s not supposed to chip or fade or peel. So…

Emma: So if it did in these twenty years, you can call what, the manufacturer or your painter?

Elsie: I mean, I guess like…

Emma: Twenty years is a long time.

Elsie: I mean, who really cares about getting free paint? I think it’s more of just an assurance to you that, like when you do this, that you’re not going to have to, like, redo it again in five years because a lot of people worry about, yeah, that’s not really happening. So even with, like, latex paint, that’s not happening.

Emma: So, OK, can you tell us a little bit why you always choose white? Have you ever considered another color?

Elsie: (gasps) Ok, so…

Emma: We know Nova said to paint the house pink, you need to give other colors a try.

Elsie: Nova, yeah, Nova has been like kind of trolling me lately. She’s been saying like you always pick what you always do, what you need to give the other colors a chance, which I think a lot of our listeners are like, (clapping) oh, Nova! I agree with you right now. Yeah, she told us we should paint the exterior pink and orange. That was her choice.

Emma: That would have been fun.

Elsie: Which we did let her pick the front door color, which is pink. So to be fair, she does get to pick some things. And we have been thinking about adding some kind of fun accent colors in the back part of the house, like around the pool area.

Emma: Yeah, like umbrellas and things like that…

Elsie: Umbrellas, canopies. Maybe there’s like a part where we have like a little balcony fence that’s black and we’ve been thinking or rail sorry, we’ve been thinking like, should we just paint that white so it’s just invisible or should we paint it like a like a light pink or like something a little more fun?

Emma: That could be fun. Little accent.

Elsie: So yeah. Anyway, I definitely always pick white because of the area we’re in. I think that it’s — I think it’s common sense for resale and for just being kind towards your neighbors and just being like a mature adult, not to paint your house like totally, totally different from, like, what the neighborhood calls for, you know, I mean, or like staying with the neighborhood vibe. So I’m doing it in my own Elsie way. But I’m also like being a part of the neighborhood, which I think is good. I think it’s like common sense.

Emma: Well actually you explained to me the how the color of your current house, it isn’t actually white. It’s actually kind of a beige color, like a little bit green, really.

Elsie: It’s true. I yeah. I’m going to talk about…

Emma: Oh am I skipping ahead? Sorry.

Elsie: It’s OK. So if I lived in Charleston I would 100 percent paint my house pink or New Orleans or you know, there’s other cities where that makes sense. And I love those cities. But Nashville is not one of those cities. There’s not even really historic homes that are painted zany here, like once in a blue moon, you’ll see one that’s painted like green or something. But yeah, like I felt like our color choices for our area are a little more traditional. And I think black houses look so cool, especially like the 80s, like jaggedy looking cabin houses. Those are very cool, painted black, but definitely not our house style. And also our house is like, it’s very large and 90s and kind of awkwardly shaped. So white was definitely the choice for that. But yeah, I’m not against the other paint colors. I think it’s so cute like if you live in a quirky, historic district and you can choose like a fun color for your house.

Emma: Yeah. Go for it.

Elsie: Send me a picture because that’s so inspiring and cool. Let’s stop right there and take a quick break for this week’s sponsor.

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Emma: Ok, what is the best time of year to paint? Because here in Nashville you have all four seasons. So I bet you partially painted so soon after moving in because you can’t be doing it right after Christmas because too cold.

Elsie: It’s true. So there’s basically — in our area with four seasons, there’s basically two times of year that are best to paint and it’s spring and fall because you want to be between, what is it, between 50 and 90 degrees. So not super cold, not super hot. Our first house, I think we actually painted it more in the summer and they had to come every day at like five am to get it cool enough. You know? And I think also just consideration for the painters, too, because it’s a lot of time being outdoors.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: But, yeah, I think moderate temperature, like if you live in L.A., you can probably do it year round. But for us, it’s like spring and fall is good.

Emma: Mm hmm.

Elsie: Yes.

Emma: OK, in your opinion, does painting the exterior of your home add value to your home? Would you say it ad would you say it’s neutral or would you say it takes away? I feel like those are basically the three options.

Elsie: Right. I think that part of it is the market. So in our market, it’s pretty easy to add value to a home by doing cosmetic upgrades. Like the neighborhoods can usually support that. And it depends on the comps in your area. So if you buy a house where there’s other houses in the neighborhood that are 30 percent more than yours, then probably yeah, you know? So for us, yes, I feel like on the last couple of houses that we sold, that the exterior was definitely a part of what made it appealing and what made it have so many showings and sell quickly. And also they sold above asking price. So I think that it did. But I think that that’s debatable. And a lot of people would be like, don’t say that, you know, painting your exterior is definitely not an investment that you can count on a dollar for dollar return. But I think, a strong maybe.

Emma: I will say as someone who’s been pretty addicted to Zillow for about two years now, usually the first picture is the exterior. And when it looks like somebody has done the exterior, I am a lot more likely to click on. The house and look, because I’m like, oh, they’ve probably done at least a little bit on the inside too, or this at least isn’t going to be a total dump where I need to turn on my imagination right away if I’m, you know, wanting to give it a peek.

Elsie: Yeah. I think that for 90s homes, it’s which in our area is like a huge majority of the houses are built in the 80s, 90s, early 2000s. They can become very cookie cutter. So I think it gives you a chance to personalize your home and kind of give it a look, you know, make it feel like it’s stuck in the 90s, which is cool.

Emma: I agree. OK, let’s talk a little bit about choosing a shade of white, because if people just hate white, then you are not going to get this. But if you like white interior or exterior paint, then, you know, there are a lot of different shades. It can slant a little bit pink. It can slant a little bit blue, green, and it makes a big difference. I also think with exterior, if you get a white that — it can be kind of blinding. So, and I feel like your house is the perfect white shade where you’re like this is white, but it’s not blinding like a primer would be or something.

Elsie: Yes, this is really interesting. I love talking about perceived colors versus true colors. It’s so important. So recently, like I showed on Instagram, some different shades of pink I was thinking about for our front door and on some of the shades like compared to a brighter pink, it looked very beige and people were kind of being meanies and being like, that’s not pink. But the thing is, it is! Because if you painted that on a front door and there’s white brick around it, the perceived colors are still pink. It doesn’t have to be like the most bubblegum-y shade. And I think that’s why when you go to the store and you pick the color you think you want and then you put it on your wall, sometimes it ends up not being, and then you have to go back and go back and go back.

Emma: That’s why you should do that test, because…

Elsie: Right.

Emma: …the lighting and the perceived look of it can be very different. Yes.

Elsie: So here’s how to do it for your exterior if you want white. So one of our covid hobbies, and we don’t have many is driving around driving the neighborhoods, looking at houses, looking at like how people landscaped, how people painted and updated, and especially like when we knew we were getting a 90s home. It’s fun to look at what other people have done to update their nineties homes, you know, and a lot of them are like the strong black and white, like a white house with black windows and black shutters. Like that’s a very big trend. So anyway, a lot of the whites can they have a bad vibe and it’s like a little bit blinding. And we learned and then there’s a point where it can also become too beige. In our old neighborhood, there was a beige house and it was just like it looked dingy all the time. But you could tell it wasn’t dirty. And it just is that they picked it a little they picked too much of a beige or like a light gray. It can kind of go a little bit like blue in a weird way. So what we picked, how we picked our color. So we picked Richmond White from Romabio, and it is the color that John and Sherry used from Young House Love. John and Sherry from Young House Love used it on their last home in Richmond, which is like where it gets the name, because I think after they did their house, they just like color matched. And then everyone was like, we want that exact color. So they had to look kind of like make it a real color to make it easier for people.

Emma: Oh, OK.

Elsie: Yeah. So I knew I wanted that color because Jeremy had been to that house in person because he shot a little video for their E course. And so he had seen it and I was like, did it look beige to you or did it look white? He said it looked white. It’s just white Elsie. And I was like, I know it’s not. So I had had that test. And then also our painter Lance was the same painter who did their home. And I was like, does it read as beige or does it read as white? Because I have the swatch in my hands and it looked pretty beige, but when it’s up on the house, it reads as true white. So I think that that’s super, super important. And then Lance pointed out to me that when you put the paint color next to like a like a white piece of notebook paper, like a like, you know, a white piece of printer paper like true true white, it actually looks like it’s like very light green. And he said, this is awesome because it like blends with like the trees and the grass. And it’s just like more of a natural, earthy color that isn’t so jarring.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: So I hope that helps someone. If you’re picking a white for your house, don’t just go with unstinted white, go with something like a little bit warm and a little bit earthy, but not like a full beige, is my opinion.

Emma: That makes sense.

Elsie: Oh, it’s so fun. It’s so exciting. I will put before and after pictures in the show notes too, to show you.

Emma: It looks beautiful. I saw it before it was painted and after and it it looks really, really beautiful so…don’t listen to the haters, they’re wrong. The house looks amazing, it looks way better than it did before, in my opinion, but that’s what I think.

Elsie: Thank you. I mean, whatever feels like home to you and it definitely feels like home to me.

Emma: And I feel like your Halloween decorations stood out more. Your Christmas decorations will stand out more like anything you put on the front porch on the front, like doors. I don’t know. I feel like that stuff matters because as you know, we love festive things. So…

Elsie: It’s true. Halloween porch is like one of my must haves, you know?

Emma: Ok, next up, we have a listener question. It is “I’m getting married soon and I’m working on my wedding registry. My question is, what is the best thing you registered for? And was there anything that you wish you had left off?” Great question. And also huge congrats.

Elsie: Yeah, congratulations. That’s exciting.

Emma: What an exciting season.

Elsie: Ok, so wedding registry, because I’ve been married almost ten years so I could really, like, think back on what things do I still have. And it’s not a lot honestly, you know, because things like break or wear out or like you move and you like go with a new theme or whatever.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: So the things that I feel like really stood the test of time. I know my mom got me a set of pots and pans and I still have that. Still great. And they’re not even like fancy. They’re like the how you say it? Like Giada.

Emma: Yeah. From Target. Her line at Target. Yeah.

Elsie: Yeah. And then. Oh my God. A kitchen aid mixer. You have to put a kitchen aid mixer

Emma: If you want one.

Elsie: My grandma got us ours. I didn’t even use it for like five years but now I use all the time because I learned to make cookies and I think it’s like, you know, it’s a classic and it’s something that you’ll probably always have.

Emma: Yeah. Yeah.

Elsie: I love KitchenAid.

Emma: Yes. And the only thing I would add, one thing I got from my mother in law when I got married, was Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is a massive big cookbook. And I think if you like to cook, I think cookbooks are a great thing to ask for because they’re useful. But it’s also kind of sentimental. And I personally have a huge collection of cookbooks. I don’t really feel bad about having tons of cookbooks.

Elsie: Oh, my God, hell no.

Emma: Yeah. So I feel like it’s a thing that is practical and also sentimental because a lot of the gifts that you get at your wedding, you might you might want that element of it where you remember what your aunt got you. You know, it’s a very special season. So, yeah, cookbooks. There’s an idea. (laughs)

Elsie: OK, I want to add like two more. OK, you know what I wish I had registered for?

Emma: What?

Elsie: A Dyson because I still want like a really good Dyson vacuum or a fancy vacuum cleaner. And also my other most loved kitchen appliance besides the kitchen aid mixer is the Vita mix.

Emma: Oh, OK. I’m into…

Elsie: So maybe you can get lucky and get some of those.

Emma: I like a food processor and I’m into immersion blender because I am a soup person. Yes, but you could also do it in a vitamin X or any kind of a kitchen blender.

Elsie: That’s true. I make soup in my Vitamix.

Emma: Yeah, it really depends what you make and what you need. But yeah, those are a few things. And if all else fails, ask for a bunch of cookbooks. (laughs)

Elsie: Yeah.

Elsie: Congratulations! OK, thank you so much for listening. We are so grateful for the kind words and support this week. If you’ve got a question or a topic request or you just want to chat, you can e-mail us anytime at [email protected] Have a great week!

Emma: Bye!


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