How To: Paint exterior brick to look distressed
By Jeanne Huber,
Q. We recently purchased an older home with brick on the front that’s been painted white. The siding is white also, so it looks somewhat boring. I would like to “age” or “distress” the brick, but I can’t find a painting company that knows how to do it. I don’t want to remove all the paint, just some of it to make it look aged or weathered. Is there a chemical that a Harriet Homeowner such as myself can use, or is this a process that should be done professionally?
A. Because you are a new owner and probably don’t know how long the brick has been painted, or with what type of paint, you might want to leave the paint as-is for a few years and watch what happens. If the paint peels and bits of brick fall off, or spall, it’s a sign that the wrong kind of paint was used, and you might need to have all of the paint stripped to preserve the life of the brick. (If so, hire a company that uses a chemical stripper, not an abrasive.) But if the paint stays intact, you might be able to get the look you want simply by adding paint to some areas to make them look unpainted.
Painting brick is tricky because brick is porous, especially if it’s older brick. Porous brick absorbs water, so you need to give the moisture a way to evaporate. If you cover the brick with paint that blocks moisture, ice crystals may form within the brick in cold weather, causing spalling. A cement-based coating is the safest paint for exterior brick, says Chip Clark, vice president of engineering services for the Brick Industry Association, a trade group. He recommends against all-acrylic house paint for exterior brick.
If you do opt for a faux treatment, you might want to hire someone like Peter Woodworth, owner of the Brick Painters (877-653-4469, www.thebrickpainters.com). He paints bricks one color but details the grout lines with gray paint, resulting in a look that’s quite realistic, especially at a distance. Though based in Georgia, Woodworth does take on jobs in the Washington area.
Or, if faux effects make you cringe, you could follow the Capitol Hill Restoration Society’s advice for brick that’s already been painted (and not spalling): Repaint in the original brick color, using a matte-finish paint. You might need to poke around a bit to find the original brick color, which could be red, brown or tan.
I received a woodcarving that has a large chunk missing from its base. This is a modern sculpture, basically a modified S-shape that forms a large, abstract bird in silhouette. I also have a Dansk teak pepper mill that needs repair. One of the seams where the wood was glued together has opened slightly, and I can’t remove one of the four wood pegs that I’m supposed to take out when I want to add salt to the upper portion or peppercorns to the bottom grinder section. How can I find a repairman who can identify the wood used in the sculptural piece and replace the part that’s missing? And would the same person be able to fix the pepper mill?
For leads on people who can perform a wide range of wood repairs, you might want to contact a store such as Woodcraft. Matt Nauman, director of education for the Woodworkers Club (301-984-9033, www.woodworkersclub.com), which operates out of the Woodcraft store in Rockville, says he often gets calls from people who are looking for woodworkers with specific skills. He passes the leads to instructors or students in the 50 or so classes offered through the club or to skilled woodworkers who use the club’s shop for their own projects.
Because each job is different, Nauman suggests bringing the items that need repair to the shop or sending a picture by e-mail. Then he can tap into his network to find a good person for you to contact.
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