I did it! After a year of wanting to whitewash the fireplace wall, I finally just jumped in and did it. The results are rather exciting; if I do say so myself.
Creating an inviting home has kinda become my goal lately. After a year in the house, I want to be able to come home and feel like we can all relax. I want to be proud of my house and all that I’ve done, not feel like there is still so much to do.
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But there still is so much to do! I recently shared a to-do list consisting of a few projects that would help me get there. Don’t get me wrong. The house is pretty inviting already. Everyone that has seen the progress since we purchased it can’t believe how far we’ve come.
The transformation so far has been nothing short of amazing, but there is still a lot left on my to-do list. I find giving myself a list of a few items I want to complete at a time helps me stay focused. I feel like I’m accomplishing more this way.
Pinterest is full of how-tos for whitewashing bricks. I checked out several of the and then just started! As usual, I hit my favorite Benjamin Moore dealer, they are always great on advice. I knew I would be watering down the paint, so I went with the inexpensive Super Hide in whatever white color it is before they add any pigment to it.
Drop cloths down and the space cleared, I got to work mixing paint. It’s always easier to add paint than it is to remove it. Using an empty plastic bucket, I mixed 1/3 paint with 2/3 water. The paint stir stayed in my bucket, every few minutes of working, I stirred again as the paint and water definitely separated.
Using my noggin
Investing in good brushes and caring for them is key to a great paint job. That being said, I spent $3.00 on a pair of chip brushes, the cheapest I could find! This turned out to be a great decision. Brick is rough and porous. Chip brushes are cheap and therefore not meant to last long, but the roughness of the brick would have destroyed a good brush. Over the course of the whole wall, well over 100 square feet, I did use two brushes. Bonus, I didn’t have to clean them, I just threw them out when I was done!
O-Man sat back and watched the progress for a while. He informed me it was a bit like magic… I’d run my brush over the bricks and it would just look wet, no color change. On the second pass, the white started to appear. Ultimately he decided it was backward magic; kinda like when a fog begins to appear on the stage and the magician disappears. Or like when you heat a paper and the ink begins to appear… someone has been watching a lot of magic trick videos on you-tube!
Black grout is not my idea of a part of a great brick wall, especially not against bright, red brick. Alas, this was popular in the early 1970s when our house was built. Starting with the grout, I made two passes with the paint, brushing and dabbing it in as I went.
Three to five rows of five or so bricks working both horizontally and vertically seemed to be a good working space. Drips down the face of the brick worked in my favor. With the floors protected, drips and runs just did their thing to add character to the brick (I knew I did NOT want every brick to look the same).
Gray grout and white drips down the red brick, were already a huge improvement. Now to soften the red. The full wall of brick is never going to be visible. Starting at the bottom of the wall (I should mention, I started the grout here too, but there wasn’t much trial and error) I tested a few “techniques.”
Character, not identical bricks, that’s what I’m going for.
A few rows in and I had a system that provided me with the results I was going for! I worked two passes of the brush across each row (about 5 bricks). First from the left, then from the right; reversing this on the next row. Simply brushing the paint on and watching it absorb. Zig-zagging up the wall let the paint absorb at different rates, resulting in a nice variation.
Increasing the Details
Once all the bricks in my section had 2 coats in the grout and 2 passes on the face, I stepped back and looked at the bricks as a whole. Drips occasionally needed to be softened or blended in.
Flipping the brush and pouncing straight on the brick worked the paint into the nooks and crannies a bit more. Some bricks really drank up the water and I wanted to add some spots where the white was a bit heavier. For those areas, I first dipped my brush into the original paint can, undiluted. But, I didn’t use straight paint. Swirling the brush in my watered down paint bucket, I let the brush take on as much water as it would hold.
This technique, if you can call it that, really gave variation to the amount of paint and to the bricks overall.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to remove the paint. It’s for this reason I used 1:2 ratio instead of a 1:1 paint and water. However, I did have an area that looked like a straight line with light on one side and dark on the other. I did use the above technique to soften it a bit; blend the bricks a bit more.
The Big Picture
Halfway through the project, I started to wonder if I was doing it right!
Guess what… there really is no right or wrong way to whitewash brick. It’s really a matter of preference as to how much coverage you like.
Take a break, step back and look at the space as a whole. Consult inspirational pictures or run to your neighbor’s house to see how her brick looks. Now get back to work!
Yep, I panicked. Reminding myself that I could always paint the brick solid white helped. And if that didn’t work re-facing the wall could always be added to the project list!
Ultimately, I absolutely love the final results. Over 100 square feet of red brick can be a bit harsh, but now that it’s toned down, I don’t think I’d want the wall any other way. Eclectic is the best description of my style. Mixing a variety of elements from various styles always appeals to me. Softened brick, original to the house makes it perfect to me.
Remember, all brick is different, and every single one is going to absorb the watered down paint differently. Plus, they all age differently; some of mine have much rounder corners and look more worn than others, even before I took the paint brush to them. If you want a whitewashed look, go for it. I only wish I’d done this a year ago!