How to Stain Brick to Give Your Walls a DIY Makeover

 Leave a lasting imprint on your brick walls

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated July 12, 2022
One story brick house with big yard
Photo: Ursula Page / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Challenging

Big project; big rewards.

Time to complete

12 hours

It ultimately depends on the size of your house and the condition of the brick.

Cost

$100–$500

Doing the labor yourself goes a long way.

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Water hose
  • Pressure washer
  • Ladder
  • Spray bottle
  • Bucket
  • Safety googles
  • Gloves
  • Drop cloth
  • Wooden mixing stick for paint
  • Paint brushes or paint sprayer

SUPPLIES

  • Brick stain
  • Lacquer thinner or brick sealer stripper
  • Mild detergent
  • Painter’s tape

Classic red-hue brick homes or fireplaces are beautiful to look at, but sometimes you’re just ready to spice it up a bit. Brick staining can change the entire feel of the exterior or interior of your home, allowing you to go for a more traditional or modern style, or even to resemble stone while staying true to the brick’s natural beauty. 

If you’re ready to jump into this transformation, this guide gives you a step-by-step process with tips. Plus, find out how brick staining and painting compare and when you should consider contacting a pro.

  1. Check for Sealant

    Your first step to staining your brick is to check for sealant. If there’s sealant on the brick, the stain won’t adhere properly. You can check the brick for sealant by tossing water on it—if the water is absorbed, it’s sealant-free, but if it rolls off, then there’s a layer of sealant on it. 

    If there’s no sealant, you can move on to the next step. If there is, use a lacquer thinner to remove the sealant. You’ll need to let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping it off. If some sealant remains on your brick, use the same method with a brick sealer stripper. Also, if you’re removing sealant from an exposed brick wall, make sure to properly ventilate the space.

  2. Clean the Bricks

    Handyman using power washer to clean brick wall
    Photo: Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

    When cleaning your brick, use a water hose or pressure washer for exterior brick and a spray bottle for interior brick. Saturate your surface with water, then use a mild detergent to clean any dirt, debris, dust, and mildew. 

    Before moving on to the next step, wait for the brick to dry completely.

  3. Prepare Your Area

    Brick staining is messy, so protect yourself with safety goggles, gloves, and old clothing. Once you’re all set, use painter’s tape and drop cloths to protect the surrounding area from runaway stain. 

  4. Mix the Stain

    The exact instructions you’ll need to follow will be based on the manufacturer’s directions. But since the brick stain is likely to be unevenly distributed in its container, you’ll need to mix it to ensure an even stain when applied. 

    Take some of the brick stain out of the bucket. If the manufacturer requires you to dilute your stain, place the mixed, diluted stain into a separate bucket. 

    Test your mixed stain in an out-of-the-way location to see if the pigment is what you want. If you’re looking for a lighter color, add small amounts of water at a time until you achieve the right stain color. If you want a darker stain, add more of the undiluted stain to the mix.

    Pro Tip: Keep track of your water-to-stain ratio so you have the exact measurements in case you need to recreate the mixture.

  5. Apply the Brick Stain

    Dip a paintbrush into the mixture and glide it across the bucket’s rim to remove as much excess stain as you can. Stain one brick at a time with one stroke. You should be able to stain three to four bricks before you re-dip and start the process again. 

    Stir after each dip so you’re always staining your brick the same color. Another tip to help you create a more aesthetically-pleasing look: stain your brick in a random pattern. If you move horizontally or vertically, it’s likely to create a noticeable row-like finish. 

    If you’re staining exterior brick, use a ladder for out-of-reach areas and work slowly.

    If you have experience using a paint sprayer, you may be able to save some time on this project. A sprayer provided even coverage on the bricks, but be sure to cover and tape off any areas you don’t want to get stain on.

  6. Quickly Clean Drips

    While you always want to remove as much excess stain as you can from the brush, sometimes drips are unavoidable. Don’t stress if it happens; just clean up any drips with a damp cloth quickly. If the stain landed on the mortar and it’s stubbornly not coming off with the cloth, lightly scrape it off using a screwdriver.

  7. Clean the Work Area

    Cleaning up stain that’s had a chance to sit is a time-consuming chore. So, after you’ve finished staining your masonry, wash all the tools you want to keep and reuse, and toss the rest. Depending on the products you used, there might be specific ways to clean them, so make sure to follow the directions on the label. 

  8. Sit Back and Wait

    Wait until it finishes drying to see how your finished product looks. The exact amount of time it’ll take for your brack to finish drying varies based on temperature, humidity levels, and wind conditions, among other factors. If you think you’ll need an additional coating, wait until the first coat is fully dried. 

Brick Staining vs. Painting

Whether you’re interested in brick staining or painting, both can give your brick a new appearance that can dramatically change its current style. But here are a few differences to keep in mind:

  • Brick stain is absorbed into the surface, allowing the brick to breathe and prevent moisture build-up and cracking, while paint sits on top of the masonry like a barrier from external elements. 

  • Brick paint has more color options than stains, allowing for a more customized finish.

  • With proper preparation and application, brick staining can last 15–20 years, depending on the weather and climate. Brick paint will need a touch-up every 3–5 years

  • Although brick staining lasts longer, it requires more labor upfront than its paint counterpart. 

  • Painting brick is an easier DIY project than staining because it usually takes fewer coats to reach the desired color. 

  • Staining brick is more affordable than painting, costing $1.40–$4.20 per sq. ft.   

  • Stain works better for more types of brick than painting 

When to Call a Pro

To benefit from its long lifespan, brick staining requires thorough prep work and application. And if you’re not comfortable committing to this project or have bricks that are impossible to reach on a ladder safely, a brick staining pro near you would be able to help. The average cost homeowners pay a pro to stain brick is $0.70 to $1.90 per square foot.

Questions About Staining Brick

How long does brick stain last?

Once you’ve applied brick stain, it will look its best for about three to five years. After that, the stain may start to fade and could look dingy from weathering, erosion, dirt, and debris.

Is brick stain permanent?

Staining or painting brick isn’t something to do on a whim. Make sure you really want to live with stained brick, because once you apply the stain, it’s permanent. Sure, it will fade over time, but you can’t restore the brick to its natural tones after applying a stain or paint.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.