Having become a world-class expert in painting masonry after covering about 30 sq/m of bare brickwork in two or three coats of emulsion, I have put together my top tips for you, if you are a complete noob at it like I was when I started.
TOP TIP 1: STOP.
Don’t do it. You don’t really need to, and this is going to be an enormous pain in the neck to get right. It’s multiple coats. It’s 4 hour drying times. It’s roller-ruining and brush-eating. It’s impossible to get a perfect finish. You might not like it when it’s done. Save yourself a load of hassle and tell yourself you are happy with the bare brickwork.
TOP TIP 2: Go cheap and cheerful.
Keep the costs down. You don’t need to pay through the nose for the hell you are about to put yourself through. No fancy Dulux or Crown stuff. Masonry paint is overkill, only really for outdoors, and super expensive in comparison. Own label white emulsion please. I went for very cheap, very white emulsion (B&Q’s own, £10 for 10L).
TOP TIP 3: Get wired.
Give the wall a thorough brush down with a wire brush. You’ll knock out any chunks of loose mortar that would otherwise spoil your finish. Also, if you have brickwork that faces off to dampness (earth, the Scottish weather) it’s likely that what are referred to as “salts” will have leeched out of the brick and formed a crusty top surface. Knock this off with the wire brush to get back to the plain brick. If you are professional, competent or both, now is the time you’d do any repairs to the wall that are required. I didn’t, I just cracked on.
TOP TIP 4: Bricks are thirsty.
If you are with me on the emulsion front, dilute the first coat 50:50 with water. It’ll look the pits when it’s painted onto the bricks, but you’ll discover how surprisingly similar to sponges bricks and mortar are. As a result they’ll soak up a lot of paint at first, so make sure you aren’t chucking full-strength at the wall. It’d be expensive, even with cheapo own-name stuff.
TOP TIP 5: Be at one with your drips.
You are going to have drips. No, I don’t care how careful you are, how big your dust sheet is, or how much this sort of thing brings out your OCD, you are going to have drips. Especially at 50:50 dilution. Be at one with them. Let them happen. Just make sure your floor covering will do it’s job and hide them. I’m laying tiles, so my drips will not be seen. As a result I’m almost zen-like when it comes to spots of paint on the floor. I don’t even bother with a dust sheet.
TOP TIP 5: How perfect? How bodged?
It’s a bit obvious, but decide what you’ll be happy with in terms of the finish you want and do absolutely no more work than it takes to attain this. I decided to go for the design language of a McLaren F1 Garage, but as executed by a hapless DIY numpty. So I’m OK with the odd thin spot of paint or bit of missed mortar, as long as you can stand back, squint a bit and it looks semi-professional. The odd imperfection breaks up the white of the walls a bit and adds a little character, at least that’s what I tell myself. You might not have the same standards. In fact if you have taken TOP TIP 1 to heart, you’ll have lovely plain brick and be happy with that. As a general principle it’s good to begin with the finish you want in mind, though, and make sure you stick to that.
TOP TIP 6: Top up.
Once your second (or third) coat is dry, run your eye over the finish and have a 2″ brush ready and loaded to fill in any gaps or thin spots. Refer to TOP TIP 5 for how much of this you want to do.
It’s a slow process but, bitching aside, really worthwhile in the end. I was aiming to make the most of the light in the garage and the white walls have made a huge difference. Now it’s over, it seems like a great idea. Before I started, it seemed like a great idea. It just didn’t when I was in the middle of the grind of actually doing it. Now it’s over, I’m glad I did.
If you have any TOP TIPS for painting masonry, other home maintenance tasks, or for building a Caterham, feel free to share them in the comments below.