Limewash: Pros and Cons of Popular Brick Exterior Treatments

Limewash: Pros and Cons of Popular Brick Exterior Treatments
Limewash brick exterior

House with limewash brick exterior. Photo courtesy Acme Brick*

Do you have visibly aging brick? Are you considering a new exterior on your brick home, but not sure how to change the color or appearance of your brick?

Although brick is one of the oldest and most stable building materials, it doesn’t always age well.

Bricks that are chipped or worn around the edges aren’t the look everyone is going for. There is also the genuine problem of dated brick facades for many homeowners.

How do you give your house an update that doesn’t cost many thousands of dollars in this situation?

In two previous posts, we weighed the pros and cons of painting your brick exterior. We also introduced another technique for brick walls called German Smear, or mortar wash.

Mortar wash is a permanent treatment that changes the texture of your brick exterior, and it’s affordable and DIY friendly.

However, there are two other options you could use to create a similar look to German smear: limewash and whitewash.

So, today, let’s take a close look at limewash: what it is, how great it is for your bricks, and how easy it is to use.

Limewash is Ancient & Eco-Friendly

Limewash has been around for as long as porous building materials like brick and stone. The ancient Egyptians used it on their pyramids.

Limewash is a thin coating with a consistency similar to paint, but it couldn’t be more different.

For one thing, limewash is natural. It is made out of limestone that has been crushed, burned, and made into a putty with water.

The putty is aged, further thinned, and then mixed with natural pigments if a color other than white is desired.

This type of natural paint is a favorite of Belgians and other Europeans for use on their interior stone walls as it is anti-microbial, improves air quality, and is free of solvents that harm the environment.

Limewash creates a chalky, mottled finish that adds depth and beauty to any wall it is applied to.

Historically, limewash has been used only on porous surfaces, because it doesn’t sit on top of the surface, but sinks in.

However, with the right bonding primer, modern limewash paint can be used on your drywall interior walls.

Limewash is Versatile

Limewash is especially helpful for homeowners who dislike the color of their brick, but not necessarily the texture.

Because it will sink in, it doesn’t change the texture of your brick. This is good news for the brick since they need to breathe, and paint isn’t always the best option.

Limewash helps to protect your bricks and mortar from the elements. It comes in a range of earth-tone colors. However, the range is a bit limited.

Since lime is highly alkaline, the pigments have to be able to resist the high alkali. Grays, browns, and taupes are the normal range of colors for limewash paint.

You can also create an antiqued effect similar to mortar wash using limewash paint, simply by wiping the paint off of select bricks as you work.

Limewash is easy to apply with a large masonry brush, and it’s opaque so you can control the depth of color with the number of layers of paint you choose to apply.

In addition, limewash will fade over time, so it needs to be re-applied, but it won’t chip and flake like paint.

Limewash is Inexpensive & DIY Friendly

Just like its companion mortar wash, limewash is one of the cheapest materials you could find to cover your entire home exterior.

You can mix your own limewash using lime putty from hydrated lime. You can find this at a hardware store for $3-$5 for a 50 lb. bag.

Even if you order a bag online, it is less expensive than a bucket of paint at around $40 for a bag. With this much limewash and some supplies, you could coat an entire 1600 square foot house.

Downsides to Limewash

The limited range of colors is one downside, as is limewash’s opacity if you want the job to be done in one step.

The other downside is that it can be tricky to match the consistency of limewash batch to batch if you are mixing your own. This difference can result in a noticeable line on your wall or house.

The best way to solve this problem is to mix more than you think you will need in a large, sturdy garbage can and save the extra with a tarp, and a lid snapped on tight.

Pros of Limewash on Your Brick Exterior

  • Natural & Eco-friendly
  • Protects your exterior bricks and mortar from the elements
  • Hypoallergenic & air-cleaning on interior bricks & walls
  • Creates a beautiful, antique-looking depth of finish on any surface
  • Sinks into the surface so it doesn’t chip or peel
  • Won’t change the texture of your brick
  • Cheap and easy to apply
  • You can wash it off if you don’t like it

Cons of Limewash on Your Brick Exterior

  • Creates an uneven finish when dry that can rub off on clothing
  • Difficult to control the consistency of appearance
  • Fades over time and has to be re-applied
  • Labor-intensive; needs many coats to be a solid color
  • Won’t change the texture of your brick
  • Dries much lighter than it goes on, challenging to gauge as you apply
  • Comes in a limited range of earth-tones and off white
  • Can’t be applied over painted brick

Bringing it Home

Limewash is one of the oldest and most exciting coatings you can consider for the exterior of your home if you have brick walls you would like to change. It is cost effective and easy to apply and to work with. It can be washed off if you don’t like the effect, and it’s incredibly Eco-friendly.

If you have a house with brick siding that you would like to change, hopefully, this information puts you on the right track toward updating your home the way you’ve always dreamed!


*Photo credit Acme Brick and Romabio. Used with permission.

 

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