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Author of the article:Mike Holmes Publishing date: Nov 25, 2021•November 25, 2021•4 minute read•Join the conversation

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I don’t think many people know that you can stain brickwork — both for inside and outside applications. I’m not talking about painting your brick, but actually staining your brickwork. Paint can block brick’s porous nature, and brick needs to breathe and dissipate moisture. These stains are non-toxic, non-VOC, water repellent, UV resistant and mould and algae deterrent and therefore sustainable. In my books, that’s a good thing.

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Staining allows the brick to breathe while giving your exterior and interior vertical brickwork or masonry work, like a fireplace or exposed interior brick wall, new life.

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I’m not going to lie. The process sounds time-consuming, as in some cases, each brick needs to be stained — but the results are definitely worth the labour, and the process is much faster than you would think. It can transform your house, lasting for up to 30 years and increase your curb appeal — all without having to move. We recently did this on a homeowner’s house, and honestly, I was so impressed that I wanted to share my findings with you. Plus, the whole process is simple enough that a DIY homeowner can do the work themselves for brick-by-brick application, especially if they are going to colour both the brick and the mortar joints.

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Unlike acrylic or latex paints, which sit on the brick’s surface and form a film that will trap moisture, mineral-based stains are breathable, bond by crystallization and will never peel. Why? The unique binding ingredient is potassium silicate, which is in any mineral-based product. Potassium silicate is mined from rock, heated at a very high temperature to create a liquid, and then recrystallizes back into a rock when it comes into contact with carbon dioxide. Basically, it becomes part of the brick that is being stained.

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Staining allows you to make subtle changes or more dramatic changes to your brickwork — depending on the finish and thickness, whether it’s semitransparent or opaque. Semitransparent finishes work with your existing brick coloration and allow for subtle colour differences. For example, if you have red, orange, and brown brickwork, and your stain is a grey semitransparent stain, your stained brickwork will vary the colour depth, creating a pale, mid and darker version of the original colours. Almost any colour of stain is available and most pros provide on-site custom colour matching.

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If you decide to go with an opaque colour, your brickwork will be transformed into a completely uniformed opaque finish in that chosen colour. The opaque finish is designed to cover up inconsistencies, like stains or discoloured bricks, and provide a clean, modern look. Stains can be applied using brushes, rollers, or airless sprayers.

What if your brickwork is worn and crumbly? Applying a masonry strengthener can help restore old brick, hardening the surface and adding years to the life of your home.


If your brickwork has been treated, staining your brickwork may not be an option, since the stain needs to be absorbed into the brick. How do you know if your brick has been treated? It’s easy to test — just put water onto the surface of the brick, concrete, etc., that you want to stain. If the water is absorbed, you are good to go.

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If the water pools on the surface, the brick cannot absorb liquid and probably has some sealant. This could cause some challenges and may require removing the sealant using a mild detergent, bristle brush or a power washer. Either way, it’s best to consult with a brick-staining specialist.

It’s also important to note that some bricks may be too porous and will absorb the liquid too quickly, resulting in a chalky residue on the surface. If this happens, your brickwork may require a primer before the staining process can begin.


Warm and dry are the ideal weather conditions for the application process. The outdoor temperature needs to stay above the freezing point for at least three hours for the staining to cure. Ideally, since all the products are water-based, they must be applied when temperatures are above 40 degrees F or 5 degrees C. Stain should not be applied if it is raining or if the brick is damp from recent wet weather.

While the cold is quickly approaching and this might not be suitable for application during the winter months, it’s always good to plan ahead of the spring season and have a plan in place. Doing your research and booking a specialist ahead of time will help ease the process. Many homeowners opt to renovate their homes instead of moving. Consider staining your exterior brick or any other vertical masonry surface for a unique and new look to your house.

Listen to Mike’s Holmes on Homes Podcast on all major streaming platforms.

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