BRICK STAINING 101: The complete guide by Painters in Austin

Brick Staining Vs. Painting: the better of the two

If you are ready to change the color of your brick fireplace or home exterior, learning how to stain brick may be on your to-do list. It’s important to understand brick staining versus painting to achieve the desired results and to ensure you have the proper tools and materials to get the job done right. We at painters in Austin are here to help walk you through this process! Keep reading for tips regarding how to stain brick and how to determine if staining is the right choice for your home.

First things first, you’ll need to determine which type of stain is right for your brick-staining project and then gather the necessary tools and materials before you begin. Most hardware stores will allow you to test stain samples so you can experiment and mix products to get the right shade.

There are two primary types of brick stain from which to choose:


  1. Water-based brick stain, which is what we recommend for most projects. These stains are easy to apply, prevent water build-up, and allow for breathability of the brick.
  2. Stains premixed with sealant. This stain type creates a coat that is watertight on the bricks, but this can actually promote water damage over time. We only recommend this stain type for small areas or for bricks that are damaged and porous. Adding a sealant will create a vapor barrier, trapping water into the bricks. When it freezes, cracking can occur if the water can’t evaporate first. Using this in small areas or with old brick that might already breath is a good idea.

Other materials you’ll need include:

  • Paintbrush
  • Rags and drop cloths
  • Painter’s tape
  • Soft brush
  • Hose
  • Power washer

After gathering your desired stain product and materials, follow these steps for how to stain brick on your fireplace or home exterior:

  1. Clean the brick and determine whether you need to remove any existing sealant first: Throw a cup of water onto the brick’s surface. If it beads up and runs off, you’ll need to wash away sealant before you can stain the brick. You can attempt to remove sealant by applying lacquer thinner, letting it sit for ten minutes, and then washing away with a hose or power washer if outside. Simply rinse away with water and a cloth if inside. Even if there is not any sealant present on the brick, you need to wash the area from the top down with a mild detergent and water.
  2. Protect yourself and the area: Put down drop cloths and wear protective clothing and safety glasses before beginning the staining process. Use painter’s tape to seal off any areas you do not intend to stain.
  3. Carefully follow the instructions on the stain product container to mix the stain. If you are mixing stain colors, measure carefully and record the amounts, so you can keep making the same consistent color.
  4. Apply the stain: Run the brush in a single, smooth motion along each brick. For brick surfaces with no material between the bricks, brush in overlapping strokes to cover each surface twice. Touch up as you go with the brush’s corner. For consistent color, stir the stain each time you dip the brush. Brush the stain on the bricks in a scattered pattern, rather than staining all the bricks in a row. This helps to keep the stain job looking as natural as possible.
  5. Clean up mistakes and drips right away: Don’t allow drips to dry. Instead, wipe them away immediately with a damp rag.
  6. Allow the stain to dry completely: The time it requires to dry will depend on the humidity level, temperature, and air flow in the area.

Brick Staining vs Painting: Should You Stain or Paint Exterior Brick?

While the steps for staining brick are straightforward, you may be wondering if painting is a better option for your home’s brick exterior. If during the first step above, you discover you cannot remove the sealant prior to applying stain, painting the brick may be your only option. A brick surface that will not release the sealant simply will not absorb a stain.

  • Painting brick requires maintenance. Staining is permanent.

The day you paint your brick is the day that paint degradation and maintenance begins. Not what you expected, right? According to the Brick Industry Association, you should expect to paint your brick every 3-5 years. This is mainly due to common adhesion failures associated to painting brick, like efflorescence.

Efflorescence occurs when soluble salt deposits migrate to the surface during the evaporation of water. These stubborn white deposits essentially sit under the coat of paint, causing the paint to eventually lift and peel. As opposed to covering the surface like a paint, a brick stain is absorbed by the brick and ultimately acts like a dye. Silicate minerals travel deep into the masonry and form a chemical bond with the brick (which we’ll talk about later), tinting the brick for a permanent color transformation that doesn’t require any maintenance.

  • Painting brick traps moisture. Staining lets the brick breathe.

As a porous surface, brick must be able to breathe (painting 101 folks). Painting brick saturates the brick’s pores with paint, preventing the brick from effectively releasing water and moisture. Since the moisture cannot evaporate, it stays trapped within the surface and results in blistering and chipping.

As more water can potentially enter the brick through these cracks and chips, more water stays trapped within the surface and can lead to water damage over time. Our brick stain is formulated with silicate minerals and maintains the brick’s physical properties intact, as if it were practically untreated, allowing it to successfully release water and moisture. When brick can properly perform its job of releasing moisture, you’re left with a superior, long-lasting finish without unsightly blistering, chipping and peeling.

  • Painting brick creates a film over the brick. Staining forms a chemical bond with it.

As previously mentioned, painting covers and coats the brick in a non-breathable film. On the other hand, our brick stain forms a chemical bond with the masonry and actually becomes a component of the brick itself due to a process of petrification. As opposed to a surface treatment, the stain penetrates deep into the brick and once dry, forms a durable bond with the masonry to permanently lock in color. The result is a permanent finish that looks just like brand-new brick.

  • Painting brick results in flat finish. Staining keeps its natural look intact.

Painting completely fills the nooks and crannies of the brick. As paint simply sits on the surface, it creates a noticeably painted, thick, flat finish which causes the brick to lose its natural look and feel. The opaque, slightly translucent finish of our stain highlights and enhances the brick’s natural texture. If you touch the brick after our stain has dried, you’ll notice that you’ll feel brick and not paint. Available in a variety of different colors, you can lighten, darken or completely change the color of your brick to refresh and modernize the look of your home.


It looks like we have a clear winner when it comes to the battle of painting vs. staining brick! Staining brick is a permanent solution that not only looks more natural, but also allows the brick to do the one thing it’s meant to do: breathe! Not only will staining your exterior brick give your home an instant facelift, it doesn’t require any maintenance like painting. Brick is one of the most durable siding options available, which is why it’s also one of the most expensive to replace. If your brick is in good condition, then you can save on the cost of completely replacing your masonry by staining it! Prior to staining your brick, a water test must be done to ensure the brick can absorb the stain.

Call Painters at Austin today to get started with finding the perfect paint finish for the exterior and interior of your home. Get a free quote for any of our services- and sit back to watch the magic happen