Diane Dawson, a top real estate agent in Champaign, Illinois, jokes that owning a brick house is like having a bunch of $100 bills plastered to your exterior. Brick is in demand and sells well. In fact, 34% of buyers said brick is their preferred choice for a home exterior. It’s low maintenance, weather-resistant, and environmentally friendly.
Even so, boosting your brick home’s curb appeal can take your home’s appearance from the street to the next level and add to your bottom line at resale. HomeLight’s research shows 76% of agents believe improving curb appeal is the best thing you can do to make your home more appealing. To help you get there, we’ve compiled 8 curb appeal ideas that will give your brick house some extra oomph.
1. Revamp your existing brick
Dawson stresses the importance of getting your brick in great shape before you focus on any other curb features. If you don’t start from a strong baseline, any extra efforts will fall flat. Here are some ideas to give your worn-down brick a makeover.
Repair or replace all damaged bricks
If any of the base bricks are cracked, there could be a variety of issues: moisture is a usual culprit and could be caused by a frequently watered lawn or a leaky roof — like a sponge, brick expands as it absorbs water, and over time, as one wall expands, the others will crack from the pressure.
To determine the issue, it’s best to call in a structural engineer or repair mason to check it out.
Clean and brighten your brick
It sounds like a straightforward thing to do, but many owners forget to simply clean up their brick, thinking they need to spend all their time on staging or landscaping.
Keep in mind, though, not all bricks are made from the same materials. While burnt clay is the most common, concrete is becoming increasingly popular. So make sure you talk to a professional and select the right cleaning solution if you’re opting to use chemicals.
If you want a quick clean that is safe for all types of brick, a water-based power-washing with a pressure washer is a smart option; just make sure to select one with pressure less than 3,000 pounds per inch or you might damage the brick. Be sure to cover all light fixtures and electrical outlets, place a tarp over any adjacent flowers and shrubs, and protect the trim around your windows and doors with some painter’s tape.
Close and lock all windows, then power-wash away! (Note that a pressure washer is strong enough to remove some paint, so if your brick is painted, you might want to clean manually or hire professionals to do the work). After you’ve used the pressure washer, you can take a small brush to spot clean any noticeable bits of grime that remain.
Change the color of your brick
Painting your brick will give it a solid, opaque color of choice. You will, however, have to repaint it every 3-5 years to maintain the color. In addition, it’s an irreversible process: you can paint it again if you wish to change the color, but you can’t get it back to the original brick.
To paint your brick house, you’ll need to:
- Check for any needed repairs — if there are gaps in the joints, you’ll need to fill those in.
- Clean it thoroughly and let it dry for 24 hours. To clean the exterior, you’ll want a pressure washer.
- Apply latex primer, and let it dry for 24 hours.
- Pick your paint. Elastodynamic paint — as the name suggests — is highly elastic, and does a good job filling in cracks. It also stands up against all kinds of weather.
- Paint! Make sure to cover any parts of the house you don’t want painted with tarp or painter’s tape, and cover nearby shrubs as well.
Materials needed: a pressure washer, a cleaning solution specific to your brick, latex primer, elastodynamic paint, painter’s tape, and tarp to cover any areas you don’t wish to paint.
If a painted brick house is yelling with color, whitewashing is more like a whisper — it will tone down the brick’s color and add a translucent layer of color on top.
To whitewash your home, you’ll need to:
- Clean it. Just like with painting, you want the surface of the brick to be free from debris.
- Check for any chipped brick or loose joints, and repair those.
- Remove any old paint on the brick. Your whitewashing will crackle if there are any specks leftover from previous paint jobs. If you’re not sure when the brick was previously painted, and you suspect it could have been a long time ago, you might be dealing with lead paint — which is toxic. Call in a professional in that case.
- If you’re certain there’s no lead in the old paint, once you’ve covered yourself with a mask and goggles, you can use a putty knife or paint scraper to erase the past from your brick.
- Cover any areas you don’t want whitewashed, like plants or window shutters.
- Prepare your whitewash — you should start with a mix of 50% white latex paint with 50% water.
- Paint a small area of the brick to see if the color is what you desire; if not, mix in a little more water (for a lighter effect) or a little more paint (for a more opaque effect).
- Now for the fun part: apply the whitewash! You can use either a brush or a spray bottle. If you are using a brush, work in small sections and keep some paper towels nearby to blot the areas, so you are truly whitewashing, rather than painting.
- If you prefer to use a spray bottle, spray the area of the brick you want whitewashed with water and then wipe the same area with a cotton cloth that has been dipped into the water/paint mixture.
Something to remember: brick is very porous! Even if the whitewash looks dark after application, after the walls have time to dry, it will lighten up.
Materials needed: a cleaning solution specific to your brick, a mask, goggles, putty knife, wire brush, paint scraper, drop cloth, painter’s tape, water, latex paint, a bucket, a brush or a spray bottle, and a cotton cloth or paper towels
Staining it is more permanent than painting, as it acts like a dye. When you paint your brick, you’re layering color on top of it, but with staining, you’re letting the color bond with the brick, allowing the brick to breathe while creating a new color.
To stain your home, you’ll need to:
- Verify your brick absorbs water. This is easy to do: simply splash some water on your brick. If it beads and rolls off, your brick is probably covered in a sealant and cannot be stained. Alternatively, it might be a non-absorbent type of brick; if you suspect that is the case, call in a masonry expert to confirm.
- If the brick has a sealant and you wish to remove it, you may do so by using a lacquer thinner. Be warned that this could cause discoloration to your brick.
- Clean the brick with a gentle pressure washer (less than 3,000 pounds per inch) and mild detergent. Your brick should be completely dry before proceeding to stain — so make sure to check the weather report as well and confirm that rain is not on the horizon!
- Choose your stain. Your hardware store will likely have several options and will let you test with samples before you commit. Look for water-based stains — they’ll allow the brick to breathe better, preventing damage from moisture. This is another good time to check the weather; stains should indicate the optimal temperature for application; you might need to wait for that heatwave to pass.
- When you’re ready to stain, put on gloves, goggles, and make sure to use painter’s tape and tarp to cover up any areas of the house you don’t want to stain.
- Keep a bucket of water handy to clean up any spills.
- Mix the stain in a bucket (one that you won’t need after the project) according to the stain’s specific instructions. It’s difficult to lighten a stain after the fact, so it’s always better to mix the color into a fairer shade — darkening should not be an issue.
- Test a small patch of brick by painting the stain on with a brush. Wait to see how it looks when dry to confirm you want to continue with the color as-is.
- If you like the color, continue to stain the brick. Stain each brick from left-to-right or right-to-left with the brush in one smooth, horizontal motion.
- Paint in a scattered pattern. If you stain the bricks in the same row at the same time, you might get color variations as you move through the stain and the color settles in the bucket. Make sure to swirl the brush in the stain each time, to keep the color mixed.
- As you work, you should be cleaning up any drips immediately with a damp rag.
- Let your stain dry for 24-48 hours.
Materials needed: Water, goggles, gloves, a mild detergent, a pressure washer, a bucket, a paintbrush, brick stain, a rag, painter’s tape, and tarp. You might also need a lacquer thinner if you’re interested to remove sealant from your brick.
Powerwash your driveway and sidewalk
We’ve already mentioned how effective a (gentle) pressure washer can be when it comes to cleaning brick. By using one to clean up any grime and dirt on your driveway and sidewalk, you’ll create a clean, bright canvas for your brick house to shine.
2. Paint your door for some pizzazz
Because brick provides a neutral “base,” you can give your home a lot of personality with a bold paint color on the front door.
When choosing a door hue, take note of any other colors present in your home’s architecture: What color is the roof? What about the shutters? Your door should complement these features, as well.
Here are a few color combination ideas to get you started:
Black door with red brick
This combo is sure to catch the eye, and research shows that homes with black doors often sell above their listing price!
- Try Caviar from Sherwin-Williams
A rich, primary red door with red brick
Red is a bold door color choice, and some cultures believe red to be good luck.
- Try Real Red from Sherwin-Williams
A white, ocean or cool-toned door against whitewashed brick.
A teal door set against whitewashed brick is light and modern, and denotes a calming, beach house look.
- Try Bubble from Sherwin-Williams
A yellow door paired with brown or tan brick.
Yellow is so cheerful and bright — potential buyers will feel instantly welcomed.
- Try Daffodil from Sherwin-Williams
Since your home will have its own style, architecture, and features, it’s important to shop around for color combinations tailored to your home’s unique look. Houzz and Pinterest offer enormous databases of images for you to flip through and look for inspiration. You can also pick up some color cards at your local hardware store.
3. Paint the shutters, too
The color you choose for your door and shutters is considered your home’s accent color, and it’s where your home’s personality shines.
You can either match your shutter color to your door color or select a brighter color for your shutters if you’ve selected a more neutral hue for the door. Timberlane, a Pennsylvania-based company specializing in exterior shutters, recommends these color combinations:
Pair dark red shutters with a white door.
Pair red shutters with a door of the same color.
- Try Positive Red from Sherwin-Williams
For a more colonial look, pair hunter green shutters with a white door.
Go all white — when the window trim and shutters are both white, the window will appear larger.
- Try Pure White from Sherwin-Williams
Stick with classic black — black doors on brick homes remain a popular choice, and that extends to the shutters.
- Try Inkwell from Sherwin-Williams (oftentimes, the window trim will be painted white to offset the intensity of the dark hue)
4. Add a walkway
Given the overall warmth and desirability of brick, why not extend the amount of brick you have and build out a gorgeous walkway?
Brick pavers are classic, elegant, and can emphasize your landscaping as well as your home’s entrance. Consider these design ideas as you plan your new walkway:
- Line the path with bright colorful flowers that complement the colors of your shutters and door:
- If your door is canary-colored, consider climbing yellow roses, like these from Etsy.
- Painted your shutters and door classic black? Green shrubs and trees will enhance the inherent Colonial look of black-on-brick.
- A few red Crocosmias, like these from Jackson & Perkins, in window boxes, will add a lively punch of color around the holidays.
- Speaking of window boxes: they’re an excellent choice to enhance the exterior of your home. Mix white flowers, such as sweet alyssum, with a contrasting green, hanging plant such as variegated ivy — ivy is picturesque against brick, but in a window box, it won’t cause harm to your building.
- Add a pergola to give the walkway unexpected height and allow for climbing vines — a European estate look. Pergolas can also offer shade if you live in a sunnier region.
- For a picturesque Americana look, pair your walkway with a white picket fence to double down on the classic look of your home.
- Play with patterning the brick in different directions for added visual appeal.
5. Go green
Did you know that well-executed landscaping can boost your home’s value by as much as 15%? In our research, we also found that in a side-by-side comparison of homes with landscaping vs. those without, those with were worth 1% to 10% more.
A quick way to amp up your landscaping is to add striking flowers that complement, and don’t overshadow, your freshly-painted door and shutters; this will draw potential buyers’ eyes right up to the entrance of your house, making them feel invited and excited to tour it.
Pete Stinchcomb of Exterra Designs says when he does his first walkthrough with clients, he’ll look to see if any overgrown plants are hiding key elements of the home — such as the door — and make a plan to tame them or remove them. Another way to “open” your planting space is by declustering any small planting beds (typical of most older homes, as many brick homes are) and instead opt for a more spacious and spread out planting scheme.
Another way to draw visitors’ eyes up and toward your home is to play with height; plant lower shrubs near the front of the lawn, place mid-size flora in the middle and save some select accent trees such as dogwood or Japanese maple to place in select areas to highlight your door or any large windows.
6. Be careful with ivy and other climbing plants
As romantic as a brick house wrapped by ivy might look, these types of plants may cause damage to your home, as they can hold moisture against the facade of the building and wreck the mortar between bricks. Consider how much sun exposure your house gets; if there’s enough, the climbing plants won’t retain as much moisture and your brick could be OK — but it’s best to speak to a local landscaper to confirm.
Stinchcomb offered a lovely alternative for ivy: climbing hydrangea. “This varietal provides a nice flat version of the hydrangea flower, which is not harmful to the brick surfacing,” he says.
7. Play with lighting, the jewelry of the house
According to Dawson, lighting is super important, inside and out — in fact, she calls it the “jewelry of the house.” She said that sometimes she’ll take a photo of the house she’s selling in the evening to show that it’s well-lit; this communicates safety and security. With a sought-after brick house to sell, lighting can show off its particular style and design. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- If your entryway is symmetrical, frame the door with sconces.
- Add a hanging fixture in front of the door for an elegant pairing if your entryway/porch has high ceilings (but avoid hanging lights if you’re in an area with a lot of wind).
- Use LED bulbs. Dawson said LED lights are bright and clear without any yellow — this keeps the lighting neutral.
- Consider the style of your home. You can, for instance, try carriage lights for a charming Colonial look, if the rest of the landscaping and architecture lends itself to that.
8. Swap out your old hardware
Replacing old hardware and accessory items — the doorknob, any hinges, the mailbox, and the door numbers for starters — with new ones can make a big difference. Dawson really likes bronze hardware for brick, but look at various colors to make sure you’re selecting ones that complement both your brick color and your accent color on your doors and shutters.
Ask your real estate agent for more ideas
Finally, don’t forget to speak to your agent! If brick homes are prevalent where you live, a top agent will have seen plenty of them and will have a sense of what looks good and better yet, what sells.
Header Image Source: (NicholasLaDuePhoto / ShutterStock)