It's true! I limewashed my brick house for less than $40. I could've done it for even less had the hardware stores in my area carried the hydrated lime, but I digress. Some backstory:
Honk and I got married on New Year's Eve 2020. He is a chef and is off most of the month of January due to how seasonal our area is. We decided this would be a great time to get some big projects completed.
We discussed that the front porch was too small, and we should take the railings off to open it up. The way the sun sets behind the house left patchy spots in the grass in front of the porch, so we decided to build a floating deck. A floating deck is pretty level to the ground and isn't attached to the house/existing porch. I had envisioned the entire thing surrounded with rocks and plants going in the front.
I tell you all of this because this was the tipping point-- picking the rock color. I had wanted to paint this house white as soon as we moved in (it was on my wish-list of future projects). Painting brick is not recommended. It can hold moisture, and I'm sure that's exacerbated x100 in the humid swamp that is Florida.
Photo from the real estate listing before we moved in. The porch was barely wide enough for furniture to be set out here. The photo is a bit deceiving, it's only about 3ft wide in person.
Midway through removing the railing, after the bushes had been taken out.
I am a longtime follower of Young House Love, and they "painted" their brick house with a product called Romabio. From what I've read and researched is that it's basically lime wash. It allows the brick to breathe and ages well.
SO, I sit here and price out Romabio, and it was going to be $$$$. No good for the budget for this project that didn't exist until it was time to pick the rock color.
Then I check brick paint. It was going to be $$$, and a pain to prep and apply. Brick paint exists, so I'm sure it would let the brick breathe more than regular paint, but again, the budget.
Then I miraculously stumbled upon this post from My Chic Obsession (this was all within 15 minutes while Honk was outside building the deck). She and her husband lime washed their brick house for less than $30. I stood up, grabbed my keys, and told Honk I was going to Home Depot and/or Lowe's to find some hydrated lime.
Let me tell you how to make your S.O. mad: start a brand new massive project while you're in the middle of two other massive projects. With no discussion beforehand. Just say "hey, I'm going to the hardware store to find this stuff to paint the entire house white." It works! He was mad AF when I got home. To be fair, I needed to know: if the house was going to be white, I'd want dark gray rocks. If it was going to stay red, I'd want white rocks. And I needed the lime to figure that out.
What I didn't realize is that seemingly hardware stores in the South don't carry hydrated lime. I went to Home Depot, Lowe's, and Ace with no luck (I also called and checked at stores in surrounding cities like Dothan and Tallahassee also with no luck). So I came back home and ordered online. I got mine from Ace Hardware. I ordered two bags, but only used 3/4 of one bag (which is how this all cost less than $40). One 50lb bag is $20, but shipping was around $25 for two bags.
Let's backup just a bit. What is lime wash?
According to Bob Villa, "limewash is made from powdered limestone that has been treated with heat and water to change its chemical composition, resulting in a stable product that provides a durable coating when applied to porous brick. The terms “limewash” and “whitewash” are often used synonymously, but while limewash is a specific type of whitewash, other types of whitewash do not use lime as an ingredient."
Lime wash has been used for centuries to protect buildings from the elements. It's natural and environmentally safe. It won't peel off like paint might because it's actually absorbed into the bricks. The limewash will eventually fade over time (possibly between 3-5 years after applying). The good news is it will just look aged until another layer is applied.
I used info from the links above to create my method.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 50lb bag of hydrated lime (more if your house is larger than mine, which is about 1400 sq ft.)
- Masonry brush (I used the same one for the whole house, ordered from Amazon)
- several foam brushes (like this)
- cup to scoop out the lime
- container to hold the lime wash (mine had a handle, which was convenient for toting it around)
- kitchen whisk
- drop cloth/cardboard
HOW TO MAKE LIMEWASH:
- mix 1:1 ratio of hydrated lime and water in a bucket
- stir together (I used a kitchen whisk)
I only mixed small batches at a time. I think my "scooping" cup was about 12 oz, so I would do 2-3 scoops of lime, plus 2-3 of that cup full of water into my container. Small batches ensured I could use it up and not have any leftover after each day.
Also, the lime will settle in the bucket after a bit, so I would need to mix it up with the whisk again occasionally.
Pressure wash your brick before beginning. The limewash is so liquid-y, it will mix with the dirt on the walls. And you don't want to have a dark spot on your newly white walls, amiright?
Wear gloves! I didn't for the first day, and it's similar to getting concrete on your hands. It dries them out, then your finger tips start peeling. I used garden gloves. It rinses off skin without any issue, but having it dry out my finger tips was annoying. It also washed out of my hair easily, so don't fret if it gets on your head.
This stuff is messy. It's the consistency of milk, so just barely thicker than water. It splatters like crazy. I used a sheet of cardboard underneath me as I worked my way around the house. It still got everywhere, but good news! It pressure washes off easily. I splattered several windows accidentally, and it rinsed right off (even if it had dried on there for several days). It definitely pressure washed off the sidewalk/concrete, but was a bit tougher than getting it off the windows if it had dried.
Here I accidentally tipped the ladder, and the limewash splashed alllll over me.
When the hydrated lime arrived, I did some testing on some brick pieces (we found pieces in the yard during the porch construction). You don't have to do this step, I just wanted to see what it would do on my dark red brick.
I just mixed up a small batch and used a sponge brush to apply on the pieces.
I did one piece with one coat, another with two, and another with three. I have a strong case of project ADD, so I kept adding more layers before letting the first layer dry completely. Don't do this when you're actually doing the outside lol.
It turned out PERFECTLY. I love the thick, matte white look. The bottom one was just one layer, the top was two. It's hard to tell the difference, so I knew I could get away with just doing one coat.
TIPS FOR APPLYING:
- Turn the masonry brush horizontal to the bricks and really PRESS it into the bricks, like you're scrubbing tile. My first brush stroke, I held the brush vertical to the brick and barely pressed in, and it splattered everywhere.
- Tilt the brush down just a bit while brushing, bristle side down. This ensures the limewash won't drip down your arm while you're applying.
- Just dip the brush about halfway into the bucket before applying to the brick. With normal painting, you would want to load up your brush with paint, but not here.
- I used the sponge brush to get around the edges of windows and doors, along with top and bottom of the walls. I think I went through about 4 sponge brushes because the brick would eventually tear them up. I would just blot it onto these areas. Using brush strokes with the sponge brush did not get the lime wash into the brick. This was the most tedious part of the whole project.
- Do not fret when it looks TERRIBLE at first! It thickens up as it dries. It felt like Christmas each morning around here for a while. I'd wake up and run outside to see how it looked, and squealed with joy every time!
See how splotchy it looks above? I had just finished applying, so it was still wet.
Below you can see where the lower part in the back dried so nice and thick. All the heart eyes! I only had to do one coat. Sometimes I'd notice a place that was a little lighter once it dried, so I did a few touch ups along the way.
Another half dry wall. This wall was the easiest because there weren't windows or doors.
- You've got to check the weather for your painting days. I read to not apply when the temp outside dips below 60 degrees. It's also more helpful to lime wash on cloudy days. The sun dries it out too quickly, and you want it to dry slowly. Also, don't lime wash if it's going to rain within two days of applying. Once it's dried onto the brick, it is fine in the rain.
- I started by the front door, but looking back, I wish I would've started on the side of the house, just to get the feel of applying it before doing such an important area.
- It's not recommended, but I lime washed the vinyl over the garage. As of now, it's held up, but some spots have chipped off. We eventually want to replace the vinyl with hardy board or cedar planks. I just wanted a quick fix to cover the off-white vinyl, and the lime wash did just that.
Some before and afters, shall we?
Some questions I get:
How long did it take?
This is tricky to answer. I started this in January, so there were A LOT of days that it dipped below 60 degrees, along with days it rained. Some days I painted for five hours, some days I did only one.
I finished in May (what!), but that's because I had major project ADD and started other projects. I left a tiny section on the outside of the house unpainted for over a month. Eek! It was so rewarding to finally be finished.
If I had to guess, it probably took me between 20-30 hours. I did a lot of work in the afternoon until the sunset, because the sun wasn't directly shining on the brick at that time. I should also note, our house only has brick on three sides (whoever built this house cheaped out at every turn lol), so I didn't have to paint the backside (it's vinyl). I am confident that if it was brick, I still would've only needed one 50lb bag to complete the job.
Wait, did you do the whole thing yourself? By hand??
- YES! Honk said this was my idea, so I could do it since he was going to continue with the other major projects we had on our list (the floating deck and opening the wall in the kitchen). I was TOTALLY fine with this. I could not dig the post holes, nor did I know how to move the electrical in the den, so I gladly took this on.
Was it hard?
- No! Super easy, just mundane. I made sure my speaker was charged so I had some tunes, and that I had a cold Truly in the fridge for after the sun went down.
Could you use a sprayer?
- The link above to the "My Chic Obsession" blog stated they used a sprayer, but had to go back and do a lot of touch ups. I honestly just didn't want to spend the money.
Want to see some porch pictures?! This is my new favorite space!
I come out here everyday and tend to the plants. I'm excited for the jasmine to climb up the columns so there's more greenery in those areas. I got a lot of these potted plants in the sale section of Lowe's. Most have lived, which I am veryyyyy proud of (I am known to kill un-killable plants).
My next project out here is to build a sectional. We got a video projector to use on the white wall, and now we need a comfy place to sit.
I also want to get some bar stools to sit against the wall.
I am loving the privacy wall. It feels like a whole separate room out here. The garage blocks us from the neighbors, and there are trees between us and the newly cleared lot.
My friend Kathy took me to a nursery here in town to help me get these plants for out front. I man-handled them into the ground the afternoon I brought them back. It looked like I had jumped in a pool by the time I was finished (super hot outside), but it was worth it!
I happy to say they are still doing great out here! I can't wait for them to get a little taller. I might add some Hawaiian Thai for some more color (to be determined).
I painted the front and back doors sometime during Covid with my favorite color, mint green. I found this pineapple door knocker at the thrift store a while ago. It wouldn't fit on the nail that was already placed in the door, so I got out my angle grinder to fix that. I love that she's residing out here now!
I also replaced the outdoor lighting. Electrical is super intimidating at first, but I watched several YouTube videos before starting. It ended up being quite easy. I replaced this one by the front door and the ones flanking the garage.
I am just so pleased with how everything turned out! I am loving getting so many projects done. There are several going on inside the house too, so stay tuned!