As we see more conversions of properties such as Victorian warehouses and other functional buildings, the trend for exposed brick has given a completely different perspective on what we expect from our living spaces.
Exposed interior brick brings character, often resonating with people for its connection with the original history of a building. Some may enjoy the ruggedness of brick, and how much texture it adds to an environment, contrasting strongly with smooth surfaces.
While exposed brick lends itself well to rustic furnishing, it also gives an opportunity to experiment with bold and contemporary styles too. There’s the chance of having a unique living space using materials and furnishings you might not have considered before. Whether that’s leaving it natural or painting over interior brick walls, there are many exciting options open to you.
We’re very used to ‘traditional’ furniture, with wooden pieces often being the most desirable when placed among contemporary décor. With exposed brick, this is the opportunity to play with these and other materials.
Iron and steel can work incredibly well against the backdrop of red brick, allowing you to really own that industrial feel instead of playing it down. You don’t have to completely limit the use of wood or wood effects either. Reclaimed wood, such as reused timber, looks fantastic against the characterful nature of brickwork, adding a softness and warmth to metal accents.
After the removal of plaster from interior brick walls, you may find some attractive brickwork that has the potential to feature in a room. However, any brickwork uncovered in this way will most likely be designed for construction, and not treated in the same way as facing bricks. Unless treated, all brickwork is prone to damp and deterioration, even indoors.
With that in mind, ensuring brickwork is properly sealed will improve the lifespan of the brick. A further issue is that bricks and mortar can leave a great deal of dust, so sealing is your best bet.
Using a water sealant on internal brickwork is certainly the best option to ensure it’s protected from continual exposure. Watered-down PVA Building Adhesive will provide a good seal, and create a good base if you choose to add a lick of paint. As both bricks and mortar are porous, they can absorb water easily, and while the risks are reduced being indoors, some environments can be more damp than others. Waterproofing interior brick walls minimises the risk of mould, and helps to keep brickwork easy to clean.
Before painting you will need a primer, which allows the paint to adhere to the surface far better than if directly applied to the brick. A stabilising primer is the best choice, as it’s designed to ‘lock down’ dust and chipping, making the surface workable for painting. When the primer is completely dry (per the primer’s instructions), you can add your first coat.
For preparation, treat it like any other painting job, using drop cloths and masking tape to block off any areas you need to keep paint-free. You can use masonry paint, which is specially formulated to fill fine cracks and add a durable extra layer of protection. Masonry paint is also designed to allow brickwork to ‘breathe’, so is also porous.
As there aren't many colour options for masonry paint, it’s ideal when painting interior brick walls white, and it makes a good basecoat. However, if you’re planning to paint over this coat you will need to choose a paint that is also porous, and is most likely an acrylic/latex blend.
When there’s no brick to uncover from behind plaster, but there’s a desire for an exposed brick feature, this has been disappointing for some. Adding further brick isn’t always advisable as you can really use up a lot of valuable floorspace.
However, you can add a cosmetic fascia, or brick slip, to your wall to give an authentic brickwork effect. These brick veneers can add a rustic touch to even the most modern of homes, tapping into some of that character you see in converted properties.