Our living room needed the most work out of any of our rooms, mostly because it was dark when it should have been bright with its floor to ceiling wall-size window. It didn’t make sense to waste such potential in a room that by most people’s definitions (ours included) was outdated and, for lack of a better word, ugly.
The first thing we did was gray-wash the walls, which was both tedious and an easy task (as in anyone can do it). We had planned to live with that for a while since the room was twice as bright and we had other projects tackle. However, after griping about our dark and now out-of-place fireplace for three days, we decided to whitewash it sooner rather than later.
Of course, that’s not what happened. It sat like that, all sad and friendless like a mismatched island, for months. We had decided to limewash the brick instead of using paint and water because of its durability (it will last decades without needing touched up while white paint needs touched up every few years) and because I simply don’t like the thick, gooey paint-look on brick. Our brick was in good shape and there was no reason to hide that texture and character. I love brick, especially cottage-style brick, which brought me to the idea of using a limewash (or limewash paint as it is sometimes called).
You can make your own lime wash by combining:
5 parts hydrated lime;
1 part table salt;
and water until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter.
This was our plan. It is not what happened. For months, we searched our area for hydrated lime and could not find any. Shipping from an online source was going to cost more than the bag itself (because they’re generally sold at 50lbs), which if we weren’t so stubborn and budget-loving, we may have broken down and bought it eventually.
Instead, I happened upon a limewash paint that purported to be made using an old-school recipe, was sold in quart-size containers, and would be at my house in two days. I cannot verify the authenticity of the recipe, but when it arrived it was the right consistency and color (though limewash can be tinted if you so desire) so I slapped it on my fireplace (after prepping, of course). I figured if it looked terrible then I’d just have wire-brush it off (like removing plaster) and start over. Luckily, it looks exactly as I expected and has held up well so far with no touch-ups(it’s been on there for a year and a half now) even with our two dogs who love to sit on it when they come inside with their wet, dirty paws.
The process, other than the actual mixing of the limewash, is the same. So, whether you do it the way I’d intended or if you use the limewash paint, here’s a quick step-by-step guide.
Things You’ll Need:
– soap, water, & a big sponge
– a vacuum with a brush attachment
– painter’s tape/newspaper
– plastic container
– cup of water
– stir stick
– rough bristle brush
– the limewash (whether made of hydrated lime, water, & salt OR the limewash paint & water)
How to Do It:
1. Clean the brick. First, vacuum up whatever particles of dust you can from between the bricks. Then, use soap and water and go over the whole thing with a sponge. Your brick should be lighter when it dries – if it’s not, you didn’t clean it well enough yet. I did the soap and water twice and then went over it with a rag and the vacuum again until I could touch the bricks without lifting any particles.
2. Tape off the section you’re painting and use dropcloths or newspaper if needed. Limewash soaks into everything, so you don’t want it seeping into your surrounding floor or wall.
3. While wearing a mask, gloves, and long sleeves (especially important if you’re using the hydrated lime and salt) mix the limewash until it is the consistency of pancake batter in a plastic container. For the limewash paint, follow the directions on the container (ours called for more water than I used).
4. Brush the limewash onto the brick, varying it in thickness if you want a less uniform look. The wash will dry about two shades brighter (NOT lighter) than it goes on, so don’t worry when it starts to soak into the brick. Limewash takes about two days to fully cure, but you can get a sense of its color by either doing a test site (recommended by professionals) or using your best judgment (what I did). Basically, if you do one coat (and your brick’s porous structure is average) then you’ll get that weathered cottage look; two coats will get you somewhere between that and goopy paint. Because we’d already gray-washed our walls to show the grain, we thought a slightly more covered look as best and did two coats. You can see the difference between one and two coats in the “During” photo above.
5. If you decide you want a second coat, wait until the first is dry to the touch before applying it. This will give you the best chance of not putting it on too thick as the lime acts like glue on the brick and somewhat seals the pores.
6. If you put the wash on too thick, don’t fret. Go over those sections with a wet rag and a bristle brush until it flakes off to your desired coloring/thickness.
7. Because limewash is not sealed, it will change color if it gets wet before going back to the white. It will also flake off over time if touched roughly. You can choose to seal your brick with a low-lustre concrete and brick sealer, like this one. I have not done this yet but may in the future if it starts to show its wear.
That’s it, easy. This is probably the easiest project I’ve ever done that shows such immediate and big results – even though what should’ve been done in a matter of hours took months.
– M. Ray Hall
P.S. Again, ignore the décor. We’ll get to what the house really looks like eventually.