Building Tips

How to Make New Brick Look Old

Design: Paul Bates

As much as Henry and I love building new homes, we love the character of older homes as well. It is sometimes hard to achieve the character and older look on a brand new home, but it can be accomplished. One way we are implementing this character is trying to give our exterior brick somewhat of an older look.

We’ve gotten so much inspiration from Paul Bates, who is the master of making new homes look old, as you can see in the picture above.

We have decided to paint the exterior instead of limewashing, so we knew we needed to make sure the brick already had somewhat of an older look before painting. This would allow for a much better paint finish and give it that older feel. There are several methods our brick masons used in order to achieve this look before painting.

It’s All About the Texture

As we knew we would be painting the brick, we went with the cheapest brick we could order. This brick didn’t exactly have the rough texture we wanted, but it did allow us to save some money. The brick also had a uniform shape as apposed to a reclaimed brick or tumbled brick.

This meant that the masons would have to work some magic with the mortar. And more importantly, we had to do a good job of explaining what we had in mind.

Turned out that this concept was new to our masons. It was like asking them to make their work look bad. After we explained it was more like art, it started to click. We showed them some inspirational photos and assured them it would be beautiful in the end. Then they really started to get a feel for it. I think they actually enjoyed the process once they understood what we wanted.

Over Grouted Joints

Mortar joints in brickwork take up a considerable amount of the wall’s surface area and have a significant amount of influence on the wall’s overall appearance. We went with an over grouted joint to give more of a rustic older look.

With this type of joint, the mortar overlaps the face of the brick and widens the joints. This is a messy look that adds lots of character, dimension, and texture. This is actually a process that will be less time consuming for your masons and could even save you a few dollars on labor.

On a typical brick house, a mason would use a trow to make a more defined joint line to accentuate the brick. We did not want any focus on the brick itself considering we will be painting it.

The Art to Messiness

As we were telling our brick masons to go messy with the mortar, we emphasized it was a work of art. Just as brick masons from almost 9,000 years ago found art within their trade, there is a true art in perfecting messy mortar. The perfection is in giving the brick a more unique look and not be defined to normal. Allowing no definition within the joints and even smearing on the face of the brick.

I’m so in love with the way our brick is looking. With all the over grouted joints, messy mortar, and extra details, it is turning out amazing. Who said a new home couldn’t look old?

The Outcome

It is now several months later and I have to say, we are thrilled with the way our brick turned out. On numerous occasions, we have had great comments about our brick and even people thinking we remodeling an older home.

This was a huge compliment to us! I think we achieved our goal of making our brick have the older look it needed. This was for sure the key factor in implementing character to the exterior of a new build.

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  • Reply Lexxie

    so beautiful! would you mind sharing the brick you selected?

    November 12, 2019 at 9:35 pm
  • Reply Brooke

    Hello Lexxie! We have not clue of the name of it. We just told them to get the cheapest brick we could get. We will be painting it White Duck by Sherwin Williams.

    November 12, 2019 at 10:17 pm
  • Reply Brenda

    Wow, the texture on the brick looks great! Do you mind sharing the shingle specifics (brand and color)? We need to replace our roof this spring and are struggling with a color to go with our white house. Thanks!

    April 30, 2020 at 3:59 pm
  • Reply Misti

    Can you make brick look messy on an existing brick house to accomplish this look before painting?

    October 22, 2020 at 8:06 pm
    • Reply Denise S.

      I have the same exact question as you….did she ever get back to you with an answer❓

      July 26, 2021 at 5:13 am
  • Reply Bianca

    Hi! Love the brick! Might you happen to know if this brick is made out of clay or adobe?

    October 26, 2020 at 7:02 pm
  • Reply amber

    this is exactly the information I was looking for! when I tell people that painting modern brick doesn’t have the same look as old brick, they act like I’m crazy haha

    February 22, 2021 at 3:51 pm
  • Reply Dee

    So beautiful! Did you use a queen size brick?

    June 29, 2022 at 4:58 pm
  • Reply Bee

    Do you know what joint size you went with? I said 1/2” for ours and hoping that’s right!!?

    November 1, 2022 at 9:22 pm
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