Choosing and Using Masonry Paint

Masonry painting tasks often present something of challenge, not least because of the vagaries of the UK weather.  Not only is lasting surface protection against the elements important, but also correct surface preparation and application. Taking some time to choose the right paint and applying it according instructions will save you time and stress, while keeping property looking great.
Masonry paint protects and decorates old buildings
Exterior masonry paint has to stand up to extremes of temperature, moisture and UV rays; it also has to adhere to quite a tricky surface.  We’ve found demand for our masonry paints has soared recently so here is some information to help you choose. Some surfaces won’t take certain paints and there are other issues like breathability to consider. Before deciding to paint outside walls, consider whether you really want to…which  we know, seems a strange thing to say. Yes, if walls are already painted, it isn’t necessarily a huge dilemma, so just read on for our tips and advice. If however, your exterior walls have never been painted, be sure that you really do want to paint them. If you change your mind it’s not always easy to go back to the original surface and can be costly to remove.

What is Masonry Paint For?

Masonry paint is paint/coating designed for application onto surfaces such as brick, concrete, render, rough cast, pebble dash etc. Some are also suitable for wood and metal but all should be formulated to adhere to exterior surfaces and to offer protection against the elements including moisture and UV rays. Masonry is a difficult texture to paint and (as well as moisture and UV rays) is usually exposed to dirt and pollution which is why a tailored masonry paint is needed.

Breathability in Walls

Many masonry paints are described as breathable which means they allow water vapour to escape. Breathability can be an issue with some types of masonry, especially older single skin walls. If a paint is not breathable, moisture cannot be released from the surface and will become trapped, causing associated damp problems as well as making a property feel cold.

Masonry Paint for Decorative Purposes

As well as providing a layer of protection to walls, masonry paint is primarily used for decorative reasons and is great for covering ugly concrete, poor brickwork, unsightly render or a presenting a tidy attractive look to a property. A change of colour or application of a fresh new coat of paint to exterior walls can completely transform a building or a courtyard.
Painted masonry defines different business images
Changing colour offers a fantastic opportunity to restyle business property. So replacing a dull cream with a warm sandstone or silk grey might give a fresher look to holiday cottages, while anthracite grey masonry paint can give a contemporary look to business premises combined with contrasting signage.

Choosing a Masonry Paint

Yes, colour isn’t the only choice to make with masonry paint: Textured? Smooth? Water based? Solvent based?

Smooth or Textured Masonry Paint?

Textured paint is really just a matter of taste. Apart from its ability to cover a really poor surface, a textured finish masonry paint won’t give you any real added benefit. On a particularly uneven surface, textured masonry paint can sometimes be “built up” to try and disguise a surface’s poor condition. Textured surfaces however, may also ‘hold’ water, preventing run off and hindering water resistance, leading to problems from damp (and therefore cold). Textured paint also has the potential to trap dirt compared with a smooth surface and is much harder to clean and paint over in the future.
Customer Photo – smooth finish
Smooth masonry paint is easy to apply with a brush or roller and is usually less arduous to paint over in the future. It tends to stay cleaner because the dirt does not become trapped and is more easily removed by the rain or cleaning. Some smooth masonry paints do have a tendency to show obvious cracks and blemishes. In order to avoid this, choose one that offers a tough, durable film and good opacity and prepare masonry well before applying (see tips below).

Water Based or Solvent Based Masonry Paint – Which is best?

Water based masonry paints generally give good protection against weathering dirt and pollution. So a water based masonry paint (like our Trutex) is the right choice if you are unsure which to choose and if the following conditions can be met:
  1. Your surface is previously painted or in good condition, and
  2. Weather is dry and not too cold, and
  3. Rain is not imminent
If you have an older property with solid brick walls which have issues with damp then advice is usually to choose a water based masonry paint which tends to be more breathable or consider a breathable sealer such as our Pliocem® sealer before applying a topcoat. Some people will tell you that oil based masonry paint can be a little more resistant to dirt which may or may not be the case; solvent borne paints can however, offer superior protection outdoors. If weather conditions are unpredictable and you will be applying the paint in low temperatures or when rain is imminent then a pliolite® (a synthetic rubber resin) based masonry paint such as our solvent borne Pliocem® should definitely be your choice. Because it’s pliolite based it is highly resistant to damp and dries fast, making it ideal for application in wet conditions. We offer two types of masonry paint; water based masonry paint Trutex and Pliocem which is a pliolite™ based, solvent borne masonry paint. As a water based masonry paint, Trutex is high quality and durable with good weather resistance once dry. Water based masonry paint is generally a good choice if you have the luxury of applying your paint in dry weather conditions, or if you sure any rain will hold off for a few days. Pliocem is generally more tolerant to damp/cold weather during application and is quick drying, which is why it is so popular with our customers, especially here in the North West of England where rain is often imminent!

Tips for Applying Masonry Paint

As we always stress here at Palatine Paints, proper preparation and application will make or break a paint job. If your walls have been painted previously and you have spotted rust spots, flaking, peels or mould here are some of the reasons they may have occurred. Rust spots can be caused by gaps or damage in brickwork which has exposed iron fixtures, embedded angle pins etc. Once rust starts, it creeps…rapidly. Treat the rust with a rust remover and/or if necessary use a stain blocker (like Zinsser Bulls Eye 123) to prevent stains coming through again. If paint has flaked or peeled it may be because:
  • Original paint was applied too thinly or insufficient coats were used
  • Incorrect or poor quality paint was used
  • Surface was not adequately prepared when painted
  • The paint (if not Pliocem) was applied during wet or cold conditions
Remove loose flakes with a scraper or wire brush. If the bare substrate is exposed you may need to remove all the paint and start from scratch.

Work out how much paint you need:

This may be teaching “granny to suck eggs” but just in case, here are some tips for calculating how much paint you need. Measure each wall and multiply the height and width – this gives the area for each wall. E.g. A wall measuring 5m x 4m will have an area of 20m² Check the coverage on your chosen paint – usually specified in litres per square metre. E.g Area to be painted is 60m²  → Coverage of paint is 12m² per litre → 60 / 12 = 5 → so you need 5 litres of paint Handy Tips:
  • If you are applying two or three coats you will need to double or treble this figure
  • Include some allowance for varying application conditions
  • If you find it difficult to measure external/high walls then use measurements of the corresponding internal walls and allow extra for ceiling/floor joist areas


  • Repair cracks and defective areas as above and treat any fungal growth
  • Ensure surface is clean, dry free of dust and loose material
  • If needed, seal absorbent surfaces with a coat of masonry sealer – we recommend Palatine Pliocem® Concrete Sealer
  • Stir thoroughly according to the instructions
  • Apply by brush or roller – we recommend a dedicated masonry roller or brush
  • If more than one can of a colour is to be used in the same area, intermix before use
Need advice? Try our online chat or email us via our contact page

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