Masonry Stain

Masonry stain works the same way wood stain does; by penetrating the surface of the brick, concrete, or stucco, and depositing pigment. Stain can be used to create a unique look; brick stain can be used to match new masonry to old- for example, on a new addition.

Penetrating masonry stains are superior to paint in several ways. Because they soak into the surface, instead of sitting on top, they won’t bubble or peel. They won’t obscure the natural texture of the brick, stucco, or stone. They also provide some degree of protection from the weather, preventing fading and erosion while allowing water vapor to move through the wall without causing damage. Furthermore, stains provide a barrier against airborne chemicals including acid rain.

Acrylic (Water-based) Stains

Acrylic stains are more environmentally friendly than their solvent-based counterparts and clean up with water. Because they contain few or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), they are the best choice when working in poorly ventilated areas, or if allergies or chemical sensitivities are a concern.

Solvent-based Stains

Solvent-based stains provide a more water-resistant seal than do acrylics. They are stronger smelling and cleanup requires the use of mineral spirits or another solvent.

Both acrylic and solvent-based stains are fairly easy to apply, and should yield similar results as long as the surface is prepared correctly.

What to Look For

Natural pigments fade less quickly than do synthetic ones. Look for a UV-resistant product if the stain will be used outdoors in a sunny area. This will reduce the need for frequent touch-ups.

Stains that contain silicone are incompatible with many other products. Use them only on previously unfinished surfaces, unless the label specifies otherwise.

Read the label to determine how moisture-resistant each product is. On an exterior wall, it’s important for water vapors to be able to move through the masonry. In the winter, humid interior air will dry to travel outdoors, where it’s typically drier. If the barrier to the outside is completely waterproof, condensation between the masonry and the sealer can cause the stucco or brick to deteriorate.

Indoors (in a damp basement for example), a watertight surface is necessary to avoid damaged possessions and mildew problems. Moisture from the damp soil will move toward the drier indoor space, creating condensation. Choose a combination waterproofer/stain, or seal the surface with a separate waterproofing medium before staining.

The label will also say which surfaces the stain can be used on. Most are formulated for use on horizontal surfaces. For walls, look for “for use on vertical surfaces” on the label.

What to Expect from a Masonry Stain

Stains don’t have the covering power paints do. Damaged or discolored surfaces can’t be covered up with stain. There will also be some variation in color, depending on the surface texture and the original color of the material being stained. Stained surfaces look much more organic and natural than painted ones.

Stained surfaces also require a fair amount of maintenance. In an area that receives equal amounts of sun and shade, your project will probably need restaining every five years or so. Masonry exposed to direct sunlight most of the time will fade faster, although using a high quality, UV resistant stain can help prevent this to some extent.

Masonry stains are an easy, effective, and relatively cheap way to beautify paths, patios, and retaining walls. If your budget doesn’t allow a complete revamp, you can still freshen up the space with a coat of stain.

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  1. Garry Bryan
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I have a lake house that has some older (1960’s) brick on the front of the house that is a combination of red, dark charcoal, and ugly white bricks. We want to lighten up the whole wall using stain if possible. What product would you recommend?
    Thank you
    Garry Bryan

    • Posted June 23, 2017 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      Staining will be somewhat difficult when compared to paint or a solid color. Behr has a nice concrete dye and semi-transparent masonry stain. Both will work but lightening dark bricks won’t happen with just a semi-transparent stain. After staining consider sealing the wall with a clear masonry sealer to protect the new stain.

  2. watsup
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I want to stain new never sealed honed quartzite. It is a a light blue/grey to silver.

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      A masonry or concrete stain should work but some testing is needed to get the proper color, effect and penetration right. Test on a spare piece.

  3. John
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I have 30 linear feet of red 6x8x16 block wall, 1950’s vintage, in good shape, that we cannot remove, it’s a short retaining wall. We have white vinyl adjoining the block wall, and we will be adding 20″ top of white vinyl to the block wall. We want to end up with a two tone brown finish, stain if possible, stucco if I have to. If we stain, what would be the sequence of events? Can we use tape to section off the block to separate the colors?

    • Posted September 17, 2017 at 4:49 am | Permalink

      Staining is straightforward; clean to remove any dirt or other contamination, allow to dry and do any repairs needed then apply the stain. If you want to 2-tone the wall then work from the top down, mask off the lower part with plastic. The stain will still bleed under the tape but with careful brush work this can be minimized. A solid stain would be th easiest to use, similar to paint and will cover well giving good straight lines.

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