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Pros and Cons of Exposed Brick Walls

Exposed brick can be attractive, but there are some downsides to keep in mind.

[Updated: Feb 04, 2021 ] Apr 15, 2020 by Matt Frankel, CFP
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Exposed brick interior walls are one of the most popular home design trends right now. If you have brick walls under your drywall or plaster or are considering incorporating exposed brick into a new-construction home, it's important to be aware that this style choice has pros and cons, just like any other element of home design.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the pros and cons of exposed brick walls to help you make the best choice for your own living situation.

Why exposed brick walls can be a smart idea

Exposed brick can be a nice idea for a few good reasons:

They're attractive

Exposed brick or block walls can be extremely attractive and can make an otherwise boring space look warm and inviting, not to mention unique, particularly in your living room or other frequently used parts of the house. This is especially true in older properties, as exposing brick that's been hidden by drywall can really bring out the historical feel of the home. In addition to standard red brick walls, many people also like the look of white brick walls, which can be achieved by painting exposed brick.

They can make your home appealing to buyers

Well-maintained exposed brick can make your home far more attractive to prospective buyers, and therefore can make your home easier to sell. While there isn't too much concrete evidence that exposing brick walls adds value to a home, it can certainly appeal more to buyers who want a warmer, more comfortable living space than drywall or plaster can offer.

They're strong

My kids have put holes in my drywall in three separate instances since we bought our house five years ago. My friends with exposed brick walls in their living rooms don't have this issue. Brick walls are strong and can withstand abuse far better than virtually any other building material.

Potential downsides of exposed brick walls

On the other hand, like most design decisions, exposed brick walls aren't ideal for everyone. Here are a few things to consider before making your decision.

They're tougher to decorate

To be sure, you can certainly hang picture frames and artwork on an exposed brick wall (specifically, by drilling holes in the mortar between the bricks or by using a brick clip), but the process is certainly more complicated than it is with drywall or plaster. If you like to frequently change your wall décor, an exposed brick wall might not be the best option for you. On the other hand, exposed brick can provide a nice backdrop for hanging artwork, so this isn't a negative for everyone.

They can hold dirt and water

You'll want to put a sealant or a coat of acrylic paint on your exposed brick wall to protect from moisture and dirt. Brick is a porous building material, as is the mortar between the bricks, so if you don't take steps to seal them, bricks can absorb moisture and lead to mold problems. They can also trap dirt and be difficult to clean without causing water damage.

They're not energy efficient

There's a reason brick walls in older homes were eventually covered. Drywall and other materials add insulation. By exposing previously covered brick on interior walls, you could make your home far less energy efficient.

Alternatives to exposed brick

Exposed brick can be difficult, if not impossible, to add to an existing home if it isn't already beneath your drywall.

Fortunately, there are some faux-brick wallpaper alternatives designed to mimic the look of exposed brick walls. And don't assume they'll look tacky or cheap -- some of the modern brick wallpaper products are textured with raised designs and can be tough to differentiate from the real thing unless you're looking from a very close distance.

There are also types of faux-brick wall paneling designed to look like exposed brick, as well as brick veneers that look very similar to actual exposed brick.

Some of the brick alternatives, or faux-brick options, provide almost the same look as the real thing, but without some of the downsides. For example, you could use a raised wallpaper designed to look like brick and have a much easier time hanging picture frames.

The Millionacres bottom line

Exposed brick walls can be a beautiful design element, in a room or throughout your entire home, but they aren't without their drawbacks. For many homeowners and builders, some of the modern alternatives can look just as good, but without some of the headaches that come from having walls made of actual exposed brick.

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