Revealing the Pros and Cons of Exposed Brick and How to Take Care of It

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By Kate Reggev
For centuries, bricks have been the literal and figurative building blocks of communities across the globe.

The first fired bricks appeared sometime around 5,000 B.C., and they've remained one of the longest-lasting, strongest, and most aesthetically-pleasing materials around.

And since the development of brick, it's been covered with marble or other stone, layered with plaster and lath, coated with whitewash, and most recently in interior renovations of existing buildings, revealed and left exposed. 

Revealing the Pros and Cons of Exposed Brick and How to Take Care of It - Photo 1 of 9 - Brick—both fired and earth-baked versions—developed thousands of years ago across the globe.

Brick—both fired and earth-baked versions—developed thousands of years ago across the globe.

Exposed brick brings a sense of warmth, character, and texture to a space. It also speaks to the history of a building, of the hand that carefully laid down each brick, and of a craft that's quickly becoming less and less common.

Revealing the Pros and Cons of Exposed Brick and How to Take Care of It - Photo 2 of 9 - Painted brick provides a textured backdrop for artwork, while still revealing historic features, like a brick fireplace.

Painted brick provides a textured backdrop for artwork, while still revealing historic features, like a brick fireplace.

At the same time, however, renovation experts often bemoan the removal of old plaster to expose brick, citing the myriad of moisture and deterioration issues that can arise—and they're not wrong. 

Revealing the Pros and Cons of Exposed Brick and How to Take Care of It - Photo 3 of 9 - Exposed brick adds a feeling of gravitas and history to a space.

Exposed brick adds a feeling of gravitas and history to a space.

Most existing brick buildings, unless they were constructed for manufacturing or other industrial uses, would have covered their brick surfaces with plaster and lath to create a smooth, seamless wall. In fact, these interior wythes, or layers, of brick were usually not of high enough quality to produce a presentable, dry, and solid finish.

Revealing the Pros and Cons of Exposed Brick and How to Take Care of It - Photo 4 of 9 - If you feel like the bricks inside your apartment don't look as nice as the ones on the outside of your building, you're probably right. Interior wythes of brick were typically of a lower quality than exterior face brick.

If you feel like the bricks inside your apartment don't look as nice as the ones on the outside of your building, you're probably right. Interior wythes of brick were typically of a lower quality than exterior face brick.

So, how do you appease both the renovation expert and your heart's desire for the warmth and character of exposed brick? A few simple, but necessary steps should be taken.

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