presented by the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal

Why were bricks painted?

Some brick buildings were supposed to be painted. That said, not all historic brick buildings that are currently painted were meant to be painted.

Generally speaking, in the United States, historic brick structures that needed paint were built prior to the 1870s.

Bricks in the U.S. were first made by hand, with clay, sand, and water and pressed into molds, then dried and fired.

Brick-making technology advanced from hand-power to animal-power to water-power to steam-power, and eventually, to uniform machine-made bricks. The mineral content of the clay and sand determined the color, while the application of glazes affected the brick's finish.

Buildings made from the weaker, softer and more porous handmade brick of the early periods often required the use of a protective coating for an added layer to combat nature's elements.