Finally….finally! After more than 2 years of contemplation and weighing out my options, my faux brickwall is finally done! I’ve never been happier with the outcome of my first attempt. Thanks to my little boy of course, for chipping in too.
For those who are looking to do up an indoor brickwall that looks authentically custom-made without bursting your budget, this option is a highly recommended must-try, but before I show you steps, let me tell you my story (short one, I promise!):
It all began when I first moved into my new 3-room HDB flat, about the same time I started getting interested in all things DIY since budget was my first and major concern. Yet, just because I was on a budget doesn’t mean I had to resign to the mundane. I wanted something raw, industrial and vintage – a style that is right now the rage in the home&decor field.
A brick wall was a definite must-have that was to be a feature for my inset wall in the living room. I scoured through all the options – from being quoted fees from S$400.00 – S$800.00 (approx. US$302.94-US$605.86) for installation of the bricks (not including the price of the Craftstone bricks themselves which I thought were my ideal then) on a 512cm x 212cm wall.
Many Singaporeans including my own neighbours had already installed these popular Craftstone veneer bricks on their walls, and I took as much time observing their textures and checking out the best possible prices. The cheapest I could find was in Balestier at $50 per box (after discount), my preference then were the Cottage Bricks selection from Craftstone. For the area of my wall, I needed an estimated about 8 of these boxes – S$400.00 (approx. US$302.94) in total. Add that to the labour costs – very pricey indeed!
As a newly avid DIYer, I thought I could install the bricks myself, but the thought of cutting through a brick to fit a corner with an electric diamond cutter and bits and dust flying everywhere sent shudders down my spine – plus I had to scrape off the paint or knock through multiple holes onto the wall to ensure the base adhesive sticks. It still sounded ‘hard’ for me. Wallpaper or painted brick walls were a no-no as I wanted something authentic to the touch too.
After browsing multiple YouTube videos for the cheapest and most ‘authentic’ option, I discovered this video by Maria Price, who explained best on how to use joint compound to do up a brick wall and have full control over its look and feel.
I bought all the necessary supplies, but it was not before another 6 months of busyness and sorting out personal issues that I finally started working on my wall. I’ve also created a YouTube video on my (very first) tutorial:
Alright, let’s start!
• Joint compound (I purchased the heaviest one at 28 kg)
• Cement for grout
• Tile adhesive (optional if yours is not a cement mortar mix)
• Masking tape or Painter’s tape (1mm in width, and LOTS of it)
• Water-based or oil-based primer
• Chalk paint (I use Annie Sloan chalk paints in Primer Red, Emperor’s silk, Burgandy Orange and Old White (which I used very little of) )
• Clear Wax (Annie Sloan)
• Dark Wax (Annie Sloan)
• Water in a spray bottle (optional)
• Measuring tape or painter’s tape
• Paint palette (or a recycle tin cover – any portable flat surface for you to mix your paints and carry along)
• Leveller (optional and useful, but I did not bother with mine at that time)
• Paintbrushes (large and small)
Where to buy (if you’re in Singapore)
• Chalk paints and waxes – Flowergirl
• Joint compound and cement – Buildmate (When dealing with large quantities, purchase them from suppliers aimed at the construction industry like Buildmate than your nearby DIY shops, as the latter tend to sell small quantities at ridiculously high prices for a per unit weight. Mind you that the large quantities are much heavier, so a foldable trolley is recommended when transporting them)
• Title adhesive – Self-Fix (as mentioned in the above, large quantities are much better value per money per unit weight. I only needed a small amount for this project plus I live in a small house, so this small quantity was good enough)
• 1mm masking tape – Art Friend (apparently, masking tapes of this width were hard to find except for Art Friend)
• Other tools and supplies – Trowels can be found at good price at Buildmate, while regular DIY stores sell spreaders and paintbrushes. For finer, smaller brushes, Art Friend has those. Check out the stores for the other supplies as you go along when making your purchase. You can also check out online for alternative suppliers at better prices.
Step 1 – Prepare your wall
While many countries in the West have drywalls, the ones in Singapore are usually hard, made of cement and already plastered in many cases with new homes. Since mine was already painted (if I had known, I should never have painted that section of the wall), I had to scrape a lot of the paint off manually with a scraper. Of course, there are much faster, better and more professional options to do this, but I chose the hard way as much of my paint came off like paper, plus it was therapeutic for me to vent my work-related stress on the wall – hi-ya!
Even though there are suggestions that there should be no issue applying joint compound on painted walls, I would not recommend this especially since paint can come off easily and hinders long-term sticking. It even slowed down the drying process of the joint compound (even though I managed to remove over 90% of the paint. I gave up on areas that were tough for me to scrape off and caused me to be lazy) as I saw the juxtaposing results of how it affected the drying time of my joint compound on the painted and non-painted areas!
Once you have removed the paint, sweep off the dust of the wall and wipe clean.
Step 2 – Measurement and Protect
Measure your wall and calculate the number of rows and columns that you plan to have based on your tape’s width and your brick surface area. After doing so, use a pencil to mark those areas. Don’t forget to mark the widths of the grouts too and in the middle of the wall so that when you paste the tape over from one mark to another, you reduce the risk of pasting slantways (this is where a leveller or an extra pair of hands come in handy, but I had none).
You’ll also want to protect surrounding areas by laying newspapers and taping the skirting (if you have one like mine).
Step 3 – Taping Over
Once your measurements are complete, put the tape over the wall for where you plan the grouts to be. Have some excess tape stretching out of the boundaries of your wall area to enable easy removal.
Tips: If there is a switch on the wall like I have, make sure to tape over the entire switch but a bit away from the edge to make space for the brick depth.
Step 4 – Applying the Joint Compound
Spread the joint compound across the wall over the tapes with a trowel. Due to a larger area surface, the trowel made spreading much easier, but you can use a spreader, though it will take more time to spread. If you’re worried having part of your joint compound falling off after taking off the tape, you can mix in some adhesive to the joint compound before applying. Apply a thicker layer of joint compound to make your bricks stand out more.
As we want that texture on the bricks, you don’t have to smoothen the compound over the wall. It is perfectly okay to have spread marks here and there.
Tips: The joint compound lid can be tough to open. Here’s a video of how it can be done. If not, a pail lid opener can help.
Step 5 – Remove the tape gently
Carefully remove the tape slowly and gently (this is indeed the messiest part). Too fast and parts of joint compound brick may come off. If that happens, use your spreader or fingers to press them back. You can apply tile adhesive behind to stick their parts in place.
Step 6 – Creating texture
Once you have removed the tape, you’ll notice the newborn shape of your bricks look straight and angular. I personally wanted something more organic looking than angular, so I smoothed out the edges by dabbing and applying more joint compound, and textured the surface with a rough paintbrush for the “spongy” look and spreading over more compound to create rough, unfinished textures. I even used some rocks that I found on the street to create “rocky” ridgy surface, but I find it more useful when the joint compound is partly dry as lifting up the rock from the wet surface can produce unwanted waves on the surface. This stage is the best part to experiment and create your textures however you like!
Tips: This can be an exhaustive process for one person. However, if an extra pair of hands is unavailable, you can spray some water on the brick surfaces that you have not worked on yet while you are creating texture on another, so as to prevent the rest from drying out too quick.
Step 7 – Priming
Once your texturing is done, let the bricks dry completely. Once dry, prime each brick with your primer and soft brush, making sure every crevice and holes of your brick is covered in primer. Don’t forget its sides too. Primer enables your paint to stick to the surface for longer. If you’re using chalk paint, you can skip this option. However, I went ahead anyway as I was dying to finish up my oil-based primer plus I did not like the ‘powdery’ feel on the dried bricks , haha!
Step 8 – Painting
This is the fun part!
Before I started, I made sure I tape the inset sides of the wall to prevent any paint from bleeding out.
I used Anna Sloan chalk paints -Primer Red, Emperor’s silk, Burgandy Orange and Old White (which was used very sparingly). The thing I like about chalk paint is that it gives you freedom in how you want your brick to look. I started out by painting a flat, base colour for each brick, then I dabbed the secondary colours for dimension and added texture with the bristles of the paintbrush. Add more water if you want to achieve a light base colour with the joint compound texture showing through. You can also mix the colours together to get a range of other colours. Experiment with what you can do and you’ll be surprised by the endless creativity you can achieve! This is why I love chalk paint!
Once the paint dries, remove all the tape.
Tips: When the paint dries, use a soft, dry cloth and wipe sparingly ad softly on the textures. This helps to show the white joint compound through to mimic the white scratches seen on outdoor bricks. Do not forget to paint the sides of the bricks even if the depth is shallow, as after the grouting, the sides may be visible.
My brick wall before adding the cement grout. I’ve to admit I’m sure it looks nice with a white grout too!
Step 9 – Grouting
I chose a concrete grout as I really wanted an authentic and outdoor feel to my brick wall. Plus, the grouting is great to cover those sharp edges around your bricks that make them look more like they were pasted to your wall than being part of it.
If you have a ready-mix grout, good for you! But in my case, I did not. I tried adding my water-mixed cement to the wall, but it came off easily even after it dried. What I did was mix my cement with water until it turns into a smooth paste, then add a small dollop of tile adhesive (you do not need too much of it) to the mix until it is all mixed well. This is important to avoid white patches of the adhesive to show when it dries.
After this, I used my small palette knife (if you have a grout tool, this will make it easier for you) to spread and press the grout in. You can even spread the grout over the bricks and over its edges, which makes it look more authentic like those outdoor bricks.
Tips: Mixing the cement and tile adhesive can produce a strong smell. Make sure to mix this in a well, ventilated area. Whether you want your grout to be concave or overgrout is up to your skill and the depth of your bricks at this point.
Step 10 – Waxing
I chose to wax my bricks after I added the grout and not before, so that I could still make any painting additions or adjustments to my bricks. The effect will look so different after the grout is added and you’ll definitely want to allow yourself to make any changes to your brick colours after.
Once the grout has dried, use a dry brush and brush on a bit of clear wax on each brick. You do not need too much of it else you risk getting an unwanted sheen on. For some ‘dirt’ or aged effect, add a tiny bit of dark wax on areas you want added on, and rub it until you achieve the desired look. A little wax goes a long way. It’s recommended to add the dark wax AFTER the clear wax, so that it’s easier to clean up any excess with the clear wax.
I hope this tutorial is useful in helping you make the right choice when it comes to creating your faux brick wall with joint compound. There were certain things I wished I could have done differently, like adding more joint compound to deepen the depth of the brick so that it does not sink flat level with the grout itself, but whoever says you can’t break the rules?
As my first attempt, I’m pretty proud of the achievement and the fact it gave me full control and customization to how I want my bricks to look. It’s definitely better than the mass-produced manufactured look.