Exposed brick walls and brick wallpaper – everything you need to know

Consider stripping back your walls to the bare brickwork to reveal instant character – or cheat using brick wallpaper!

Add some bare faced chic to your home with exposed brickwork. Whether modern industrial or rustic country, you'll need to be prepared to put in some hard graft to get the best results – but we assure you it's worth it.

For more advice, see our project planning section

Read on to discover everything you'll need to know about creating an exposed brick wall at home. But first, a little history on the subject...

room with exposed brick walls having wooden table with chairs

(Image credit: James French)

The humble brick has been around for more than 5,000 years, with the very first walls traceable back to India and other Eastern countries. But although we’ve been building our British homes out of it since the Romans came to our shores, the trend for exposing it within interiors didn’t catch on in the UK until the mid-twentieth century.

This was more often than not a practical decision rather than a stylistic one; bare brick walls were a cheaper alternative to restoring plaster and woodwork. It was at the start of the twenty-first century that exposed brick became a coveted look, and it took off first in the Big Apple.

In areas such as Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, developers were encouraged to convert old industrial buildings that were no longer economically viable into residential apartments. Appealing to creative communities, these buildings were admired for their raw beauty and were deliberately left in an unrefined state.

This trend was then lapped up by restaurants, hotels and office blocks, and in turn it trickled into the homes market, sitting comfortably alongside the vogue or industrial-look furniture.

1. Are your walls are suitable for stripping back to brick?

room with exposed brick walls sofa sets and wooden table with chairs

(Image credit: TBC )

Deciding whether to expose brick depends on the age of your property. As a general rule, pre-Fifties is best and the earlier the better. Also, exposed brick is a pretty bold statement, so try not to get carried away.

Stick to one wall or a section of wall with natural start and finish points, such as a chimney breast or inside alcoves.

2. Stripping back brickwork yourself

This is a job you can absolutely do yourself. Drill a test hole in the plaster to check the brickwork is worth stripping. If it’s damaged or the colour isn’t your bag, refill the hole.

Prepare for serious dirt and dust. Cover surfaces and seal doors. Work across the wall from left to right, hammering and then gently lifting the plasterwork off with a trowel or putty knife.

3. How to tidy up bare brickwork

kitchen room with chalk painted brick wall

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

First, remove loose cement or brickwork with a stiff brush, not wire, then vacuum. ‘If the removed cement leaves cavities, repoint gaps to avoid drafts or an attack 
of creepy-crawlies,’ says DIY interiors vlogger Georgina Burnett (opens in new tab). ‘Make new cement look less obvious by dabbing on watered-down chalk paint.’

4. Should you seal exposed bricks?

Sealing will alter the colour of the brickwork, which can ruin the original look. ‘And once it’s done, it’s impossible to reverse,’ adds period property expert Roger Hunt.

In some cases, sealing can trap moisture inside the brick, which could cause problems. However, in moisture-prone rooms like kitchens and bathrooms, PVA or terracotta sealant is recommended to protect the bricks and improve hygiene.

5. Don't have bricks to expose? Try a brick wallpaper or cladding

brick wallpaper on walls and wooden stand with lamp

(Image credit: David Giles)

To emulate the look, faux-brick cladding or a brick slip tiled feature wall could be the answer – try Eurobrick Systems or Matclad. Also called veneer bricks, they mimic a solid wall but are thinner.

Brick wallpapers are also increasingly convincing – like the one in the image above.

Get the look
Buy now: Similar Woodchip & Magnolia exposed real brick effect wallpaper, £75 a roll, Limelace (opens in new tab)

6. Building your own brick wall

kitchen room with exposed brick walls and kitchen shelves

(Image credit: Holly Joliffe)

Another solution is to build a new wall using reclaimed bricks for character, but you will lose living space and require a bricklayer. If you fancy doing the job yourself, Plastering Workshop has been teaching bricklaying since 2002 and runs regular courses
 in Bedford or Dumfries, from £119.

Jewson is the place to head for a decent trowel and brick jointer, as well as a Roughneck Brick & Mortar Gun, which will make repointing a breeze.

Cawarden has 
a large stock of reclaimed bricks, and also sells reproduction bricks and brick slips.

Amy Cutmore
Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is Editor-in-Chief, Homes Audience, working across the Future Homes portfolio. She works on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.