Back to basics: Paint the block

This is the second installment on our series of posts on the all mighty concrete. Check out the make-up of our concrete house.


Concrete walls may not be the norm for most living rooms, but if you are painting a garage or basement there’s a good chance it’s concrete.

I love the look of our block walls, but at first was a little horrifed to paint them.

We had to ask a lot of questions in the beginning and through trial and error perfected our block painting method.

Newspaper in the hallway

I’ll get into the technique in a moment, but first let’s go over how I prepare to paint. Don’t forget these steps that allow for a long lasting paint job.

Front Room - Painting

Wash it down

Before picking up a paint brush clean your walls. I mean think about it. Walls get dirty and you need them clean so the paint can adhere correctly.

We use TSP (trisodium phosphate) mixed with water to wipe down the walls. The TSP is great for removing grease, smoke and soot stains, but a multipurpose cleaner could also work.

Painting the hallway

Prime and seal the walls

It didn’t appear our walls had been painted in years so we wanted to seal them with a primer to protect against mildew and old smoke damage.


We used Kilz 2 White Primer and Sealer throughout the house. It’s a great multipurpose primer that covers just about anything.

If you are just updating the color or have a newer home you can skip this step.

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Painting masonry

So now that the walls have been prepped, its time to paint. We have had great results with Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint in a eggshell finish. It’s low-VOC, resists stains and recommended by Consumer Reports. If your walls don’t require a heavy duty primer, you can just use this for the added benefit of having a primer mixed in.

Kitchen - Painting

Block Technique

I start with an angled brush to paint the groves between each block and stipple in any deep impressions. (That’s my paint expert Mom demonstrating her skills above.)


Next, I switch to a paint roller cover with a 1-1/4″ nap. The thicker roller cover looks like a furball, but it’s designed for painting rough surfaces like stucco and concrete blocks. It works with all finishes, but best with a flat or eggshell.

For smaller projects, you may just want to use a brush for the project. The thicker roller sucks up a lot of paint and may be wasteful in a little space.

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Cover the area with one coat and let it dry. You can go back with your brush to touch up any missed holes after it’s completely dry. Then paint one final coat with the roller. The texture of the wall makes it easy to miss parts so make sure to apply that second coat for good coverage.

Nate's Office

We learned the hard way, but hopefully these steps will save you some time on your own concrete painting projects.

Next up, we will be talking about concrete on the floor.

We'd love to hear what you think!