Main House Extension
Exterior Transformation

1. Finished exterior - appearance from laneway

Table of Contents


The 1988 extension is brick veneer in red/pink/brown/yellow tones (Austral Bricks "Manor House Blend").

1. Extension brick veneer on right, good match for kitchen on left.

2. Rear of extension, contrasted against the bluestone with limestone quoins of the old schoolhouse.

This was a good choice to match the existing kitchen exterior of rustic bluestone and red/brown brick quoins. I want to change the entire look to match the older schoolhouse, which incorporates stonework that is a little more grand and formal in neat bluestone with limestone quoins. As it happens, these grey and neutral stone shades are currently popular in modern homes, where they are used to create strong contrasting lines.

So I want a single colour for the wall faces to match the bluestone and contrast the light coloured roof, with accents to match the limestone. I also want to be able to do it myself.

Extension bricks

3. Bricks - manor house blend

Options considered for the brickwork were:

  1. render

    • requires high skills, particularly around windows and doors etc.

    • relatively expensive due to labour cost if a skilled finish is to be achieved

  2. bagging, i.e. render smeared on using a hessian bag, sponge etc.

    • for a DIY project the finished look will be commensurate with skill level

    • relatively expensive due to labour cost if a skilled finish is to be achieved

  3. painting

    • lose masonry look and feel

    • high maintenance

    • future options limited to repainting

    • issues with trapped moisture, e.g. freeze and thaw cycles can destroy bricks and mortar, peels paint, etc

  4. staining

    • cost comparable to quality paint

    • retains masonry look and feel

    • very low maintenance

    • masonry remains semi permeable (no moisture lock-in)

    • DIY compatible, i.e. finished result depends on time and care, not a high skill level

    • need to get the colours right, but once proportions are determined the product produces consistent batches

    • may take longer than other options but can proceed incrementally

    • future options are the same as the original raw masonry

Render and bagging usually require final application of a sealant to keep moisture out so, again, some loss of masonry look and feel.


I wasn't aware of the staining option until I started researching the other options. There are professional trade services that will do it but as a DIYer the only supplier I could find that will provide the materials retail was DyeBrick in the UK (DyeBrick, UK). The more I read the more confident I grew.

DyeBrick supply premixed sample pots of their colours and deliver worldwide. so I ordered four colours: charcoal, yellow stock, lightener, and old English red (for a separate project). At least I could try it, literally for a few dollars, and then decide. The pots arrived via Royal Mail within a week. I immediately tried the red on a yellow brick garden wall and was impressed. Next I tried the yellow stock on a small area of the extension but immediately saw it was too strong. In the pot it looks the colour of mustard. I also tried the lightener neat and saw it is a vivid white. It is designed to be be mixed to produce lower intensity colours.

DyeBrick is designed to be applied full strength, diluted and/or in multiple coats, i.e. pretty much in whatever way it takes to get the result. The colours can also be mixed. There are many techniques I'm sure, such as applying a base colour then a second colour as a separate coat may be effective in achieving a particular visual effect.

A fixing agent is added to the water/oxides mixture to apply as a permanent stain but the premixed sample pots come with the fixing agent separate. This allows testing and removal, although full removal may depend on your bricks in some cases, so DyeBrick advise testing in an inconspicuous location. I found that a pressure sprayer gets it all off my bricks, which is perfect.

I was also researching Victorian era brickwork for inspiration, which often utilises intricate light/dark patterns. I want to somehow match the limestone block accents in the brickwork. I also want to avoid any obviously fake detail, for example staining bricks with two colours separated by a fake mortar joint. Hence, I will not be able to recreate the square interlocked block pattern at that scale.

First test

Aim: see the charcoal and lightened yellow stock as a pattern up against a bluestone/limestone wall. Assess ability of colour to cover the natural brick colour.

Method: choose an appropriate location, mix Yellow Stock/Lightener 1:2, Charcoal 100%, applied colour, without fixing agent, until brick was covered (bricks are rough and difficult to get colour into crevices using a brush).

Result: Images 4 and 5.

DyeBrick Test 1

4. Test patch

DyeBrick Test 1 - Close-up

5. Test patch

Conclusion: Although it is still possible to see the underlying brick colour coming through, the opacity is good for the light colour. The charcoal bricks show less opacity but at least the bricks all appear to be tonally the same. The charcoal is too dark and the yellow is too light. The limestone in the background is obviously aged and more grey.

Note the top right brick end is slightly more yellow. This was a 1:1 Yellow Stock/Lightener mix with the 1:2 mix applied over the top.

Second Test

Aim: Cleanup of test area.

Method: Water pressure sprayer (a small domestic model Karcher)

Results: Image 6.

Conclusion: Perfect.These are the same bricks as were dyed in Test One.

Cleanup test

6. Test area cleaned off

Third Test

Aim: Adjust colours: add some charcoal to the light colour to make it a little more grey. Lighten the charcoal a little to a dark grey, which will hopefully be a better match to the blue.

Method: mix Yellow Stock/Lightener/Charcoal 5:10:1, Charcoal/Lightener 10:1, as in Test One applied colour, without fixing agent, until brick was covered.

Results: Images 7 and 8

DyeBrickTest Three

7. Test patch

DyeBrick Test Three Close-up

8. Test patch

Conclusion: The light colour looks more natural but still not perfect. The charcoal may have brought out some of the green but overall the limestone in the background looks a little more pink.

Adding the lightener to the charcoal has brought out more blue, which is good. Will need to see if a second coat darkens the brick.

Here's another angle.

DyeBrick Test Three - 2nd angle

9. Test patch

DyeBrick Test Three - 2nd angle - close-up

10. Test patch

Overall, much happier with these colours and the more natural look. Will try adding a little Old English Red to the light colour to see if a better match to the limestone can be achieved. Alternatively, also try reducing the Lightener proportion. For the blue stone colour also try a 20:1 charcoal/lightener ratio.

Due to the method used to measure and mix I'm now not sure if the proportions for the light colour are as stated above. From memory proportions may have been 6:8:1, so need to retest.

Further Tests

Once final colours are determined, apply to a test area with fixing agent included. Subject to pressure spray to test permanence.

Final Colour mixes

The 10:1 ratio for the "Bluestone" colour from the Third Test is a little too light. A 20:1 ratio did not bring out enough blue. Also, a second coat will be required on most bricks.

After some additional colour testing on the older red brick quoins, the "Limestone" mix of Yellow Stock:Lightener:Charcoal in 5:10:1 ratio appears to match the limestone reasonably well. The different textures of the real limestone blocks and the bricks makes this a fairly subjective assessment but I was happy with the colour when seen from a distance, in both shade and sunlight.

Note: Whilst the premixed lightener sample pots do not contain any fixing agent, the 500ml pre mixed lightener pots do, as far as I can confirm from the ingredients on the label. I couldn't find where this was stated explicitly but it is implied in the instructions, i.e. when adding lightener to colour dye (mixed to instruction) no additional fixing agent is specified even though ratios can be 1:1 or more. This makes sense to simplify mixing somewhat.

My final colour mixes are now:

"Bluestone": Charcoal/Lightener in 15:1 ratio, two coats to achieve a good "density".

"Limestone": Yellow Stock/Lightener/Charcoal in 5:10:1 ratio, also two coats to achieve a good "density".

Although this "Limestone" is the "not perfect" mix used in the Third Test, adding some Old English Red didn't really work for me, and the more colours that are added the less "luminous" I think the result tends to become, Instead of adding more colours to the mix, I'm going to experiment with some brick aging, or very diluted additional coats.

11. The Colour Laboratory - otherwise known as the kitchen table

Pattern Design

Because I want to somehow match the limestone block accents in the brickwork I intend to use a contrasting colour pattern on the corners and around windows, doors and other features to blend old and new stylistically.

The extension includes several windows and a door as well as corners and protrusions. Any patterning around these needs to be considered carefully so that the final overall effect is integrated and balanced. The pattern used in testing is not necessarily the one that will be used. Because these are bricks and not blocks, it would be folly to try to exactly match the block work (quoins). The patterning should probably be consistent with the use of bricks, and let the colours, scale and the heritage era styling tie the new and the old together.

Brick Pattern - 3 course solid triangular

12. Six course solid triangular repeating pattern

For the older kitchen exterior walls the red brickwork pattern at the corners and around the windows emulates the limestone quoins. Application of the final light colour dye to the red bricks should be enough here.

The limestone blocks are approximately three brick courses high by two bricks long by one brick thick, so the first candidate pattern is a strong triangular pattern to match the scale of the blocks. The repeating pattern of the interlocked blocks is approximately 6 brick courses, so a six course pattern is used.

To soften the strong triangular pattern some randomness can be introduced. The pattern should be balanced visually or possibly slightly heavier at the bottom and lighter at the top.

Pseudo-randon pattern

13. Six course pseudo-random pattern

Below are several attempts to visualise the patterns on a wall with windows and a wall protrusion.

14. Hideous

This is the back wall. Apart from just looking overdone and altogether too angular, the brickwork around the windows and the wall protrusion at centre is not symmetrical, so the opposing patterns don't line up vertically.

Several other patterns were tried, some weird, including one that was immediately tagged the "pacman" pattern (which I think is more reminiscent of space invaders), and some using a square pattern previously regarded as folly, just to see what it might look like.

15. Triangular with slotted window borders

16. Pacman with thin window borders

3170. Square with thick window borders

3181. Square minimal

The square patterns do look much better from a distance, but up close it will be obvious that this is entirely cosmetic, and not structural in any way as it is in the schoolhouse. The only reason for the thick window surrounds is to allow the window trim to be painted a dark colour, to match what is being considered for the schoolhouse windows.

Rethink and further research

Not happy with any of the above it was time to do some more searching on Google. Most, if not all, guides to extending heritage buildings advise that new structures should be sympathetic to the original but should not attempt to emulate period features.

The direction is now to resist any temptation to introduce false quoins to the 1988 extension, not even if it's a pattern that could symbolise a particular 1980s computer game.

Time to go back to simplicity, so here is possibly the final design.

19. Likely to be the final design

The whole wall is now in the dark bluestone colour with the light limestone colour applied only to the wall below the damp course, the window sills, and the through-face of the windows. The treatment of the windows is aesthetic, and functional in that it will help to reflect light inside. The guttering and gable edge-rolls are dark in this design, but could be painted light as in earlier images above.

Overall I feel more comfortable with this.

The Dye Brick stain kits for the job were ordered from the UK and arrived just five days later, so I have no concern if I find that I need more of anything.

Meanwhile, work began on two of the three gables.

Work begins

The end result will be as planned above but will be done in stages, starting with staining the lightest tone bricks above damp-course in the "Bluestone" colour mix.

By doing one of the five red tones per session I can complete all target bricks in the session and the application will be pseudo-random as advised by the Dye Brick application notes to avoid introducing a visible pattern from application or batch variation. The colour change from red/brown to bluestone will therefore emerge gradually all over.

First Tour De Brick

The "yellow" bricks (above the damp course) have all been stained. The window sills will be stained later in the "Limestone" colour mix.

20. North wall

21. West (rear) wall

The bricks are quite rough and the mortar is raked, so staining takes a lot of time (probably a minute per brick on average) and doesn't follow the recommended method exactly. After loading and unloading the brush and applying to the bulk of the surface as recommended I then find I need to "tickle" the bricks with the now almost-dry brush to get stain into small crevasses and around the edges. A very light touch sweeping just the tips of the bristles across the brick while holding the brush almost perpendicular to the face actually appears to work best at this stage.

A second "dry" coat adds significantly to the "density" of the look of the brick. "Dry" meaning a quick brush over of two or three previously stained bricks using what is left in the brush after applying a first coat to a new brick, without reloading. The second coat is applied using just the "tickling" technique after the first coat has dried, but it does not need to be as rigorously applied and is relatively quick to do.

With that second coat, the 15:1 charcoal/lightener mix is looking good as a match to the bluestone (see the two corner brick ends compared to the background in image 22). The bricks with the red still showing through below have only the first coat and need the second coat.

22. Good match to bluestone with second application - the two brick ends

Unfortunately due to the need to stain the raked edges some stain is getting onto the mortar, so a final pass over the work with a mortar matched stain will be needed. This may seem tedious but will be worth it.

I have approximately 2500 to 2700 wall bricks to do, and at one minute per brick I'm looking at a good 45 hours minimum to complete this job, and possibly another 50% of that time after second coat applications (for a total of 75 hours). With the above strategy that will be nine hours each weekend for approximately 8 weekends, leaving time to mow the two acres of "lawns" and do a bit more painting each weekend. This is not a problem because the method is completely flexible, I can do as many or as few bricks in a sitting as I like. The only thing that needs a little consideration is managing the batches of stain, since a batch including the fixing agent should not be left standing for more than a few days without stirring or shaking the container.

Second Tour De Brick

The "pink" tone bricks have been targeted this time, with second coat applied to the bricks stained in the previous stage. The unstained window sills are starting to stand out much more now.

23. North wall progress

24. West (rear) wall progress

Third Tour De Brick

There appear to be roughly twice as many darker red bricks than any other single tone. The first tour covered the yellow tones, second tour the pink tones, now the red tones will take twice as long as each of the previous, so I'm switching to cover all red bricks one wall section each session, starting with the east (kitchen) side, then the north wall, then the rear west wall. I'll also need more charcoal stain kits and lightener to complete the job, so those have been ordered (again received within the week).

25. East and North walls red tones covered

26. Wide view to check the effect

27. Reverse direction to (1), showing emerging brick colour against hardiplank "Isolation" colour in shade (background annex) and full sun (north gable).

28. Wide distance view with annex in foreground and emerging brick colour at distant right. The corrugated iron [rear] fence in the foreground will most likely be painted a light neutral colour.

Limestone colour staining

Taking a break from the "bluestone" colour staining I've decided to confirm the "limestone" colour mix on the front quoins. The intention is to do the red brick quoins at the front of the kitchen (corners and window) and the attic window in the east gable over the kitchen. I'm hoping this will integrate the extensions (old and more recent) into the schoolhouse, and have some more subtle effects such as centreing the main entrance more at the centre of the overall structure.

29. Old schoolhouse and extension at change of title.

I've started with the east gable attic window quoins (1988 multi-tone bricks) with the result seen in photo 31. I'm also considering toning down the brightness of the mortar around the stonework a little, possibly by applying a Dye Brick aging solution.

I'm still reserving a decision on using a darker colour on the edge roles/guttering etc. I want to see the final overall effect of the current scheme first.

In image 31 I'd like to match the paneling above the window to the new colour of the brick quoins.

30. Before

31. After one coat. A second coat will even out the tone from a distance and provide a denser look up close since the bricks are quite rough and the original colour can be seen in the many small crevasses.

Verandah posts colour

After trialing both white (Dulux Aquanamel Gloss "Antique White U.S.A.") and dark colours (Dulux Weathershield Low Sheen "Drive Time" PG1A6) on the verandah posts seen in photos 32 and 33, I've decided I prefer the darker colour. "Drive Time" is one shade lighter than Dulux "Ticking" PG1A7, which has an equivalent RGB to Colourbond Ironstone.

32. Original kitchen quoins (much older red/brown pre-1905 bricks with flush mortar)

33. Completed kitchen quoins in limestone stain

The next three photos were taken to confirm the colour match of the "limestone" staining under different light conditions.

34. Wide shot in shade (overcast).

35. Wide shot in direct sunlight (early morning).

36. Wide shot at dusk.

I think this is a very good overall result. The old and new are looking more integrated, and will look even better once all the trims are done (gutters and fascia on the old part and verandah, windows, etc.).

The kitchen window arch has been left as red brick until the verandah is remodeled to incorporate the arch in the verandah roof line. This will be a future project to reposition the posts to align them with the architecture, particularly to achieve a formal symmetry relative to the door and window.

Rear Wall

I've run out of the charcoal stain again and still more to do, but the effect of the colour change on the building overall is very evident now.

Visible in the lower part of the centre of the rear wall (protruding section in photo 62 below) are bricks still with a red tinge. These are bricks where one coat only of the "bluestone" colour stain has been applied, comparing with the upper part of the wall and to the left, which have had two coats. Some bricks have been getting a very quick third "dry" coat as the work proceeds because, as the surrounding bricks are darkened, it becomes clearer that some bricks still need a little more "density".

37. West (rear) wall at two-thirds done.

38. Reverse angle with staining completed.

Still to be done: dormer window (trimming off the faux snow pillows and repainting); window trims, pipework, gutters, soffits and fascias. May 2014: the days are getting too cold and short for exterior painting.

Another project will remove the hot water and heating oil tanks, oil heater and its chimney and remodel the pump box that sits between the new and old buildings. The wood heater and its chimney (the centre of the photo) will also become redundant and could also be removed, which could also allow another dormer window to be put in.

Final Costings

Another two charcoal kits were ordered to complete the job, another Yellow Stock kit, another Lightener kit, and a Brick Age kit to tone down the bright mortar on the east gable. That brought the totals for this project to:

The rough texture of the bricks and my objective of achieving a consistent high density coverage over the multi-toned bricks has reduced the nominal coverage estimate on the product label considerably. The total cost of the above materials is approximately UK£480, or around AU$870, plus a few dollars for several very cheap brushes, because they tend to wear and fray using the technique described earlier. Paying a professional to do the work would obviously cost considerably more but if you have the time then the skill level for a job like this is well within the capability of anyone willing to do the job. I don't think a professional would be much quicker in total labour hours, which I estimate will total 75 or more when completed. That would translate to several thousand dollars for labour.