Masonry Magic

Words: Bronzella Cleveland
The external appearance of the University of Dayton underwent a complete transformation via masonry staining. Inset: before. Main image: after.
The external appearance of the University of Dayton underwent a complete transformation via masonry staining.
Inset: before. Main image: after.

By Pricilla Pendley

Let’s say you’re working on a restoration project and your customer comes to you with a 20-year-old brick asking if you have a match. What do you say? “Don’t have it. Good luck, try somewhere else”? If that is your approach, chances are your potential customer is going to look for another option, such as stucco or vinyl, to avoid the hassle of looking for an acceptable brick match.

A brick style or type can become unavailable for a number of reasons. In the case of clay brick, the clay deposits in the ground become depleted after extended mining. Subtle changes in color may be gradual when mining the same pit for a period of months, but over a period of years, the difference can be dramatic. Sometimes it could simply be a matter of the brick company going out of business or the brick itself being discontinued. Therefore, providing an acceptable brick match for an addition or renovation becomes a challenging exercise for design professionals.

When it comes to additions and renovations, let your customer know there is a solution to matching existing brick, block or stone. Specialized masonry and concrete stains applied by skilled and qualified applicators can be formulated to blend new masonry to old, make old look new, or achieve dramatic color changes. When a brick match cannot be found, try instead to obtain a similar size and texture of brick for your addition, renovation or repair. This allows for more effective blending of the new and existing substrates.

masonry staining


Masonry stains have been around more than 100 years and could be found across Europe for decades before the concept made its way to North America. One day in the early 1970s, Russell Gray, while working for his father at a Canadian brick manufacturer, accidentally spilled acrylic paint on a concrete floor. He was able to remove the paint, but it left a stain on the concrete. This led to the idea to create a product to stain brick to reduce the amount of waste in the brickyard. Gray began testing this concept on leftover brick from various brick lots in his father’s brickyard. This is where he learned that he had a talent for matching brick colors, and that stains provided more precise control over color than paint.

Years of product testing produced a water-based stain specifically for masonry, and eventually concrete, now known as the NawTone stain product line. This concept was considered revolutionary to masons in North America at the time and quickly became known as “masonry magic.” Nothing else like it was available on the market, and so Nawkaw Corp. was born. Nawkaw is now one of the largest masonry stain application service providers in the world, working to educate architects about the sustainable benefits of stain for masonry projects.

masonry staining

The Staining Process

Unlike paint, masonry stains penetrate into the pores of brick, concrete block, and other concrete materials, leaving the surface texture authentic. This is significant because the surface texture is one of the most appealing features of masonry products. Painting masonry products is not recommended, as it creates a barrier that does not allow moisture to flow outward. Make sure the stain you choose is vapor permeable, as this outward water vapor flow is necessary to prevent potential moisture problems.

Once all necessary repair work or renovations are complete, the staining process can begin. After colors have been chosen, certain steps should be taken to ensure that the surface is ready for stain application. Surface cleaning, such as pressure washing and even an acid wash in some instances, is an important preparation step. A professional stain applicator will be able to determine the best steps to prepare your project surface for optimal coverage. In the examples of infill repair shown on these pages, stain disguises the new brick as if the repair had never happened.

masonry staining

Case Study: University of Dayton

Many universities, hospitals and commercial developments have utilized stain services as part of their renovation efforts. As buildings age, masonry staining has become a way of blending old brick with new in building repairs. It’s an affordable option over cladding or re-bricking. Masonry staining also allows the flexibility to tie multiple buildings together using similar or the same colors. Even similar accent colors can be applied to help unify the appearance of multi-building complexes.

The University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, is an example of how color can modernize the appearance of older masonry facilities. This project consisted of decorative, patterned masonry the client wanted to cover. A high-pigment-load stain was used to ensure complete coverage of these areas. The before and after images are dramatic and represent the full possibilities of a professional stain application.

Financial and Historical Benefits

The economic benefits of utilizing masonry stains are a positive addition to new construction or a remodel. Enhanced curb appeal can upwardly affect property value. Additionally, reduced operating costs can be realized without the need for maintenance and re-application every five to seven years. Unlike paint, a quality masonry stain can withstand 25 years or more of normal weathering and wear.

The growth of Main Street revitalization in small towns continues, and staining allows for street enhancements where architects are sympathetic to the traditional style of historic masonry buildings. With much of this restoration work continuing to grow at a rapid pace, staining helps restore the warmth and charm of old brick for residents and visitors alike. With the ability to custom blend colors, many historical colors can be reproduced. Nawkaw Corp. works with architects and contractors across the globe, offering custom color matching and blending in a variety of aesthetic finishes. The wide array of looks that can be achieved through stain is one reason why Nawkaw products and services are specified and recommended on thousands of projects every year.

One of Nawkaw Corp.’s prestigious masonry staining projects was the restoration of the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Ga. This historic site was once home to the famous author of Gone with the Wind and continues to be a popular tourist stop. The project required that the building be colored to mimic the way it looked when Margaret Mitchell rented an apartment there. She wrote the majority of her novel while living there. Nawkaw masonry stains gave the appearance that the renovation had never taken place.

With masonry staining, the historic Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Ga., was restored to its appearance when Ms. Mitchell lived there.
With masonry staining, the historic Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Ga., was restored to its appearance when Ms. Mitchell lived there.

Choosing a Stain

When choosing a stain, look for a one that is environmentally friendly, water-based and preferably non-flammable. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), one cause of ozone depletion, can be found in many stain and paint products and are used as a transfer device to deliver the color (as pigments and resins) to the masonry. Low VOC content shows a manufacturer’s commitment to environmental responsibility. You will also want to find a provider who has a good reputation in the masonry community and stands behind their work and products with a solid warranty. Utilizing masonry stain services for your next repair or remodel can save you time, money, and even headaches, leaving you and your customer satisfied with the end result.

Pricilla Pendley is sales and marketing coordinator for Nawkaw Corp. She can be reached at

PROSOCO Introduces Peelable Masonry Cleaner

Enviro Klean DriKleanA new, non-traditional cleaner from PROSOCO removes stains from a variety of masonry substrates in a rinseless, peelable formula.

Enviro Klean DriKlean is a gentle but powerful rinseless cleaning solution designed for interior spaces where traditional liquid cleaners can’t go. In an easy-to-apply formula via spray, roller or brush, DriKlean safely removes dust, soot, oils and other surface soiling from limestone, sandstone, marble, travertine, plaster, terra cotta, concrete, mortar or brick. The cleaner and soiling easily peels off after drying.

DriKlean is also free of natural rubber latex, eliminating allergy concerns for users. The new product is a perfect solution for interior restoration applications where rinsing isn’t practical. DriKlean is also low-toxicity and low-odor.

For more information, visit

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