How to Paint a Brick Fireplace (Easiest)

This comprehensive, step-by-step guide will provide you with detailed insights on how to paint a brick fireplace correctly, addressing various aspects such as the ideal paint choices, suitable paint finishes, and the use of chalk paint.

The Backstory

Our family room had an unattractive brick fireplace that, in its original state, featured unsightly, orangey-red bricks with messy mortar lines. The initial reaction to this brick fireplace was immediate distaste. The urge to transform it was strong, leading to the decision to paint it white, a considerable improvement over the original look.

However, as time passed, the white paint felt dull and uninspiring. This is where the journey to revamp the fireplace took an unexpected turn, leading to a creative endeavor that turned out to be a thrilling transformation – painting the fireplace navy blue.

This journey was not without its challenges, but it offered valuable lessons on the correct approach to painting a brick fireplace. Here, I share these lessons, sparing you the need to make the same mistakes.

The Paint Finish Dilemma: Matte or Satin?

Initially, I opted for chalk paint, which produced stunning results. Unfortunately, I didn’t seal it right away, leading to significant paint damage when my son’s toy cars scratched the hearth. In an attempt to save time, I repainted it with satin latex paint matching the chalk paint color.

The outcome was less than satisfying. The shiny satin finish appeared out of place, drawing attention to the paint itself rather than the fireplace. In contrast, the matte chalk paint side harmonized perfectly with the brick’s matte finish.

This experience taught me the importance of using matte paint on brick, even for standard white paint applications. It’s not about the paint type but the sheen; matte is the way to go.

Can You Chalk Paint a Brick Fireplace?

Chalk paint was initially chosen for its beautiful matte finish and ease of use. However, it proved less durable without a protective top coat, a characteristic shared by chalk paint in various applications, including furniture and home decor.

With the fireplace frequently used as a play area for my son, the paint soon showed signs of wear and tear. If you opt for chalk paint on your fireplace, a robust sealer is highly recommended. Wax is insufficient; for a matte, long-lasting finish, consider using General Finishes Flat out Flat Topcoat. Alternatively, you can save time by using matte latex paint, eliminating the need for a sealer.

Materials for Painting a Brick Fireplace

To embark on your fireplace transformation project, you’ll need the following materials:

  1. Cleaner – A mixture of warm water and Dawn dish soap is ideal for pre-paint cleaning.
  2. Painter’s tape – Essential for protecting adjacent surfaces, such as the mantel, walls, and fireplace doors.
  3. Primer – For sealing the brick and preparing it for paint.
  4. Latex paint in a matte or flat finish – A suitable paint like Sherwin Williams Blue Mystery.
  5. Stiff paintbrush – Choose a brush with stiff bristles to get the paint into the mortar lines.
  6. High heat spray paint – If your fireplace doors need an update, this paint works well.

How to Paint a Brick Fireplace

Before applying any paint, the fireplace must be thoroughly cleaned to ensure proper adhesion. Soot, ash, and dust can accumulate, making cleaning essential. A mixture of water and Dawn dish soap or a suitable cleaner can be used. Pay attention to cleaning the nooks and crannies.

Painter’s tape can be employed to protect adjacent surfaces, such as trim or flooring in contact with the brick, and fireplace doors if they are present.

Primer: A Necessity or Not?

If your brick fireplace has never been painted before, applying a primer is essential. Brick is porous and tends to absorb paint, and using a primer significantly reduces the number of paint coats required. However, if your brick was previously painted with water-based paint, you can skip the primer.

In the case of older homes where oil-based paint might have been used, a simple test can help determine the type of paint. Apply nail polish remover (with acetone) to a small section; if it rubs off, it’s latex, if not, it’s oil-based. For oil-based painted brick, the choice is between repainting with oil-based paint or using an oil-based primer followed by a water-based latex paint, which is a more practical and environmentally-friendly option.

Painting the Brick

Painting brick requires some effort due to its rough texture. Start by pushing paint into the mortar lines using a paintbrush and then apply paint to the faces of the bricks. In most cases, two coats should suffice, ensuring each coat dries completely before applying the next.

Using a roller instead of a brush for the brick faces is an option, but it might not significantly expedite the process. Even with a roller, a brush will likely be needed to cover the brick’s small recesses.

Painting Fireplace Doors

If your fireplace has metal doors, consider giving them a fresh coat of paint. Ensure the glass and surrounding brick are taped off, then use high heat spray paint to update the doors. This paint can be highly fumey, so take precautions such as wearing a mask and ensuring good ventilation.

The transformation of my brick fireplace, which I ultimately painted navy blue, turned out to be a remarkable success. The bold color choice added a unique charm to the room. Coupled with the addition of a chunky DIY mantel and a custom-made TV frame, the fireplace’s impact on the overall aesthetics of the space was remarkable.

In conclusion, the power of paint and a bit of creative endeavor can work wonders in transforming a lackluster brick fireplace into a stunning focal point for any room. If you’re seeking further inspiration, there are 25 additional brick fireplace makeover ideas, ranging from painted brick to whitewashing and even the German Schmear technique, to explore.

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