Remember when I was hemming and hawing about whether to paint our fireplace white? Well, one night I just got an itch and literally within two days that sucker was fresh as a daisy. I have to admit, though, it’s not as brave as it sounds — we were about to start a renovation and tear the fireplace out anyway. So with that in mind, I knew that if I hated it we’d only have to live with it for a short while. But the good/bad news is I LOVED it and now it’s gone! Annnnnyway… Let’s talk about how to paint a brick fireplace white.
So here’s the deal. Sometimes when I’m doing a project around the house and not specifically for the blog, I totally forget to photograph the steps. The whole IRL DIY thing just takes over and I forget that I’m a blogger and that people might want to see photos of how you actually did the thing. So. I don’t actually have “how to paint a brick fireplace white” process photos but I’m’a break it down for you realllll good. What I do have, however, is this nasty before photo:
Looking at that gives me hives. It’s from when we were moving in and I was 8 months pregnant and positive that our house would never be put together. Eesh. Let’s move on!
How to Paint a Brick Fireplace White
- an ugly old brick fireplace
- cleaning materials (stiff-bristled brush, bucket of soapy water, sponges, rags, etc)
- wide painter’s tape
- bristle paintbrushes (we used a 3″ flat brush and a 2″ angled brush)
- Zinsser Bullseye Primer OR a paint formulated for masonry like this one
- an interior paint in your preferred finish (we used Behr’s Polar Bear #75 in an eggshell finish)
Make Time: 10 Hours (Plus Drying Time)
Step 1: You’ve gotta clean that thing. Ours had about 60 years of soot on the front, along with some marker drawings from the little girl who lived here before we did. So get some warm soapy water and a brush and brush off all the dirt and grime that you can. Soak up excess water and gunk with a sponge and let it all dry completely.
Step 2: Tape it all off. Use the wide painter’s tape to mask the edges by the walls, the floor or carpet, and the mantle (if you have one). Lay down dropcloths too.
Step 3: Prime it. We tried two different types of primers and I ended up liking the Zinsser Bullseye better than the masonry paint. This is especially crucial if your brick is stained in any way, because the primer traps all of those stains and won’t let them seep through to the paint layers. As far as a painting technique, I used what is probably the least professional method I could find; I like to call it the “Glop It On” method. Our brick has lots of nooks and crannies, and the only way we could get coverage for it all is to really load the brushes up with way too much paint, smush it around the cracks, and then brush away the excess. Note: We tested using paint rollers on this job but they just didn’t get the coverage that we were able to get with the bristle brushes.
Step 3: Prime it again. I hate to tell you, but we did two coats of primer. Just turn on a movie and be okay with the fact that when the movie ends you’ll probably be almost done with another coat. This takes time.
Step 4: Add a coat of your regular paint. If you’re lucky, this will be your last coat. We ended up doing two coats of regular paint because it was a bit uneven in some places, and because we wanted a little more of the sheen from the eggshell finish to show, as opposed to the really flat finish of the primer. Once you finish this third coat, let it dry, stand back, and assess. If you need a fourth coat, hitch up your britches and go for it.
Step 5: Once it’s all dry, carefully pull away all the painter’s tape and jump for joy that you did it! You might also want to hire someone to give you a hand massage because your hands are cramped from holding a paintbrush for the last two days.
Now. A couple more tips. Did you know that in the middle of a paint project you don’t have to keep washing out your brushes when you’re taking a break? Just wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge. They’ll stay wet and you can just pick them up and keep going!
Also, really make sure you let your brick dry before you sit/stand on it, build a fire, or decorate. You want to make sure it fully cures.
And I think that’s it! All my words of wisdom. We were painting ours around Christmastime and I kid you not, I watched Elf four times over the course of painting it. Plus once through Love Actually. I’m not gonna lie — it’s a lengthy process but so worth it if you’re looking for something to brighten up your house. Give it a try and tell me how it goes! xoxo