Painters and Decorators: Paint an Ugly Fireplace

Interior Painting Done Well

House Painting the Details

How many of us have moved into a new house or apartment that we really like except for that ugly brick or stone fireplace? For some reason, many of us are also reluctant to paint over the heavy, unattractive fireplaces in our lives but it truly is far simpler than you might think. It will take probably a total of two to three (sometimes four depending on your fireplace) coats of primer and paint to cover your fireplace but the results can far exceed your own expectations to the good.

See the fireplace to the right? It took one coat of an oil based primer and two coats of a white paint to produce what you're seeing here. Now, I could have chosen to paint a third coat of white on this fireplace but I ended up liking the greyish color I got after just two coats.


Before Interior Painting

This fireplace was such an eyesore that I had little choice but to paint it over
This fireplace was such an eyesore that I had little choice but to paint it over

How To Paint Your Ugly Fireplace

Driven by the concern of having to constantly look at this pretty hideous fireplace (it was actually more orange than is evident in this photo above) I quickly learned about the steps I'd need to perform before anticipating some visual relief.

STEP #1. Make sure to clean off any soot or debris from your fireplace first. I simply used a feather duster to remove debris from this fireplace since many of the edges were sharp, very crude type of stone on this fireplace.

STEP #2. Using a dampish rag, wipe the entire surface of the fireplace with it. Be sure not to saturate your rag with water as that water will get absorbed by the bare brick or stone. Stone and brick tend to be very porous and if you saturate it with water, it will suck it up like a sponge. You'll then have to wait for the stone or brick to dry out before your next step. Again, the rule of thumb here is to LIGHTLY clean the surface of your fireplace with water.

STEP #3. Apply a coat of primer/sealer to the entire surface of your fireplace. I suggest using a brush first to paint into the spaces between your bricks or stone. You can then try using a roller brush to coat the surface of the stone although in this case, the stones were so crudely cut and rough, that I had no choice but to use a brush. Once you've finished this coat of primer/sealer, follow the manufacturer's instructions on the paint can for drying time needed. You MUST make sure that your fireplace is dry before beginning the actual painting.

IMPORTANT SUGGESTION: There are a number of oil based primer/sealers in the marketplace and I certainly used one of those when painting this fireplace. On my newest project though, I did some research and found a new waterbased primer/sealer from Glidden called, Gripper, Interior/Exterior White Primer Sealer, all purpose stain killer. It's specifically states that this primer is for light topcoat colors (most of us will paint light colored fireplaces). It's also said to bond to masonry, walls, wood, glass and previously painted metals.

Wanting seriously to avoid the fumes and toxicity of oil based primers, I have to say that Gripper is an absolute pleasure to work with. It applies smoothly, is a bright white color and washes off easily.

STEP #4. Now that your primer has dried, you're all set to paint. While I used a standard architectural white (it's a very crisp white) paint for the two projects here, I was careful to use a high quality paint as choosing a cheap paint can mean that you have to paint more coats. Get a high quality paint and save yourself hours of extra painting. Ace, Dunn Edwards, Frazee are all some of my favorite high quality paint brands.

I also used a flat paint here as I didn't want the sheen or reflective quality added to this fireplace. I wanted it to be as subtle as possible. So, if you want a quiet fireplace, use flat paint. If you want to draw more attention to it, choose a semi-gloss paint or for even more visibility on your fireplace, choose a high gloss paint.

Finally, you will most likely need to paint at least two coats of paint over your primer. Maybe even three. Or, if you have a fireplace like the example in this article, you can choose to do what I did. Take a look at the photo here:

Another Fireplace Before Interior Painting

The combination of the dark paneling on the sides of this dark fireplace tend to overwhelm this already darkish room. The fireplace painting is just too small to be effective in lightening things up.
The combination of the dark paneling on the sides of this dark fireplace tend to overwhelm this already darkish room. The fireplace painting is just too small to be effective in lightening things up.

After Interior Painting

A third, random paint of architectural white paint was applied to lighten and add a stronger textural look to this fireplace
A third, random paint of architectural white paint was applied to lighten and add a stronger textural look to this fireplace

How To Do a Light Third Coat

Because this fireplace was so craggy and irregular, I decided to randomly apply a third coat of white paint to only certain areas of this fireplace in random but symmetrical places.

Finally, since both of the fireplaces in this article were similar, I wanted to try lightening one even further than the first. You can all see that applying just the primer and two coats of crisp white paint on these very dark fireplaces left me with a greyish tone on them both. I liked it better than I would have liked them had I saturated them with white paint as in the example below. Also, adding the lightish but longer painting to the fireplace made it much more appealing.

All things considered, and as far as home improvement techniques go, painting your ugly fireplace offers a simple and relatively inexpensive option to homeowners these days.

Use a highly saturated white painted fireplace to highlight artwork
Use a highly saturated white painted fireplace to highlight artwork

Use Interior Painting to Highlight Artwork

This fireplace was painted an architectural white with three coats of paint over the one coat of primer. See how very saturated the color white is over those bricks? I did this specifically before those bad looking walls and ceiling where painted out because I wanted to highlight this painting I'd just completed.

This painting, Daybreak, was a newer style for me, a new color palette, and I just couldn't wait to paint the fireplace bricks out and see how it looked. Yes, I'm also an abstract painter. I paint walls and canvases and anything else I can find so I do have mucho painting experience behind these articles.

Successful Fireplace Painting

Another example of a saturated white fireplace that works well
Another example of a saturated white fireplace that works well | Source

Painting and Decorating Website

For more excellent tips and tricks for painting or decorating your home or business, go to Supertips For Painters and Decorators. If you're considering using plants to decorate the mantle on your fireplace, you'll learn an interesting trick or two about how to make your plastic plants look more real at: The Greenest Plastic Thumb

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Comments 2 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Neat tutorial and now you have me thinking outside the box. :) I did paint my fireplace, but it needs refreshing, and you've given me some options to consider in the examples. Thanks!


wirewoman profile image

wirewoman 4 years ago Author

Oh, I'm so glad this helped. You can also use tinted glazes after say, a primer and coat of paint to add some really beautiful and subtle color.

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