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How to Paint Your Brick Fireplace

how to paint your brick fireplace

Evolution of Design

Around the turn of the century, it became no longer taboo to paint brick — or varnished or shellac woods — for that matter. Painted furniture became the fascination of many homeowners, realtors, and interior designers, followed by entire fireplaces. Finally, many homeowners have resorted to painting the entire exterior of their brick homes a pleasant neutral color. In fact, almost every home redesign that offers a brick fireplace culminates in the existing brick being painted as opposed to leaving a natural or red brick as the focal point of the family room or main living area.

The Economics of a Paint Makeover Versus Other Fireplace Renovations

Another tenet to explore when you are making that critical decision about painting the old brick on a fireplace is to make a weight and balance calculation comparing and contrasting the cost and elbow grease spent for a paint makeover versus hiring a professional contractor to either repair and beautify the red brick to its natural status, which often results in a total rebuild. In this case, it is likely that a coat of paint will be much more budget-friendly, even when a second or third coat is necessary.

As aforementioned, other than consulting with an interior designer to help you make a color scheme decision, you are on the road to becoming a true DIY expert in this arena! Some of the variants in this project can make it easier, i.e. the use of a spray painter versus a paintbrush, but most of the high-quality paint available in today’s market lends to that concept of it being nothing more than a weekend DIY project with a profound pay-off!

Follow this comprehensive tutorial and guide on how to paint a brick fireplace. Your remodel will look like it has been done by a professional when you finish!

I’ve Decided to Paint: Now I Have to Choose a Color?!

As aforementioned, painted brick has become immensely popular and trendy in the past decade. It is true that it is easier to paint the brick than it is to later remove the paint, but changing the color can be easily accomplished. Therefore, do some simple research or consult an interior designer to help you make your decision on the color palette; your color scheme is a very important factor to take into consideration.

Dark colors make for a fine contrast, yet they can darken a small room and they can actually show flaws and dust more so than light colors. Lighter colors, on the other hand, are more currently trending but do not offer the same eye-catching punch that the dark colors add. Both colors play a role in the visual tricks that can make a room appear smaller or larger.

However, to help you with your remodeling idea, here are some of the most commonly chosen paint colors for fireplaces:

  • Grays: Very pale slate grays on up to dark charcoal grays are versatile and add sophistication to the trending white furnishings so prevalent today
  • Whites: Keep in mind there are many shades of white, and they can range from stark white to ivory. Make sure you purchase enough paint to finish the job because whites are shockingly difficult to match
  • Beige/Tans: An ivory can actually fall into this category as well but beige shades can be versatile and range from eggshell and darken to a deep tan or taupe and encourage warmth to your decor
  • Upon rare occasions, black may be chosen for the dark contrasting color as mentioned above. Use caution with this shade as it may be harder to change later
  • Colors that do not easily blend with a variety of decor are rarely used. Sure, there has been an occasional teal or even purple used on a fireplace but these colors tend to tire easily

Type of Brick That Can Be Painted

With the advancement of paint varieties and qualities, it is possible to paint just about any type of brick, regardless of its age. Of course, if your old brick is crumbling or has cracked, you will obviously have to repair or fill those crevices before applying the paint. In case you’ve not realized it yet, paint is efficient for covering grout that has become an eyesore; if you’ve ever tried to clean grout, you’ll love this aspect.

Materials Required for This Amazing Project

Most materials and supplies that you will need to make your gorgeous fireplace are obvious but it is always best to be well prepared with these supplies before you begin. Decide if you have room in your paint budget to purchase one of the cost-friendly spray painters if you’d prefer not to brush it all on. You don’t want to have to stop and make a trip to Lowe’s, Sherwin Williams, or any other hardware store in the middle of the project. Refer to the paint label and store associate to ascertain how many gallons you will need. This is critical because sometimes it can be very hard to match colors should you run out prematurely.

Before beginning, gather the following items:

  • the omnipotent brick primer as defined below, available at the same hardware store
  • Soap and/or trisodium phosphate to clean the brick well before you start
  • your color choice of brick latex or elastodynamic paint as described below
  • an ample drop cloth that covers all surrounding areas
  • a very stiff bristle wire brush
  • an ample roll of painter’s tape
  • at least three various sizes of paintbrush
  • an Exacto knife and a pocketknife for unexpected issues
  • old clothes to put on your body during this process
  • the optional and quite affordable efficient spray painter if you prefer

A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Fascinating Painting Project

Solid contractor and home improvement specialist Bob Vila(1) recommends following this routine before you start your DIY brick fireplace project:

  1. Clean and Prepare the Brick: It is critical to make sure you are painting the cleanest brick possible. This helps to ensure that the paint adheres properly and provides a more lasting finish. Now is the time to throw some genuine elbow grease in there, using a stiff-bristled wire brush and good old plain soapy water to remove the dirt and efflorescence that will inevitably be on your bricks. Bob Vila recommends trisodium phosphate (TSP) if the soapy water does not appear to be doing the job. A pressure washer is another option, especially if your fireplace is an expansive one that covers most of an entire wall. In this case, you will also need a wet/dry vacuum to help with the inevitable overspill. If your fireplace is surrounded by carpeting, this may not be an option.

For those who live in more humid climates, you may encounter some mildew on your brick. A simple half-hour soak with 25% bleach/75% water ratio before adding in the elbow-grease scrub.

Avoid acid cleaning solutions because these might leave a residue that could threaten the integrity of your paint job.

After thoroughly cleaning the targeted bricks, be sure and let it season and dry out for at least 24 hours before applying paint.

Note: For more information about efflorescence, see the information at the end of this article.

  1. Prime the Brick: Certainly every adult knows that you would never paint an automobile or other vehicle without first priming the surface. Whereas you can often paint wood, interior sheetrock, and even craft projects without primer, it is never a good idea to skip this step when painting brick.

Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, and other paint stores carry a variety of brick and masonry primers. Ask an associate for assistance or choose one that has good reviews of preparing the brick so that it wraps around and throughout all the nooks, crannies, and crevices of the bricks, thereby providing a surface on the brick that will provide effective adhesion to your paint when it’s applied.

The primer can be effectively applied with a paint sponge, one of your paintbrushes, or even sprayed onto the brick, as long as you assure you’re reaching all the areas of the bricks that will be exposed to the paint.

  1. Start the Fun Part of Painting That Brick! Your visit to any hardware store or paint store, such as those mentioned earlier, will have obviated quite a selection of paints that will be suitable for this project. However, Bob Vila does suggest elastodynamic paint. The name itself is quite descriptive of its ability to be flexible and somewhat stretch into those rough spots and crannies and its popular elasticity is also impressively resilient to moisture and humidity issues.

However, it is not mandatory to use this type of paint and your typical good quality regular acrylic latex, which is easily found for exterior brick. It, too, is quite resilient to moisture and humidity and most exterior latex paints can also be used inside. Both varieties are effective heat-resistant paint. Your color choices were discussed earlier in this article. Most interior designers recommend using a semi-gloss for your project rather than matte or gloss.

As aforementioned, your fireplace paint may be applied with a brush, but many prefer to use one of the several spray painters that are quite affordable and efficient. Wagner, Tack-life, and HomeRight manufacture a variety of spray painters that are popular with the avid weekend DIY. A spray painter will make your endeavor/mission in how to paint brick fireplace a less time-consuming project, especially when you must paint the entire surface.

Depending upon your brick and the type of paint you have selected, you may need to apply a second or even a third coat. Your own judgment is critical at this juncture.

When finished, get out of those painting clothes, have a shower, grab your favorite beverage, and sit back to bask in your glorious accomplishment.

It’s Beautiful, but What Else Will Make That Gorgeous Newly-Painted Fireplace Even More Special?

If you have ever lived in a home that was dependent upon wood heat offered by a wood stove, you have experienced the efficiency of those cast-iron “beasts” that dominated a room and often took up an entire corner of the living room. The mid-century brick fireplaces that later emerged, on the other hand, were wonderful additions to the ambiance in living spaces. Unfortunately, whereas they add beauty to a room, they were not even close to being as efficient at heating the room.

Perhaps now is the time to consider adding a fireplace insert to your beautified project and your home improvement will be twofold, adding not only beauty but also adding practical heat efficiency.

Where to Turn to for This Aspect

In 2015, an individual by the name of Howard Birnbaum became fascinated by the concept of metal fireplace inserts when he came across some in a Costco showroom. He also learned that Mormons were successfully designing and marketing such a contemporary product. 

Birnbaum didn’t set out to create a successful new business; it seems that when he decided he’d like to have a fireplace insert for his own home, but his search to find one that offered realistic flames was practically non-existent.

The optimistic entrepreneur and technology geek put into action his passion to learn and excel toward designing a fireplace insert of his own. This likely came easily to him with his background in movie-production special effects and engineering. He promptly drew up and designed his own fireplace insert and an entirely new concept was born. This ambition blossomed into what is the modern MagikFlame Company, located in LaVergne, Tennessee. Read more on the MagikFlame Story.

Now you a good place to start when you seek to easily add that practical and energy-efficient finishing touch to your eye-catching focal point in your living space.

Some key elements of the MagikFlame fireplace insert include:

  • clean residue-free heat represented by 30 ultra-realistic flames
  • comforting heat that emanates from a built-in 5,200 BTU heater
  • realistic crackling-log sounds that add a cozy auditory blanket to your surroundings

Notice the attribute that the flames are realistic. This company is not jesting when they use the adjective realistic. Why is this? It is at this point that the difference in Birnbaum’s design and other metal fireplace inserts becomes profound. Birnbaum is the brainchild who now manufactures the only fireplace technology that implements and uses holographic flames that are projected onto a physical log set of LED lights that do such a grand job of simulating burning embers that you will be sure you are looking at a realistic burning log. It is the closest to real that you can get with a fireplace insert.

Imagine your guests’ fascination when you tell them your fireplace effects were developed by the same brilliant mind that designed those used in The Matrix and in the Harry Potter series.

To find out more about these fascinating realistic fireplace inserts, you can check out their MagikFlame Electric Fireplace Buying Guide and tutorials right here.

Don’t forget that another advantage of installing a fireplace insert is the safety issue. Traditional brick fireplaces of yesteryear naturally have a brick or masonry firebox. When you add an insert, the firebox is a specially treated metal that provides a solid interior resilient to any vulnerable areas that could potentially harbor a space wherein a flame could ignite technically inside the brick. This safety feature should not be overlooked.

Now You’re a Weekend Fireplace Painting DIY Pro

Hopefully, this tutorial has been a helpful guide in your quest to refurbish that fireplace in your family or living room. You may be able to assist other family members or friends to makeover their old brick, whether it be fireplaces or other brick that needs new life breathed into it. Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out to MagikFlame at 954-389-9550 in LaVergne, Tennessee. You might also choose to tour their showrooms at their location, which is conveniently located approximately 20 miles southeast of the center of Nashville, making it less than a half-hour drive.

You may speak to a representative there if you are still unsure about your mission of how to paint a brick fireplace. They will be more than willing to help.

Addendum: What is efflorescence?

Why is it that every kind of resource seems to have some malignancy that demands attention or management? For example, our automobiles and heavy equipment are susceptible to rust as soon as the clear coat and paint becomes the least bit vulnerable to outside weather and conditions, making it an immediate victim to this common corrosion.

Think of efflorescence as the “rust” of the brick and mortar world. It is actually a crystalized or powdery residue that is actually a salty deposit. And much like the curmudgeon of the rust-on-metal world, it all begins with water and moisture. Hence, it occurs much more prevalently on outdoor brick than inside fireplaces, but indoor brick can develop it as well (especially in humid climates). The salt-laced water flows over the masonry and brick in a “flowering” arbitrary manner, leaving a residue that varies from sparkly, whitish, or grayish tint that flakes off much like a powdered sugar doughnut. The problem is it’s not nearly as desirable. The “flowering” flow of this eyesore actually gave it that name, which is a French term that means “to flower out.”

This masonry Achilles Heel is especially problematic if it has managed to seep underneath a sealer, which is more common on sealed concrete floors than it is on brick masonry. This is exactly one more reason why it is critical to do a proficient job at priming your brick so that your painted brick will be the most resilient to this eyesore.

Special thanks to some expert opinion, inspiration, and advice courtesy of:

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-paint-brick

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