Painting Brick Fireplace – From White to Beautiful Brownstone
This is the first in a five part series on renovating our living room:
1. Faux painting brick over a previously painted white brick fireplace (this post)
2. Lightening up a room in 5 steps
3. Painting decorative graphics on a wall
4. Preparing to Install Antique Heart Pine Floors (and living to tell about it!)
5. Installing Heart Pine Floors and the Final Reveal
I know the trend lately is to paint fireplace brick white. Especially if the brick is an ugly bright red or some other ugly color. I’m pretty sure that is why our fireplace was painted in the first place.
Painting Brick Fireplace
But, the fact that our fireplace, mantle and the built-in bookshelves on both sides of our fireplace are white, made for an overwhelming amount of white on that one wall. I thought about painting the mantle, but only briefly. I really wanted the warmth and contrast of bricks to set off all the white in our living room.
I stumbled across a few websites showing painted brick here and here. Then I thought, “If someone can do it, then there is a 95% chance that I can do it too!”
I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but in the end I am amazed by how real it looks. And, how easy it was to do! The true test came when I fooled the builder of our house (he has lived on our street for over 30 years) into thinking I had stripped the paint off the bricks! Sweet success.
This is a relatively easy project. It took several hours, but can be done in sections.
Painting Brick Fireplace Materials Needed:
Scrub brush for use with TSP cleaner
Paint Roller and Tray
Stiff 2″ paint brush
Car wash sponge or large 6″ x 3″ sized sponge
Spray bottle with water
7 paper plates
Rags for clean Up
Acrylic Paint (see below for colors)
Before you do anything, buy some TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) cleaner at the hardware store and follow the directions to clean your brick. Be forewarned that you may actually like the color of your bricks once they are clean and dry! If you still hate the color, proceed…
After working up a test board by playing with several color combinations, I chose a warm brown brick color. I also tweaked my mortar color before painting it on my fireplace.
I covered the mantle and bookcases by taping newspapers to them. Then, covered the floor with a drop cloth.
I mixed up a small container of my mortar color. I used some leftover latex satin taupe paint from our other house and added some black and a little dark brown to achieve the perfect mortar color.
My color looks like this warm gray cement color:
I painted all the mortar areas between the bricks with a 2″ paint brush.
As the mortar color dried, I mixed up a bucket of my base color for the bricks. Then poured it into a paint tray.
Then, I laid out my seven paper plates and filled the first one with a deep chocolate oops paint (Valspar Latex Eggshell Chestnut).
And poured a half dollar size of the following colors onto the other plates (one color per plate).
I used a paint roller to roll the base color onto small 3′ x 3′ sections of my fireplace. (Don’t worry if the paint doesn’t soak into all the grooves. Some of the white showing through made my bricks look old and rustic.)
While the base color was still wet, I covered my sponge with the Chestnut color. Then dipped the sponge into one or two of the brick tint colors. I sponged one brick at a time using the same color tints sporadically around the wall. Keeping the brick colors varied and random make them look real!
When the sponge needed to be reloaded with paint, I began with the chestnut color first, then added one or two new color tints to the sponge. You will have to refill the paper plates as you use up the paint.
I kept working in small sections, to be able to work while the base color was still wet (use the spray bottle of water to lightly wet the bricks if it dries too quick).
The best part was that if I didn’t like a color, I could go back over it and try a different tint. Notice how I randomly dispersed the darker brown bricks. This is key to having a realistic look.
On the hearth I had to press more gently with the sponge since the mortar lines on our hearth were almost level with the bricks. I kept a wet rag near by to wipe up any wandering brick paint.
Notice how the white specks showing through really make the bricks
look like they are re-claimed and rustic.
And for those wondering how long this took. Including the prep work (cleaning, taping, mixing colors) it took about 5 hours total. Not too bad since I’m a night owl and could watch DIY network while painting!
Next up in the series: 5 Ways to Lighten up a Dark Room.
Followed by: Painting Decorative Graphics on Your Wall.
And I saved the best for last (coming soon): Installing Antique Reclaimed Heart Pine Flooring
I’m going to try this – just so I can white wash the brick!! I recently saw the most perfect fireplace on Home Town white washing old brick. My fireplace is all white, and I really like the rustic whitewash look, so instead of trying to remove the paint, I’m going to paint the bricks using your method, and then white wash it and see how it turns out. Can’t wait!
What a wonderful teacher, artist & craftswomen you are! With your detailed instructions complete with pictures, colors and all tools needed we were able to paint a huge fireplace and one large wall of white painted brick which has transformed our home. (over 1000 bricks) They look spectacular! Thanks so much!!
Was there any reason you used the acrylic craft paint? I’m planning to do this to my fireplace (large area with brick above the mantle and along the whole lower part of the wall) plus the same thing to the brick I have surrounding my oven/stovetop area. Due to the size of my area, I was thinking of getting regular interior latex paint in the colors I want from somewhere like Lowe’s rather than so many small craft paint bottles. Any reason regular interior latex paint wouldn’t work?
You can definitely use latex paint. Both acrylic and latex paint are basically the same (plastic base.) I used acrylic paints because it’s what I had.
Thanks so much for your wonderful instructions. It was tedious with over 500 bricks but easy with your method. Love that you supplied materials & colors. You are a talented artist, teacher and handywoman. We love the new cozy warmth of the repainted brick.
I’m thrilled to have found this blog because you’ve done exactly what I’ve been contemplating for months. We are restoring our 1947 ranch which unfortunately the previous owner painted the (narrow, horizontal) brick fireplace white many years ago. I couldn’t see a way to strip the paint (most people say it’s a no-win) but I can’t leave it this awful white.
I have no qualms about this project (I’m an artist by profession) and it’s good to hear you’ve had good luck with the ‘craft’ type paints you used. Thank you SO much Brittany!
I have a question, did you dip the sponge in the chestnut color and 2 or 3 other colors before using the sponge? Or did you press the darker color first then add the other colors?
I used random colors and switched it up to get a variety of “brick” colors. I recommend using a practice board to see what you like.
Thanks so much! This is what I’ve been looking for!
When I moved into my house, the fireplace looked as if it had been painted with Wite-Out.
Yuck! We painted it a pale yellow, but after seven years I am really tired of it. I’m going to give this my best shot and see if I can make mine look as good as yours. Fingers crossed!
Good luck Laura. I know you can do this. I’d love to see a picture when you are finished.
I love the end result! It looks amazing!
Awesome job with the fireplace and built-ins. I want to do something similar in our living room. I couldn’t tell from the photos but did you paint the entire inside of the built-ins green/slate or just the back of them, leaving the individual shelves white? In other words, is the interior left, right, top and bottom of the bookshelves green/slate or just the back of them? Thanks for the help and clarification. Feel free to reply to my personal email address if you wish. Also, would you mind including a panned out photo of the entire wall so my wife and I can see what the entire finished job looks like? Great job!!!
We tried this out on our ugly painted over brick fireplace over the weekend and it came out great! It didn’t even take as much time as I thought it would to paint over each brick. Thanks so much for the tutorial. Our living room looks cosy and warm and we love it!
So happy you found the tutorial helpful.
I have an ugly white fireplace, but after seeing what you’ve done, it won’t be white much longer! This is amazing! I never thought I could recreate a natural brick look, but thanks to your directions and pictures, I can do this!