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Q&A: How to paint a brick fireplace?

Painted fireplaceQuestion: I have hated my brick fireplace since day one of living in my otherwise-fabulous home. I have considered removing the brick altogether and creating a brand-new one by placing stucco over it with a mantle, or painting the brick white and adding a rich, dark wooden mantle on top. Actually, a Williams-Sonoma home store was my inspiration; it has the same painted white fireplace. It seems to be the most cost-effective. Do you recommend painting a brick fireplace white? How would you do this? What kind of paint? Some say oil, other say latex. Just curious to hear your thoughts. — Brianna

Answer: Brianna, I also like the look of a painted-brick fireplace. In fact, I wish I had brick on my fireplace instead of my big faux lava rocks that aren’t so easily transformed with paint or plaster.

I asked the advice of Dan Gallagher of Gallagher’s Decorative Painting & Design in Sierra Madre. Dan’s a decorative and home painter who has been featured in this blog here, here and here, and in the newspaper’s Home section. Check that out here.

Dan says:

All your ideas are good and doable. If a painted look is the course of action (either decorative or straight paint), the most important thing is that oil-base primer should be used, at least two coats. It’s best that the oil-base primer is a long-drying for maximum strength. Your usage of the fireplace should help to determine the type of paint — oil-base or water-base — for the finish. If the fireplace is used a lot, go with an oil-base paint. For low usage, like two or three times a year, go with water-base paint. Mark the can and store it for touch-ups in the future. Remember, removing paint from brick and mortar can be done, but it is extremely expensive.

If you were to go with a stucco or masonry-type finish, you might consider adding a relief design. It will add interest and personalize it to your home and decor.

For more insights, Dan can be reached at his website.

Also, Brianna, check out this absolutely gorgeous transformation of a brick fireplace in Manhattan Beach.

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(Photo: Sunset)

1 Comment on Q&A: How to paint a brick fireplace?

  1. Before painting brick, an additional step that I take is to degrease the surface with detergent and water. Then, I scrub the surface with a mixture of one part muriatic acid to three parts water (wearing rubber gloves). This is to remove and neutralize alkaline material in the mortar joints. Finally, I rinse the surface with clear water.

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