How to Update a Brick Fireplace with Chalk Paint

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I'm sharing an easy way to lighten and brighten a dark and drab fireplace using chalk paint! My technique to a chalk paint fireplace is simple, fast and mess-free!
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Hello there friends and welcome back!

Mr DIY and I spent the weekend in San Antonio and Fredricksburg, TX. It was a belated anniversary trip and we had such a fun time!

We ate and walked and spent time poking around antique stores...and bought a grandfather clock(!) and drove the hills and admired the beautiful hill country!

Update:  Click here to see how I gave a $25 grandfather clock an amazing makeover!

But today is special because...

I finally did something to my ugly 80's brick fireplace and I am loving the results! I chalk painted my fireplace for a brand new, updated look!

You might remember this picture from when I shared my fall home tour a couple weeks ago. I really tried to make this fireplace look appealing...but the fact is that it was dirty, outdated and did nothing to enhance our home!

Quick Solution for a Dark and Dingy Fireplace

The rest of this room looks so good! We've already painted the wood paneling, had the large built-in bookcases painted, and started working on the sunroom just behind this room (they share this fireplace).

You can see our sunroom makeover here. We are loving our reclaimed wood walls and the bright airy feel! And since this post, we've ripped out the carpet and added beautiful farmhouse wood floors!

But back to the fireplace.

Should I chalk paint my fireplace?

I was all fired up to paint the fireplace once the room was freshly painted, but the rest of the family said an emphatic no! No? NO!

They said they liked the brick. They said they liked the red. They wanted it to stay. They were adamantly opposed to a white chalk paint fireplace.

Over the last several months, I've been sharing pictures of painted fireplaces with them and I could tell they were coming around. They mistakenly thought I wanted to paint the fireplace totally white, but when I shared my inspiration pictures, they liked the fact that a lot of the brick was still showing...and I kind of took that as a green light 😍

Fast forward to this morning. I decided to have a go at cleaning the soot from around the opening of the fireplace. I used cream of tartar mixed with water, let it sit and wiped it off.

Honestly, I didn't see much of a difference. It still looked dirty.

So I thought I'd just see (famous last words, right?) what it looked like if I painted the grout lines on one side.

Well, enough said. You can see that I progressed to painting the entire fireplace, including the mantle! And I love it!!

There are a lot of tutorials available on painting and whitewashing fireplaces. I read them, but then decided to do my own thing. And I'm excited to share my process with you because it might be just what your fireplace needs!

Different paint applications for a brick fireplace

  • Painted - a heavy coat of paint (possibly multiple coats) is applied to completely cover the existing brick and grout lines. A red fireplace becomes a different solid color.
  • Whitewash - typically this involves diluting paint with water, and proceeding to brush it on and wipe it off, giving more of a muted look.
  • Dry brush - a mostly dry brush is used to apply paint to select areas on the brick.
  • German Schmear, made popular by Chip and Joanna Gaines, where mortar is applied to the brick and then rubbed off in select areas.

I opted against the whitewash because I found the results looked too pinkish. White + red = pink, and I found the diluted method just didn't work for me. I didn't want any hint of pink, I wanted white!

I also wanted simple and quick, which is why I didn't go for the German Schmear...although I ended up creating a faux brick wall in our master bedroom and did the German Schmear treatment in there! Click here to see that tutorial!

I chose to do a dry brush/wet brush technique on my fireplace which I'll explain below.

Supplies needed to paint a brick fireplace

Like I mentioned above, this project started off as a cleaning experiment!

Clean fireplace

Before you paint your fireplace, please do the prep work to insure the best results!

I vacuumed the fireplace well. I also removed all the melted wax that has been sitting on the hearth for who knows how long. To do this, I used a heat gun and a piece of newsprint. I melted the wax with the heating tool and then laid the newsprint over the puddle to absorb the wax. I continued until the melted pool of wax no longer gleamed.

I also cleaned my fireplace to the best of my ability. You can Google various ways to do this using vinegar, TSP, etc.

How to paint a brick fireplace with chalk paint

Now that my fireplace was relatively clean, I was ready to paint.

I taped off the carpet around the hearth and poured a small amount of white chalk paint into a SOLO cup.

Using my small brush, I proceeded to paint the grout lines. I found that if I attempted this with my large brush, I got too much paint on the bricks.

My method is simple. After painting the grout lines in a small section, I dipped just the tips of my regular Purdy brush in the paint. I concentrated the heavier paint on the outer edges of the brick. Once my brush was mostly dry, I went back over the centers of the bricks to give them lighter coverage.

So I started with a wet brush for the edges of the bricks, which needed the most coverage. Then I finished off the insides of the bricks with the dry brush, blending the wet paint well. The dirty looking bricks got a bit heavier coverage!

You can see that I started at the bottom and worked my way up my fireplace.

And while I was at it, I painted my mantel! That board was the last bastion of glossy fake oak in our home...and I was not sad to see it go! Eventually I would like to replace it with a larger, chunkier mantel but for now, I'm happy with it!

It took just a couple of hours to finish painting the fireplace and mantle! Two hours to a whole new look...I love that!

I really love how much of the red still shows through, but the whole effect is fresher and clean-looking!

If you find that you've applied too much paint, you can easily sand it off. So start light and then add more paint if you need. I found as the paint dried it lightened significantly, so I ended up applying it with a bit of a heavier hand.

The paint dried really quickly, and in no time at all I was able to style my newly painted brick fireplace!

What a difference a couple hours of painting makes. I am always amazed!

close up of painted fireplace |

The fireplace still has texture, but painting it makes it feel more modern. It fits in with the rest of the room and now the overall feeling in the room is so much lighter and brighter! I love how the black screen pops now!

The fireplace (in my opinion) was an eyesore and detracted from all the other lovely things happening in the room. It all works together now!

The difference is dramatic and I didn't even have to buy any supplies! I used up my leftover white chalk paint ( Rustoleum Chalked in Linen).

Please PIN THIS IMAGE so you have it saved for future reference!

And how has my family reacted to the change? That same family who were so opposed to a painted fireplace?

They love it! Just like I knew they would 😍

bringing beauty to the ordinary,
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  1. Gorgeous. It looks so much lighter and airier. Plus, the Blessed sign really stands out now.

    1. Thank you so much Debra! I agree with everything you said!

  2. Cindy that is one gorgeous fireplace brimming with character. Sometimes they need to trust your instinct when it comes to these things.

  3. What a great transformation! I have been wondering if I could do this with a faux brick wall in our house.

    1. Thank you Eilis, you could try a small patch at the bottom and see how it looks!

  4. Just gorgeous ! Just what my family wants to do with our fireplace. We have been searching for the right idea's and techniques. Thank you. Love site too !

    1. Thanks so much Wendy, I love hearing that my tutorials are helpful to others! I wish you luck with your fireplace transformation...would love to see a pic when it's done ;)

  5. Love this idea! I too was thinking about the German smear method, but that seems like a lot of messy work, and if I ever decide to paint it in the future, I might lose the brick texture. This is a perfect alternative, and provides essentially the same "look." Question though: Did you seal either the brick or wood mantle afterward?

    1. Thanks Lisa! I did not seal either. We don't use the fireplace that often and I figure if it gets dirty, it will be easy to add a coat of paint! You may want to explore options if you burn a lot of fires!

  6. There are a lot of tutorials available on painting and whitewashing fireplaces over the internet. I read them, but then decided to do my own thing. And your blog post helped me a lot to sort things out. Now, my fireplace orientation looks fine.

    Thanks to your comprehensive guide. I will share some pictures with you someday!

  7. Hi, So it has a while since you have done this, are you still pleased? I am ready to do mine, just checking on your continued happiness with the paint you choose, that is what I have at home too.

  8. I'm so excited about my new chaulk paint fireplace. .you're awesome and made it so easy for me to do. I'd love to share my pictures if you're interested .thanks for motivating me.

    1. Yes please send me a picture of your painted fireplace!

  9. This is beautiful! I love the transformation. Thanks for the great ideas!

  10. This is a fantastic look. I have also been looking at white washing and not super happy with the bland overall hue it gives, and I didn’t want to paint it completely white; I too wanted the brick to show through. Thank you so much for this tutorial, it’s exactly what I had in mind, I’ve been looking for a few years now!

  11. Cindy, I cant thank you enough for this very easy to follow directions. I tackled my fireplace with confidence this weekend and it looks beautiful. I wish I could upload a before and after picture to show you. Again thanks your instructions were easy to follow and you supply list with links made my shopping quick and simple. Looking forward to seeing more of you ideas.

    1. I'm so glad you found my tutorial easy to follow! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know!!

  12. It's beautiful. Thank you for sharing your process. Do you know about how much paint you used for this project? I'm trying to decide how much I'll need for mine. I have a lot more brick than you do here but a sample amount would be helpful. Thanks.

  13. Can you tell me more about your double-sided fireplace? Is it completely open on both sides? We also have one but it has old glass doors that we'd like to remove. It looks like it's gas... do you turn it on often?

    1. Hi Amy, it is gas and it's open on both sides. We do have screens that we use when we're burning, but they're not attached. We only use the fireplace a handful of times in the winter because it's so hot here in Texas!

  14. Hi Cindy, I've really enjoyed spending time in your blog tonight. I have a question about painting a fireplace. I want to do basically what you have done, and get that same sort of look. But my fireplace brick is painted dark brown. It's beautiful with the paint and fixtures that were here when we bought the house. But I'm itching for something lighter and brighter, and it gets a little depressing, with a big surround of brick in dark brown. (the fireplace in our living room is black, but that doesn't bother me like the brown.) So could I use this technique on already painted brick? Other options you can tell me about ?
    Thanks so much,

  15. Oh, and I have 4 4 oz. jars of a beautiful, very light sage-ish green. From Martha Stewart I think. I love the color and was wondering if I could work it in.

    1. Hey Molle, you could paint the brick with the green paint first and then do the white wash over the top. You'll probably need to go heavier with the paint to cover the brown, but I'll bet it will lighten up your room tremendously!

  16. I loved this idea so much that I tried it! It does make the room look larger and brighter! Thank you for the idea!

    1. Gotta love paint! I'm glad you are happy with your results! I'd love to see a pic!

  17. I love your technique. It really inspired me. I used white chalk and I love it. Now I want to sell it but need advise on what product to use. Do you or any of the readers have any suggestions?

    1. A matte water based poly should seal it nicely. I'm so glad you had great results with this easy project!

  18. Love it. We did a similar thing, painted the paneling and German smeared the fireplace and we love ours.


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