Have you been thinking about updating your outdated red brick fireplace? If so, I’m hopeful that this post will give you the courage to go ahead and just do it! I will show you how easy it is to whitewash a red brick fireplace with chalk paint! This is a fun and simple DIY makeover and a project you can do in just one day! And the impact on your living space is amazing!
Here is a picture of my dated red brick fireplace with a glass and screen insert. Our house was built in the late 70’s and this fireplace truly screamed 70’s decor. This fireplace, which is upstairs in our living room, doesn’t get much use, so I was a little worried about peeking behind those glass doors! And honestly it was a little scary with all the dust and cobwebs!
But I so badly wanted to update this fireplace that my daughter and I set our minds to getting this project underway. Now, I’ll take you through the simple steps we took to update our dated fireplace with chalk paint, starting with a supplies list.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission! But this is much appreciated and helps me keep blogging to bring you more helpful content! Here is a link to my full disclosure policy.
Why Whitewash Brick With Chalk Paint?
Whitewashing outdated brick fireplaces is very popular right now on Pinterest, especially with the popularity of the farmhouse and coastal decor styles. A whitewashed brick fireplace also pairs well with most any wall color. And, it does wonders to update a room and create a gorgeous focal point.
What Is Whitewashing With Chalk Paint?
A whitewash technique is basically using watered down chalk paint. You can change the consistency of the paint and water mixture and therefore change the coverage by using different ratios of paint to water. Brick is very porous and will absorb some of the paint/water as you go. So this is why a watered down application of chalk paint works best. It will likely require several coats of paint.
You can certainly choose to do a full coverage paint job for your fireplace, but it would likely require a very good bonding primer first and then several coats of paint that is made to adhere well to brick or masonry. Whitewashing instead will not give complete coverage, allowing some of the underlying brick natural color to peek through. This gives a very Earthy, coastal, and farmhouse vibe, which I love!
Project Supplies List
How To Whitewash Brick: Simple Steps
1. CLEAN OUT THE FIREBOX/HEARTH
Clean out your fireplace first to prepare for paint. I opted to completely remove my glass door and screen on my hearth, leaving the hearth open. This required me to clean it out completely. Honestly before you paint it is best to get rid of all the dust and soot anyway. You don’t want that stuff contaminating your paint. And let me tell you this is a messy job, at least it was for me with the condition of my fireplace.
One tip is to make sure your fireplace is completely cooled down, if it was recently used. Protect the space around your hearth by placing down drop cloths. This is a messy project and soot and ash from fireplaces can easily stain floors and clothing. So you may want to put on some old clothes and be sure to wear good work gloves.
To clean the firebox use a dust mask or respirator! With so much dust and debris flying around you’ll likely need it! Goggles are recommended too. Always protect your eyes! Use a broom and dust pan to clean the firebox. Place debris, dust and soot into a bag for disposal. You probably won’t want to use the broom you use for everything else as it may get soot and ash on it and track to other areas of your home!
Next use a Shop Vac to remove all those dust particles. I also like to vacuum all the fireplace brick, even the part outside the hearth, before painting. Amazing how many dust bunnies and cobwebs collect in those brick crevices and bumps.
2. WIPE DOWN/CLEAN BRICK AND HEARTH
I researched how best to clean fireboxes and found several recommendations. But first you will likely need to put on some good work gloves if your didn’t already do this for the first step. Make a solution of warm water mixed with a few drops of dish liquid to apply to the firebox. Try scrubbing the solution into the soiled areas with a scrub brush. Rinse with old rags/towels or shop towels. Next, if needed apply a paste of baking soda and water and scrub the firebox walls and floor with a good scrub brush. If you are keeping the fireplace glass doors clean those with vinegar and water.
Wipe down the outside area of the brick fireplace with a mixture of water and a few drops of dish liquid to remove dirt or stains before painting. Rinse with a clean rag and water and allow to dry.
3. PREPARE THE WORKSPACE
Place down dropcloths and hold in place with painter’s tape if needed to protect floor and walls around fireplace. Blue painter’s tape works perfectly to mark off the areas where you don’t want paint. Much different from regular masking tape, painter’s tape doesn’t peel off the paint when it is removed. There are several brands of painter’s tape out there that I often reach for when making this purchase. I like Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape, Frogtape Painter’s Tape which is green, and most recently I Duck brand Painter’s Tape, which worked remarkably well and peeled off so easy. I found this at my local Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market but you can also order it on Amazon or even walmart.com.
4. MIX PAINT FOR WHITEWASH
You can use any brand of chalk mineral paint for the whitewash. I had some leftover Valspar Chalky Finish Paint in the color “kid gloves”. This is what I started the process with. I poured the paint into a plastic bowl and did about a 2 parts paint: 1 part water mixture. I only had one-half can of the Valspar paint so I went to Lowe’s to get some more to finish my project. To my surprise I learned that this paint is no longer carried, but they recommended Krylon Chalky Finish Paint as a replacement. I can’t speak to the quality of this paint as I haven’t yet tried it on a piece of furniture where getting a smooth finish would be important. However, it worked fine for this project. But other paint brands you could consider are Dixie Belle Chalk Mineral Paint or Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint.
5. PAINT YOUR BRICK FIREPLACE
Once the paint and water is mixed, you can move on to the fun part, whitewashing the brick fireplace! But you may be wondering what brushes to use. For this project I recommend using regular old brushes, not your best ones. My brick is traditional red brick which is not smooth so the surface is bumpy with ridges and crevices and your brushes will get beat up during the painting process.
Also brick is porous, so you kind of have to do a combination of brush stokes and stabs to get the paint onto the surface. You can sponge or brush on the paint and work it into the brick, but I found it easier to just work the paint into the brick with a stiff brush. I used some older paintbrushes for this. You will find that the brick will absorb some of your paint so you may see more brick color peeking through as the paint dries. Just keep putting on more coats until you achieve the desired amount of whitewash color on your brick.
6. APPLY STAIN-BLOCKING PRIMER WHERE NEEDED
If you see areas where some stains show through once the paint is dried, you may need to apply a white-tinted stain-blocking primer to those spots. I did have a few pink-tinted stains and some light brownish tan stains showed through in spots. After doing a little research on these I learned that these stains come from dye in the brick or from soot or other chemicals commonly found in fireplaces.
I used Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer in White. This primer is really thin but since it was white, I could apply it in spots where needed without messing up the appearance of finished product. I did at first use regular Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer in White. This primer is a little thicker but when it didn’t work to block the stains I was dealing with. So I gave the Shellac-based primer a try and it worked perfectly to prevent those stains from bleeding through. After the primer dried I then repainted those spots with the chalk paint.
7. ADMIRE YOUR UPDATED BRICK FIREPLACE
Now that your fireplace is painted step back and admire your work! While you typically topcoat furniture pieces painted with chalk mineral style paint, that is not necessary here. If you have some areas of the brick that do get scratched up then just touch-up those spots as needed. If you want more info on chalk painting furniture check out this blog post.
One thing you could consider is painting the firebox itself inside the hearth. This might look very nice if you are like me and leaving the hearth open without a door or screen. However, if you use the fireplace or plan to use it in the future, be mindful of what type of paint might be safe for those high-heat areas. I was considering painting our firebox but after doing a little research decided to leave it alone for now. I did come across several posts where folks had used a Rust-oleum High-Heat paint for this purpose, but I’d suggest doing a little research to make sure it’s a safe option for your fireplace.
Making Your Fireplace A Focal Point
Consider an Accent Wall
So, hopefully I’ve shown you how easy it is to whitewash your fireplace brick. Another fun way that we made the whitewashed fireplace the focal point of our living room was to make that wall our accent wall. I had never before considered doing an accent wall. But let me just tell you that it really creates that wow factor in a room!
Try Out Different Wall Colors Online Before Your Shop
What inspired me to consider an accent wall was the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap Visualizer! You can upload a photo of your room and try out different wall colors to help you plan before your shop for paint. We had initially planned to paint the whole living room a single color, Repose Gray by Sherwin-Williams. Once we started painting Repose on the walls we immediately knew this wouldn’t work for this room. The living room doesn’t get enough natural light to support this color on our walls. We went back and had the paint tinted to Mindful Gray, another great Sherwin-Williams color.
While playing with the ColorSnap Visualizer I noticed that the color strip contained a beautiful deep charcoal gray called Black Fox. I decided to try out this color in the ColorSnap Visualizer as an accent color on the wall with the fireplace! And wow, let me just say that immediately I knew this would really make the fireplace pop! I would have never considered this dark accent wall color if I hadn’t tried the ColorSnap Visualizer so I encourage you to give it a try before you shop for paint. The little paint sample swatches are nice, but it’s hard to really imagine the space with just those little sample cards.
Oh, and please disregard our very ugly stained old carpet. That is on my project to do list. And I really think that once we place down new flooring it will make a world of difference in this room!
So hopefully I’ve inspired you to try updating your brick fireplace with a chalk paint whitewash! A simple and fun project that my daughter and I did in one day really made a huge difference in the living room space. And now when someone walks into our living room, their eyes are immediately drawn to the fireplace. And, as I mentioned above, the accent wall also really makes that whitewashed fireplace stand out – in a good way!
Feel free to message me if you have any questions about this or any other projects! I’d love to hear from you! And if you don’t follow me on social, please follow me on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/simplyrefinished/and Facebook too at https://www.facebook.com/simplyrefinished.