Painting a Brick Fireplace

Dec 29, 2022 | Flip House

I had been wanting to tackle a fixer-upper to flip and when my partner found one, I said, “Buy it!” sight unseen. From the photos, the house looked like it had all kinds of potential. It was a bit of a fixer-upper, and when I say that, I really mean a TOTAL gut-job which I found out when I visited the property for the first time after closing.

I knew that flipping a house was a long process and it’s been almost 5 months since buying the house. But little by little it’s coming along and as long as it’s done by Spring, I’ll be happy.

One of the key features of the house was the fireplace, and let’s just say it was looking a little dated. It was one of those 1940s red brick deals that just screamed “ugly.” The bricks were also covered in soot that was impossible to clean.

But I had a vision. I knew that with a fresh coat of paint, the fireplace could be a real showstopper. So, I set out to make it happen. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Prep the Surface

Before you start any painting project, it’s important to prep the surface. This means getting rid of any dirt, dust, or debris that might get in the way of a smooth finish. I used a stiff brush to loosen any brick and dust particles then vacuumed up any loose dirt. I then scrubbed the surface with a deck brush and TSP, a heavy duty cleaner. Trust me and do this. You don’t want any dirt or dust getting in the way of your perfect paint job.

Step 2: Prime

I applied a coat of primer. I used Behr paint for masonry and brick which is a high-quality, water-based primer that blocks stains and seals porous surfaces. It’s a bit of a pain to use because it’s so runny, but it’s worth it for the great results. I also had my paint store tint the primer since I was painting the fireplace a dark color. They added as much black as they could which made the primer gray but it was better than trying to paint over white primer.

Step 3: Paint

Once the primer was dry, it was time to start painting the surface of your fireplace. You can use any latex paint as it’s rated for temperatures up to 180 degrees. The surface of your fireplace should never reach those temperatures, but if you’re unsure, you can use an infrared heat gun to verify. I actually did and found that after about a 4 hours of burning, the surface temperature of the bricks (that were in contact with the paint) got to a whopping 100 degrees. So definitely below the 180 degree threshold.

For the fireplace, I used Benjamin Moore’s “Soot” in an eggshell finish. I love using Benjamin Moore paint for all my paint projects as it has a rich finish and provides excellent coverage. To apply this beautiful color, I used a thick, nappy paint roller since the brick absorbs SO. MUCH. PAINT! I also used my favorite paint brush. After painting for hundreds of hours throughout many projects, I can attest that this brush is the best.

If you’re going to paint the firebox (the inside of the fireplace), be sure to use high temperature paint. I like Rustoleum High Heat spray paint. It’s fairly noxious so be sure to wear a mask and have great ventilation. But having a deep rich black in the firebox as a backdrop to a glowing fire is beautiful and worth the trouble. I have yet to do this in mine, but definitely plan to.

And that’s it! With just a few simple steps, I was able to transform the fireplace from a dated and dingy feature into a modern and stylish centerpiece. I have more plans for the fireplace to include re-tiling the firebox and hearth and building a custom wood stained mantle and surround. Stay tuned!