How to Paint a Masonry Fireplace

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Many older homes have brick masonry fireplaces that can date a room. Short of removing the brick, what can you do to create a more modern look? One common method is to give the fireplace a new coat of paint. Join our host, Jeff Wilson, and guest Joe Grywalski, of JNG Painting, for a tutorial on painting a brick masonry fireplace.

Painting is one of the most common do-it-yourself projects. Most of us are used to painting the standard drywall or plaster walls and ceilings in our homes, but when it comes to painting unfamiliar surfaces like brick masonry, many of us have questions about the right type of paint and the right tools for the job. Painting brick masonry starts with the application of a specially formulated acrylic latex concrete and masonry primer. This ensures proper bonding and adhesion of the paint to the masonry surface. Just about any acrylic latex will work for the top coat. Any roller or brush will work for applying the paint, but for best results, a heavy nap roller makes it easier to work the paint into the pores and mortar joints of the brick surface. Read on for the step-by-step guide to painting brick masonry.

Necessary Tools and Materials

  • Concrete/masonry primer
  • Acrylic latex paint
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Masking paper
  • 1-1/4” heavy nap roller
  • Roller pan
  • 2” nylon bristle brush

How to Paint a Masonry Fireplace

  1. The first step, as in any successful painting project, is to properly clean the surface to be painted. Because brick masonry has a more porous and varied texture than drywall or plaster, it collects much more dirt and dust. A fireplace may also be subject to soot and combustion residue that can be hard to remove.
    • Use a vacuum to remove any loose dirt and dust from the brick, especially in any deep-set mortar joints.
    • To clean any areas with heavy dirt or soot buildup, use a stiff bristle brush and a mixture of trisodium phosphate and water.
    • Rinse the area with clean water and let it dry before painting.
  2. Next, prep the work area as you would for any painting project. Tape off any edges and surfaces you do not want to paint. Cover the floor and hearth with a drop cloth.
  3. For bare brick masonry, start with an acrylic primer coat specifically formulated for covering concrete and masonry surfaces.
    • The paint can be applied with standard painting tools, but a 1-1/4” heavy nap nylon polyester roller works well to get the paint into any deep-set mortar joints.
    • Apply slowly in small areas and work the paint over the surface and into the mortar joints.
    • Use a nylon bristle brush to touch up any areas that the roller doesn’t cover.
  4. Once the primer coat is dry, apply the finish coat(s) the same way.
    • An acrylic latex paint is ideal for the top coat.
    • While any type of finish is acceptable, such as a satin or semi-gloss, a low-gloss matte finish is a good choice to highlight the texture of the brick.
  5. Once the paint is dry, remove any drop cloths, tape, and masking paper.
  6. Use the brush to touch up paint as necessary.
  7. As with any painting project, if paint has accidentally covered areas not intended to be painted, use a little warm water or a degreasing agent to remove the excess paint.
Ryan Carpico

Ryan is a Registered Architect who earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kentucky in 1998. His experience in a broad spectrum of architectural projects includes design and project management in multi-family residential, general commercial, and institutional projects. This architectural experience is balanced with a background in general contracting of residential and light commercial construction projects. Ryan’s knowledge and ability as both architect and builder enable him to address both the technical and practical sides of the comprehensive body of construction knowledge.

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