How to Whitewash a Fireplace

If your brick fireplace is in need of a face lift, and removing the brick isn’t a viable option for you, whitewashing your existing brick is a great alternative. This homeowner’s fireplace was a perfect candidate for whitewashing because of the pitted, chippy look of the bricks, as well as the color variations within each individual brick.

This fireplace is in a family room that opens up into an adjoining kitchen. The homeowner just had her hickory cabinets painted white, purchased new stainless-steel appliances, had new white Carrara counter tops installed and changed the wall color from tan to a beautiful light gray (Anew Gray from Sherwin Williams). After all of the updates, her fireplace looked out-of-place. The snowball continued to roll…

(You can see we did a test sample on the hearth so we’d have an idea of what the brick was going to look like before fully committing.)

How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Whitewashing is a pretty simple, but amazingly messy process since it requires using watered down paint that splatters and runs. We chose a flat paint since a sheen on this fireplace would’ve seemed out-of-place.

I normally take great pride in keeping the labels of my paint cans clean, but after re-opening the can a couple of times with messy gloved hands to mix more paint, my OCD had to take a back seat. Here’s the paint we used.

How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I mixed equal amounts of paint and water for the whitewash. I only used about a third of a quart on this project, so be warned that you probably don’t need a gallon of paint unless you have a monstrous amount of brick.

I used an old, worn paint brush, because painting rough brick and mortar joints will make a new brush into an old brush in a hurry. Starting at the top, I coated a one to two foot area, then blotted parts of some of the bricks so they would have some variation.

I was careful to keep wiping and smearing any paint that dripped and ran onto the bricks below. And trust me, the paint will run and drip no matter how careful you are. If the runs dry on the bricks before you get to them, they’ll show through.

I quickly moved from one area to the next, trying not to overlap the previous section. After about half of the fireplace was done, I added more water to my paint because it started to thicken. If the paint doesn’t stay a consistent thickness (or in this case, thinness), your finish will be heavier where you applied the thicker paint, and will be more opaque. Then you’ve got yourself a lopsided fireplace, so keep an eye on your paint! Here’s a close-up of the bricks before and after.

Before
How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL
After
How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL
Before
How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL
After
How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

When the paint mix was first applied, it looked very white, but within a few minutes it soaked into the brick and became more see-through. This process is sort of a guessing game until you see how much paint is going to be absorbed by the brick.

The most important tips for this project are to have lots of blotting rags ready, to wear gloves and to cover everything within a mile radius with plastic.

This complete fireplace makeover was very cost-effective and required little in the way of demo. The homeowner beefed-up and modernized her fireplace mantle by removing some old decorative trim and adding a simple pine board that was painted white, she whitewashed her brick and sprayed her brass fireplace screen. (See my post “Update Fireplace Doors With Spray Paint“). All three of these improvements were very DIY-friendly, and what a transformation! The new fireplace now flows with the rest of the room.

Here are the before and afters.

How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Whitewash a Fireplace / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

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29 thoughts on “How to Whitewash a Fireplace

  1. Laurie says:

    Looks great!! What paint color is on the walls? I love the entire look of the room 🙂

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      Thank you! This client’s home was beautiful. The color I painted the bulk of her home with–including the family room with the fireplace–was Anew Gray by Sherwin Williams. She also used Agreeable Gray in a couple of rooms that didn’t have as much light as the main rooms.

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  2. Danielle Dragomir says:

    I want to do the same with my fireplace. I read you used a white flat paint. What is the name of the specific white paint you used? I hope my fireplace comes out looking this good!

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      I’m sure your fireplace will turn out beautifully, Danielle! I just used Sherwin Williams’ off-the-shelf SuperPaint (paint and primer in one) with no colorant in it–just right out of the can. If that’s what you choose to use as well, make sure when you go to the paint store that they put it in the shaker machine for you even with no colorant in it. If it’s been sitting on the shelf awhile, it might be thicker on the bottom and when the can is full, it’s hard to stir. Good luck!

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  3. Jen says:

    Do u have to pride it first?? Will the brick bleed through in like 6 months or later??

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      Jen, if you are asking if you have to “prime” the bricks first, the answer is no–not for whitewashing. I would recommend removing any soot or heavy dirt before you start though. The bricks I whitewashed were clean. No, the brick color will not bleed back through–ever. However, I’ve read that if you try to whitewash over red bricks, the paint will turn pink, so be careful!!

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  4. angela gaterman says:

    Tracy,

    Where did you get the new white mantel? I love all of this! I’m taking on this project this weekend! So excited!

    Thanks

    Angie

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      I’m glad you liked the project! This house was a client’s house, not mine (I’m a painter). But she had a handy man build the mantle for her. If I remember correctly, he just built it right over the top of her old mantel, but I could be mistaken about that. It’s a simple box-type construction. Very do-able if you have basic carpentry skills. Good luck with your project!

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  5. Donna says:

    So I have red brick – would still white wash brick.

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      If you are asking my opinion on whether or not you should whitewash your brick even though it’s red, I would be very cautious. I’ve read many posts of people who’ve ended up with a pink fireplace after trying that. Something to consider would be to put a sealer on the bricks first so that the red won’t come off when you whitewash. But with the sealer on the bricks, it may not accept the paint at all. I’ve never tried that, but if I had a red brick fireplace and was desperate for a change, I would either seal the bricks first and then try it, or take different colors of watered down paint (grey, black, tan, brown) and dab the bricks with those colors first, and then try whitewashing after a few days of drying time. On my client’s fireplace in this blog post, I warned her that I couldn’t guarantee the results of whitewashing since there are many types of bricks and they will all react differently because of color and porousness. She agreed to the whitewashing, knowing that if it didn’t turn out the way we anticipated, I would just paint the fireplace white. So you always have the option of just painting the bricks if it doesn’t turn out. Again, I’m not encouraging you to try the sealer or painting the bricks with blotchy patches first because I’ve never tried it, so experiment at your own risk. Those are merely things I would try if I were desperate. Good luck!

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  6. Linda says:

    I am going to try this😄

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      I’m happy for you! I hope you’ll let us all know how it came out, and give any pointers that might be helpful. What I told my client when I whitewashed the fireplace in this post was that if she didn’t like how it turned out, we could always paint it white, and she was good with that. So that would also be an option for you too.

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  7. Patti says:

    What ratio of paint to water did you use?

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  8. Robin says:

    I want to do this on outside brick-any added suggestions? Should there be some kind of over coating/sealer? I am determined to paint this outside brick trim in order to soften the pink and brown (very similar to the fireplace you did) so that I can paint the house a nice dark grey with white trim. If this technique doesn’t work (and I PRAY that it will) I can always paint over it with straight white if I have to.-but this would be VERY striking!

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      Yes, I have some suggestions. Before painting exterior brick, you’ll need to power wash it and let it dry for a couple days before painting. You’ll need to be sure to allow plenty of drying time especially if your house faces north. Even brick that feels smooth to the touch is porous, and will take some time to dry. Second, and I suppose this might seem obvious, you’ll want to use an exterior paint. What I don’t know is whether or not exterior paint will lose its strength as far as holding up to the weather if it’s watered down for the whitewashing. You might be able to contact the manufacturer of the paint you choose to use. I’m guessing they’ll advise against watering down the paint, and will tell you it’ll void their warranty. If that’s the case, you could try brushing on the paint and wiping it back off right away and/or blotting it to see if that would give you a whitewashed look. I’m guessing it might get you there. Third, you do not need any type of sealer for exterior paint–just be certain the paint you buy is recommended for masonry. And I wouldn’t trust a box store employee with that question (sorry). Read the can! You’ll also need to look for an exterior masonry paint that doesn’t require a primer or you’ll lose the whitewashed look via the primer. I hope this helps! Good luck.

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  9. Barbara Foley says:

    I have fake brick on my fireplace. Previous owners put up. I hate it and want to paint or whitewash. Since it is not real brick, I am wondering if i would need to do anything extra. or if you suggest doing something else altogether. I have no problem with just paining it. but would I need a special paint?
    Thanks Barb

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      It depends on what the fake brick is made out of. I really couldn’t say what to use without knowing. If it isn’t actually brick, I would go to a reputable paint store (not a paint department in a box store) and explain your dilemma. One thing I know for sure is that no matter what they’re made of, there is a paint that will adhere to them. I once used a special paint to paint a display board in a Bergners that was meant for “difficult” surfaces and the instructions said you could even paint glass with it! I wish I could be of more help.

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  10. how did you hide tv wires?

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  11. Irina says:

    Can I use satin finish of the paint? Or it should be flat only? Thanks

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      Personally, I would stick with flat. However, there probably wouldn’t be a huge difference between a satin and a flat because watering the paint down will reduce the sheen somewhat. But since there probably will still be a little shine to it, it then becomes a matter of personal preference. As far as adhesion, there won’t be any difference. If you’re going to purchase paint for the project, I would recommend a flat. If you’re wanting to use a satin because you have some on hand, my opinion is if you aren’t opposed to some sheen, go for it. I know that’s a wishy-washy answer, but I hope that helps!

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  12. Debbie says:

    You mentioned blotting and smearing – what did you use to do that? It looks great!

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    • Tracy Evans says:

      I used white rags from old t-shirts. My suggestion is to use white rags only as sometimes colored t-shirts can bleed into your paint. Been there. Thank you for the complement and good luck if you do some white washing at your house!

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  13. mstpru says:

    Enjoyed the practicality and honesty. Inspired to give it a go!

    Like

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