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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.