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How to paint a brick fireplace with a rustic French look

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Are you wondering how to paint a brick fireplace and make it look more updated? I’m sharing how I painted our 1960’s brick fireplace and hearth and gave it a rustic French look.

how to paint a brick fireplace

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How to Paint a Brick Fireplace with a rustic French finish

Our house has a monster size, freestanding brick fireplace with an attached planter that’s the first thing you see when you enter. Actually, there’s another one just like it in the basement, but I haven’t tackled it yet. Stay tuned for that.

Here’s how the brick fireplace looked before I painted it.

red brick fireplace before painting

Anyway, I’ve lived with it and tried to embrace it since we moved into the house in 2006. That’s a long time to stare at something you’re not crazy about.

Painted brick fireplace

white painted brick fireplace with salvaged architecture and faux hydrangeas

I’m a purist at heart and really wanted to maintain the original feeling of the home and tried to love it. But recently I took the plunge, held my breath, and painted over it. Now I wish I had done it years ago. Update: it’s been nearly five years since I painted it and I still love it!

vintage plaid throw blankets on white painted brick hearth

The back side of the fireplace is in our kitchen and I liked the unpainted look in there. It added a warmth and texture that made the space feel cozy. So I’m not lying when I say this was a tough call for me.

white painted brick wall with wooden cutting boards and copper colander

But it really lightened the kitchen as well and my accessories look great against the lighter color bricks.

painted brick fireplace with fall decor

For our bricks, I wanted an old world, French country look with some of the texture of the brick accentuated. See the details of this fall decorated version of the painted brick fireplace here: Painted brick fireplace with fall decor

painted brick fireplace with spring decor

How to paint a brick fireplace

What kind of paint do I use on a red brick fireplace?

To ensure durability and ease of cleaning, you’ll want to paint your brick fireplace with something other than flat paint. An eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss finish will allow you to wipe down the surface when it gets dirty. A quality interior acrylic paint will work just fine for this.

For my project, I used some paint I had in the garage. It was Benjamin Moore eggshell finish in White Dove. The finish is great because it’s washable without being glossy. Flat paint or chalk paint is not washable, and I personally don’t care for semi-gloss paint.

Do I need to prime my brick fireplace before I paint it?

Priming your brick fireplace before you paint it isn’t necessary for the technique I used which allows the brick to “breathe”. As long as the brick is clean and completely dry you should be fine using a good quality acrylic paint.

If you wash the brick first, it’s critical that you allow it to dry completely. I’d recommend waiting at least 24 to 48 hours after washing before you apply your paint.

NOTE: If you aren’t using this technique and are completely covering your brick fireplace with paint, I would recommend priming it first. You’ll need to use high quality 100% acrylic primer.

This is how I got the rustic French country look.

Supplies needed

How much paint do I need to paint a fireplace?

A quart of paint should be enough for most projects and you could probably get away with a pint if all you have is a small fireplace surround.

Paint/Water Ratio

For this rustic French technique, I added a small amount of the paint, probably a cup and a half, to my handheld paint cup and thinned it down with water at a ratio of roughly 1 part water to 4 parts paint.

NOTE: If you’re not sure how opaque you want the paint, start out with more water than what I used. You can always make it more opaque by adding more paint if you decide that’s what you want. 

Once you get the paint mixed, you’re ready to apply it to the brick. Here’s the technique I used to paint our red brick fireplace.

1. Clean the brick

First, clean the brick if it has soot or dirt on it. Use a vacuum to remove any ash or dust. And if there’s any blackened areas, you’ll want to remove as much as you can with a wire brush and a heavy duty cleaner. Our fireplace hasn’t been used very much so it had minimal soot on it.

2. Paint the mortar

applying paint to red brick fireplace

As I worked my way across and around the fireplace, I painted the mortar around the bricks first. I used a professional brush and dragged it across holding the brush longways as shown above. You don’t want too much paint on your brush or it will run down onto the bricks below it.

3. Lightly brush the paint over the brick surface

painting red brick fireplace white

NOTE: After I painted the mortar, I dipped the brush back into the paint/water mixture, offloaded most of it back into my handheld paint cup, and lightly dragged the paint brush across the brick at an angle. Our bricks have imprints of twigs and leaves and I really wanted to accentuate them. 

I was basically skimming the paint over the surface, deliberately keeping it from seeping into the imprints so they would be darker and contrast somewhat against the light paint.

That’s all there was to it. I thought it would take a long time but it wasn’t too bad.

For my particular fireplace it took probably 4 – 5 hours. But if all you have is a brick facade and not 4 sides plus a planter, you can probably do the project in an hour or two. Ours is about 80 – 100 square feet of bricks.

Here are some more photos of the progress.

white paint on red brick fireplace
red brick fireplace with white paint being applied

The main thing to remember about this technique is offloading most of the paint and applying it while holding your brush at an angle.

Our painted brick fireplace – before and after

This is another comparison of the before and after.

painted brick fireplace before and after

Here you can see how the imprints show up against the white paint.

closeup of painted brick fireplace
white painted brick fireplace heart with vintage decor

Before, the fireplace absorbed all the light from the room, making it feel dark and depressing.

red brick fireplace before painting

Nothing really looked good against the brick. I tried so many different colors and accents. It was always a real challenge to make it work for seasonal decorations, especially spring.

white painted brick fireplace with spring decor

My spring decor looks great in here now. Any color looks pretty against the lighter brick. You can see more of this spring look and get the details here: Spring Mantel with Flowers and Vintage Finds.

white painted brick fireplace with fall decor

Now it’s light and bright and the room even feels larger. Here’s our fall decor. I’m already looking forward to decorating it for the holidays. (To see more of our fall fireplace decor and grab these free fern botanicals, go here: Fall Mantel with Free Printable Fern Prints .)

how to paint a brick fireplace

So if you’re on the fence about painting your brick like I was for so long, I totally understand. If you have a family member that doesn’t really want you to paint the brick, I understand. Maybe you think it might affect your resale value down the road, I get that too. It won’t. 

You’re the one who lives there now so make it look the way you want it. No regrets!

I hope this helps you in your fireplace makeover project. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Click for sources of decor items:

  • Cotton Stems – HERE
  • Metal Tool Caddies – HERE
  • Metal Sap Buckets – HERE (similar)
  • Vintage Metal Egg Crate – HERE (similar)
  • Wicker Demijohn – HERE (similar)
  • Throw Blanket on Mantel Shelf – HERE
  • Plaid Blanket in Egg Crate (top) – HERE
  • Plaid Blanket in metal crate and on chair above – HERE
  • Fall Colored Plaid blanket in metal crate #3 – HERE
how to paint a brick fireplace

7 Comments

  1. What an amazing transformation, Angie! The brick looks so good painted and it really makes your decor stand out. My favorite part is how you imprinted the brick with sticks and leaves. That adds such character!

  2. It is amazing. My fireplace looks very similar to yours. You're right- it sucks all the light out, it's hard to find things that look good against or even show up! My husband has said no to painting it. I'm hoping I can change his mind or get him to cover it up. Maybe if I can show him pictures he will see how much it will improve it! Thanks for sharing!

    1. It's amazing how much lighter and brighter the room feels now. I hope you can convince your husband to paint yours!

  3. Very pretty! I have a 1970's rock wall fireplace and I abhor it. I don't think I can reach to the ceiling, but to just do the part beneath the behemoth mantel would be a huge improvement for mine. Thank you for sharing. This is going on my 2018 goal list.

  4. This post inspired me and I took the plunge yesterday! My brick is very distressed and so the skimming technique worked very well. Now the nicks and blemishes look like they fit and the offensive peachy red is diminished. I used a 3 to 1 paint/water ratio instead. I am very pleased. Thanks for the idea and the help.

    1. Yay! I'm so glad it worked for you and you like the way it turned out. Thanks for letting me know. I'd love to see a picture of it if you get the chance. ~ Angie

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