Have you ever wondered how to whitewash a brick fireplace? We decided to do this to our dated brick fireplace, and today I’ll walk you through the entire process.
First let’s take a look at the room before we moved in, when it was a completely blank canvas.
And then we moved in and chaos took over.
A little more progress…
I knew from day one that I wanted to do something about the fireplace. The bright red brick just made the room seem dark, especially since the room doesn’t get very much natural light thanks to the connecting sun room. I decided to whitewash it, although I opted for a more opaque version of a whitewash since I didn’t want a pinkish red tone showing through, but I still wanted the texture of the brick to show. The idea of taking a paint brush to the fireplace was definitely a bit scary, but I felt like I really had nothing to lose since I could always just paint it if the whitewash didn’t look right. We might reface the whole thing eventually anyway, so for now this is a solution that works for us. If you’ve been thinking about doing something similar to your fireplace, then you’re in luck, because I’m walking you through the whole process.
First, let’s take a look at where we are now.
Now for the tutorial:
How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace
- White paint (I just used a basic white interior latex in an Eggshell finish, but I think that any white latex paint would work.)
- Paint brush
- Cotton rags
- Painter’s tape
- Baby wipes (I keep these on-hand during any paint project for easy clean-up!)
- Drop cloth
- Paint mixing cup (the ones with the measuring lines work great)
- Booze (Ok I’m kidding, but if any project would drive me to drink, it’s this one.)
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Day One of this project had me wanting to pull my hair out, not because it’s difficult, but because it’s tedious and time consuming and I just wanted it done already. It didn’t help that I started it at nighttime after a long day and I was tired (and maybe a wee bit grouchy). When I woke the next morning to finish the job, it went much more smoothly. I think this was partly due to being well-rested and partly because I could better visualize the outcome and I liked what I was seeing so far. This is definitely one of those projects where you have to keep your eye on the prize and know that the work will be worth it. I estimate that it took a total of 4 hours or so, and I split it up over 2 days.
Ok, let’s get down to business. Here’s how you do it:
First, mix your paint with water. I kept a craft stick in my paint container the whole time so I could periodically stir it.
How much water you add will be determined by how much of the brick you want to show through. I’ve seen a ratio of one part paint to one part water recommended, but this was way too watery for our super porous bricks and they soaked it up like a sponge. (See below.)
I ended up just adding a smidge of water to the paint – I didn’t really measure, but if I had to guess I’d say 3-4 parts paint to 1 part water. It was a runny consistency but still thick enough to adhere well to the brick. It ran off the brush like a ribbon, similar to the consistency that would be required for a paint sprayer.
I made my paint a little thicker because I only wanted to do one coat. Here’s something to be aware of — when you apply the paint, even if you use more water than I did, it may appear more opaque than you want it at first. Don’t panic! The bricks will absorb it and start to show through. Also, you will probably get a lot of drips, so have a rag handy to wipe those as you go.
I taped around the edges of the mantle and near the floor since I’m a messy painter and I didn’t want to take any chances.
To apply the paint, I worked in sections and first painted the mortar by cramming my brush in and stippling, dabbing, and doing whatever it took to get into the crevices, and then worked my way across the bricks. (You could try a roller for the bricks, but I found that I really had to stipple and cram my brush in there since most of my bricks were pretty roughly textured.) I continued this process the whole time, going back and touching up where needed. I stepped back frequently to look and make sure I was applying it evenly and that it wasn’t absorbing more in one spot than others. Which, by the way, it did. I woke on day 2 after painting the top half of the fireplace, to find that the right side was more opaque than the left, probably because my paint thickened as I went along. I went back and added more until I evened it out, and made sure to keep my paint stirred more consistently for the rest of the time.
See how the right side appears to have more coverage than the left?
Here’s a shot of it halfway done:
In the end, we were really happy with the results and the white really brightens up the room. The red tone of the brick is covered but the texture still shows.
If your paint goes on too opaque, you can use a wet rag to wash some of the paint away. If there is too much coverage after it dries, you can always take a sander to it.
Here’s another look at the After:
UPDATE: We’ve made progress! You can see what this room looks like now and get all the details here.
So tell me, would you whitewash or paint your brick fireplace? Or leave it “as is”?
You Might Also Like:
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- 9 IKEA Bookcase Hacks
- How to Stain a Deck
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