I bet you never realized just how easy it is to whitewash a brick fireplace. It’s a simple DIY that you can do in an afternoon – especially with this quick and easy whitewash technique.
As “rustic” and charming as my original brick fireplace was, it simply wasn’t in line with my vision for our living room. Wanting a more light and airy feel, with less of the red brick was the end goal.
As a novice DIYer, adding tile to the fireplace front was not something I wanted to tackle, especially since there were different levels to the brick. I knew the best options were either to paint the entire thing white, or to give it a coat of whitewash.
Since I wanted to keep some of the texture of the brick, I decided that white washing it was a good idea. Plus, if I didn’t like it, it would be easy to just paint it one color. If I painted to start with, I couldn’t do the reverse!
Deciding on painting versus whitewashing really depends on how much you want the brick to show through. If you want to completely hide the red brick, painting it would be an option, if you still want some of the red/brown hues to come through, then white washing is a good choice.
What You’ll Need
- Paint brush
- White paint (any sheen except high gloss)
- Painter’s tape
How to Whitewash a Red Brick Fireplace
Clean the Brick
The first thing I needed to do was clean the brick. Despite the fireplace having not been used in over 30 years, there was a lot of soot caked into the brick. Using warm soapy water, I scrubbed the brick with a nail brush and let it dry.
Dilute the Paint
I had plenty of half-empty cans of white semi-gloss paint lying around the garage so I didn’t even need to buy any supplies. After protecting the floor with a tarp, and adding painter’s tape so that the wall didn’t get paint on it, I added water to my can of paint until it had a watery texture. I started out with about half a gallon of paint, and added approximately 1 and a half cups of water to get the right consistency.
Paint the Brick
Using a paintbrush, I brushed the white wash onto the brick. The brick soaked up the color readily. I continued brushing the paint on until I achieve the color depth that I wanted. If you apply too much in one area, use a rag or sponge to soak it up. You can also use the rag/sponge to apply more paint to an area or continue using the brush.
Don’t forget about the brick grout! If it’s very dark gray, you may want to use a finer paintbrush to paint it to achieve a more opaque look.
Using regular semi-gloss paint (that had not been watered down) I also painted the mantel white.
And here is the finished whitewashed brick fireplace, minus the tarp!
Doesn’t it look so much cleaner and brighter? And it was SO easy to do!
You may notice the black “tile” that I also added. I realized that the red glazed tile was detracting from the look that I was trying to achieve since it still brought out the red tones from the brick. So I added some simple peel and stick tile.
While the painted brick fireplace contrasts well with the peel and stick tile, after a couple of months I decided I needed to add some real tile! Plus, black is not really my color so we replaced it with some pretty gray tile that we had left over from our bathroom remodel. You can read all about how I added tile to the fireplace here.
Finally, the sooty fireplace hearth bothered me with all the nice clean paint going on around it. So after scrubbing it down with some TSP, that got a nice coat of white paint too. You can learn all about how to paint a brick fireplace here, including the hearth and brick.
How do you feel about painted brick fireplaces? I know some people have very strong opinions on keeping the natural look of the brick, but I personally love both an opaque and whitewashed look of painted brick. And I certainly love how this whitewash brick fireplace turned out!
- White paint
- Paint brush
- Drop cloth
- Painter's tape
- Add water to the paint. The exact ratio will vary depending on how much you want the brick to show through. Our brick was very porous, so one cup to a half gallon of paint seemed to work well.
- Apply the paint to the brick and mortar using a dappling technique. Brushing won't get you far, you need to almost push the paint into the brick. Wipe off any excess with a rag.
- If you apply too much paint, just use a wet rag to wipe some of it off.
- Do one coat and determine if you want a second coat. While the brick will readily absorb the paint, once it dries more of it will come to the surface.