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How To Whitewash a Brick Fireplace

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 whitewashing technique.

whitewashed brick fireplace before and after

Easily Update an Outdated Room

Simple updates can totally transform the look of any space. When a fireplace is the focal point of a living room, it can be a major eyesore if it doesn’t fit with the style of the space.

Red brick fireplaces can look absolutely stunning and classic in the right room, but in this living room, the richness of the color was detracting from the end goal of a bright and airy vibe.

outdated red brick fireplace, before being whitewashed

Tile, Whitewash or Paint?

While I would have preferred to tile over the brick fireplace with a pretty marble tile, at this point in time it was neither in our budget nor our basic DIY skillset. In the end, it came down to choosing between a coat of whitewash or painting the brick fireplace white.

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 it opaque 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 To Whitewash Brick

  • Paint brush
  • White paint (any sheen except high gloss)
  • Rags
  • Tarps
  • TSP
  • Stiff bristled brush
  • Painter’s tape

Directions

Protect The Area

Cover the surrounding area with a tarp. Make sure floors are well covered before proceeding. Before painting, apply painter’s tape where the wall meets the brick, as well as the mantel or any surround that you don’t want to get paint on.

Clean the Brick

The first thing I needed to do was clean the brick.  Despite the fireplace not having been used in over 30 years, there was a lot of soot caked into the brick.  Using TSP diluted in water, I scrubbed the brick with a stiff bristled 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. 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.

Apply The Whitewash

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.

use white paint and water to stipple the brick with whitewash

Using regular semi-gloss paint (that had not been watered down) I also painted the mantel white.

in process shot of red brick fireplace being painted with white wash

The Result

Doesn’t it look so much cleaner and brighter? And it was SO easy to do!

living room with whitewashed brick fireplace

You will notice that the soot-filled hearth also got a coat of fresh paint, after being scrubbed down with TSP. Finally, I replaced the red hearth tile with this soft gray tile that we had left over from our bathroom remodel. This was my first ever experience tiling, and it went much better than I had anticipated!

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 whitewashed brick fireplace turned out!

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how to whitewash a brick fireplace

How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Whitewashing a brick fireplace is an easy project that can be achieved with some basic white paint and water. It's the perfect afternoon DIY to completely transform an outdated fireplace!

Materials

  • White paint
  • Water
  • Paint brush
  • Rags
  • Drop cloth
  • Painter's tape

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you apply too much paint, just use a wet rag to wipe some of it off.
  4. 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.

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