Welp, this is probably one of the biggest DIY projects I've ever decided to undertake: makeover our floor to ceiling red brick fireplace. When we first bought our house, I was SO excited it had a real deal fireplace! I know to many reading this, that may not sound very exciting; but I grew up, and still live in, South Florida. Fireplaces are few and far between. Figuring out how we were going to paint this old brick fireplace from the 1970s was a top priority. This may sound silly, but I've always wanted a fireplace that I could decorate for all the holidays. I'd imagine setting up little pumpkins on the mantel and hearth, covering it with Christmas lights and evergreens, and just reveling in it's cute character.
Since our fireplace hadn't been touched since the 1970s, the red brick had a lot of efflorescence mineral deposits (the white stuff) and dust and soot than I even realized until we got in there. Let's just say that an this fireplace makeover that was supposed to be an “afternoon” or “weekend” project quickly turned into a two month long project! Granted, we did more than just repaint the fireplace brick, we also redid the fireplace mantel and tile hearth…. oh my!
Watch the video to learn how to repaint your red brick and see the fireplace makeover before and after!
While remodeling our old fireplace, we made every mistake in the book. Which means you are in exactly the right place, because if there is a mistake to be made when it comes to re-doing a fireplace, we probably made it! Since we remodeled the entire floor to ceiling fireplace, I'm breaking this into a three part series:
1. How to makeover red brick fireplace with paint
2. How to DIY makeover fireplace mantel with wood stain
3. How to DIY makeover fireplace hearth tile with paint instead of re-tiling
So buckle up and I'm going to take you through our wild (and depleting) but ultimately rewarding ride! You can shop all the products in this post at the bottom! Some links in this post may be affiliate links and thank you to Sherwin Williams for providing supplies!
Here's our fireplace before anything (and you can save this for later!):
Our fireplace was your traditional old school red brick. It had efflorescence build up (the white stuff on the brick), soot, and all sorts of other grime on it. The mantel was a weird greyish white wash that didn't really like nice or match our floors. Lastly, the hearth had these hideous 4×4 cracked white tiles that some previous owner had decided to put some sort of heavy black goopy grout filler in between. The black stuff they used had sprayed tiny dots onto the white tiles, the lines were uneven, and it once again, really clashed with our floors.
Our plan to DIY makeover our floor to ceiling red brick fireplace, mantel, and tile hearth:
We wanted to keep things budget friendly and do it ourselves. After all, we just moved into our new home and we believe in only doing small inexpensive projects to start, until you've lived in a place for a while and know what the real priorities. We may want to do a heavier makeover of this fireplace in the future with drywall or stone, but for now we decided to keep our budget small and makeover the fireplace with paint.
In order to do this, we decided to paint the red brick, strip and stain the mantel, and paint the tiles on the hearth. Yes, you read that right, we decided to paint the tiles (more on that in post 3!)
DIY Painted Brick Fireplace Makeover On A Budget
Preparing the fireplace brick surface for paint:
Step 1: Hand Vac & Wire brushing
As with everything related to paint, preparation is key. I'm not going to lie, this took us about a week or so to get just right. We started off by wire brushing the bricks. I'd recommend using a hand vac to first get the top coat of loose debris off the brick before the wire brushing, because let me tell you, A LOT is going to come off.
We decided to skip the initial vacuum because we figured we'd have to vacuum again after anyway and wanted to cut back on the step. You can totally follow our lead on that (skip the initial vacuum), but please please please if you do, it's even MORE important to wear safety goggles and a face mask (we didn't).
What to expect while wire brushing:
While wire brushing, SO much stuff is going to come off. This is labor intensive (and if you aren't stripping a mantel too, will be the most labor intensive part of this project). We scrubbed and scrubbed and the more we scrubbed, the more it seemed like the bricks were disintegrating beneath us! Finally, we got it to a place where I felt okay about it – not great, but okay.
Step 2: TSP & Water
We decided to wipe the whole thing down with TSP and would get to priming the next day! Only we woke up in the morning and the efflorescence was still pretty prominent. I went down a google rabbit hole in panic and just continued to panic. We HAD to get the efflorescence off! Everything I read basically made it sound like if we didn't get this off, in a few years our paint would be peeling. The LAST thing I wanted to deal with was doing a botched job on preparation, then have peeling and chipped paint we'd have to go back over down the road.
What is efflorescence?
Efflorescence is the white residue on brick. It's basically when a soluble solution, like water, permeates the bricks, or any masonry, and evaporate on the exterior. It leaves behind a chalky white deposit of salt residue on your fireplace.
How to get rid of efflorescence:
So after watching a few YouTube videos on how to get rid of efflorescence, I decided to make a solution of baking soda, alcohol, bleach, and dish soap. We applied the pasty mixture with a paint brush. Let is sit for a few hours then scrubbed it off. Oh man was that messy! Long story short, the efflorescence had gotten better, but was still there and now our fireplace had a nice white dusty residue on it thanks to the baking soda.
At this point, I was near tears – WHY did I have to do that?! So we continued to water and wipe the brick, wire brush anything else off, and then did a finally hit on the fireplace with TSP once again, waited 24 hours and decided we'd prime the next day.
If you are redoing your entire fireplace, including the mantel and hearth here's a tip:
You'll want to work from top to bottom. At this point, I decided to strip the mantel, figuring we'd get the bottom dirty and once I was done cleaning the thing, I wanted to be done cleaning it forever. Read this post for more about DIY stripping and staining your fireplace mantel.
Priming the fireplace brick:
What you'll need to prime your fireplace brick:
Our method for priming the fireplace brick was to paint in all the crevices around the brick, then use the roller for the brick faces. This took us a while, but with some Lizzo blasting in the background and the baby napping we were able to get the entire top done in a couple of hours. We decided to do the bottom the next day.
Painting the fireplace brick:
What you'll need to paint your fireplace brick:
- Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Paint in Extra White
- 2″ flat brush
- 6 1/2″ roller with 1/2″ nap
Quick note: again, we were redoing our entire fireplace, so we did the entire top (primed and painted), then we redid the mantel, then we painted the bottom brick before tackling the fireplace hearth.
Painting the fireplace brick was much like priming it. We used the same method of getting into the cracks and crevices first, then rolling the fireplace brick faces. Painting the fireplace brick did go a lot faster than priming.
Make sure to check out the rest of the posts in my DIY Painted Brick Fireplace Makeover On A Budget series!
How to paint a red brick fireplace white
How to strip and stain fireplace mantel
How To Paint Fireplace Tile With A Stencil: Mistakes To Avoid On Your DIY Fireplace Makeover