To start out, here are the products we purchased at the beginning of this project - 1 gallon of white concrete & masonry primer and some paint brushes.
I do recommend using a masonry primer to go over natural brick as this primer is made to cover the dirty, sooty, crevice-y surface and seal it so that nothing leaks through. We used the same thing when we painted the brick on our back porch. It worked wonders. You can see we picked ours up at Sherwin Williams, but any home improvement store is likely to sell it.
We also picked up a couple of paint brushes. Normally, purchasing high quality brushes pays off over time, but this is not the case when painting brick. Painting brick destroys the bristles of a paint brush, and you end up throwing it away at the end of a project. So, don't go high end. But you also don't want a super cheap brush where the bristles are falling out as you're painting. Hence, we went with a middle-of-the-road brush set. The big brush was used over the majority of the fireplace while the little brush was just used for cutting down the side edges along the wood trim.
We already owned the roll of paper and tape used to cover the floor around the fireplace. So, that was
Now for the painting process... Most experts would advise to try and wipe the brick down with a wet sponge in order to remove as much soot as possible and let thoroughly dry before painting. This is to prevent possibly bleed-through of said soot down the road. Now, this is probably great advice, but it seemed like a lot of work and the lazy side of me said to skip this part. So, I just went right to work painting the front of the fireplace. I used the big brush for the entire project, being sure to cram it into all the little angles of the brick leaving nothing un-painted. Masonry primer is very thick (like glue) and not easy to paint with. So, this alone took about a steady 2 hours (with a break here and there for a picture).
The next step was to tape the trim down the sides of the fireplace and then paint each side. This took another hour and half. The primer did a great job covering the dirty brick. Like a whole new fireplace!
To prevent any paint from peeling down the sides, we removed the tape as soon as the first coat of primer was applied. The edge was pretty straight. Only a few minor touch-ups were needed.
We wanted to give the primer a minimum of 24 hours to dry before assessing whether a second coat of primer might be needed. From what we could tell, no bleed-through occurred, and so the lazy way may have actually worked out (not that I'm promoting laziness or anything).
While the primer was drying, I worked on picking out the actual paint color to use on top of the primer. I went to the local hardware store to pick up some Benjamin Moore paint swatches. I ended up with about 20 "white" colors. You may think, "How can there be more than 1 white?" But trust me, there are about a million whites. And I knew the kind of white I wanted. Not to quote Mrs. Blandings again, but as she puts it, I wanted white, but "not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but still, not to suggest any other color but white."
With all 20 swatches taped to the front of the fireplace, I was able to eliminate a few of the least-white samples and get down to 15 options in a matter of minutes.
I left the swatches up overnight to see what they looked like in the dark hours when the lamps were on as well as during daylight (since paint colors look different in different kinds of lighting). In the end, I chose the color Ancient Ivory. It was the perfect warm white without looking like a cream or off-white.
Benjamin Moore paint can be kind of expensive. So, you can take the paint swatch to Menard's or Lowe's or anywhere that will mix paint for you in order to pay less. We ended up going with Sherwin Williams paint like we did with the primer because it was convenient in location, not because it was the cheapest option. We bought 1 gallon of paint in a semi-gloss finish so that it would be very wipe-able should it get dirty again.
After putting up some new paper and tape along the sides of the fireplace (in case of paint splatter), we applied just 1 thorough coat of paint, we were done. It took about another 2-3 hours to do. I was shocked it didn't take 2 coats of paint, but it looked really good with just the one. And there is plenty of paint leftover in case we ever need to do some touch-ups.
Once the paint dried and I could see the final product, I was very happy with the color choice. It may be hard to tell the difference in the pictures on the computer, but the final color was exactly what I had in mind for the perfect white. And you could definitely tell the difference in person as the paint was being applied.
Once the painting was completed, we again removed the paper and tape shortly after to make sure no paint dried to the tape causing peeling. We were pleased no paint got underneath the tape either. I also took the tape off of the flue opener. It was still it's original oil-rubbed bronze self. Now it stands out against the white brick.
While the fireplace is about 90% completed, there are still a few details remaining. If you remember, we removed a brass fireplace screen at the beginning of the process. We still plan to attempt a little DIY paint-job on this item in attempt to re-use it without the cost of purchasing a new screen. So, I'll let you know the results of that project when it happens.
Also, we are considering adding some embellishments toward the top of the fireplace where a row of brick is recessed a bit. We're scheming up ideas now, but I'm not sure if we'll implement anything right away. We're gonna bask in the glory of the white brick for now.
So, there's the low-down on the fireplace painting process. In the end, we spent about $80 and 5-ish hours (over a span of 2 days) to get this completed. We feel it was totally worth the investment. I hope you enjoy seeing the final product as much as we do!