How to paint a fireplace

woman painting brick fireplace

Exposed brick fireplaces were all the rage in the 80’s and can still look great in the right property, but if you are after a sleeker and more modern look without doing any major refurbishment then your best bet may be to paint your fireplace.

Whether you have a gas fireplace that puts out limited heat, or an open fire or wood burner that can generate a powerful flame, with the right preparation and materials there is no reason you can’t use paint to transform the look of your fireplace and the entire room.

Follow our useful guide on how to paint a brick fireplace to give you the best possible results.


Burning wood or coal generates a lot of fine soot that over time will become engrained in the brickwork around the fireplace, making it look dark and dreary. Before painting you will need to remove as much of this dirt as possible or you will find that the stubborn stains will start to show through your shiny new paint job, even with multiple coats.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for elbow grease here. Start by covering your wood burner or fireplace and the surrounding area with protective sheeting. Next, give the whole area a once over with a medium sandpaper which should remove most of the dirt from the face of the bricks. To get into the nooks and crannies between the bricks you will need a wire or stiff bristled brush and a bucket of soapy water. The type of detergent doesn’t matter too much, a standard household cleaner will be just fine. You may find that this process dislodges bits of damaged brick or reveals cracks in the brickwork that will need to be filled to achieve a smooth, sleek finish. You can use standard decorator’s caulk to do this, but make sure it has dried properly before applying your first coat of primer.

The right sort of paint

Even if you have a low heat gas fire, or your fireplace is for decoration only then we would still recommend that you use specialist paint that can withstand the high temperatures of a real fire. If you decide to install a fireplace or wood burner later on you will find that it lasts for years without peeling and cracking. Seek advice from your local paint retailer who will recommend an oil-based primer for the base layer and then a suitable heat resistant paint for the top coat in your preferred colour.

Apply the primer first using a thick-nap roller, ideally two coats, allowing enough time for the first coat to dry. The primer will block stains from showing through from the brickwork and will improve the look and durability of the final finish. Once the second coat is dry you can apply your top coat. Again, two or more coats will give you a better finish that looks great and is easier to clean. When you are finished it is probably best to wait a day or two before lighting a fire to ensure that everything is completely dry.

Painting your fireplace is the best way to give your room a modern and sophisticated look for minimal expense. If you redecorate in the future you simply have to apply a new top coat that fits in with your new colour scheme. Knowing that you can always repaint will give you the confidence to really push your creativity and experiment with bright statement colours or neutral greys and earth tones for a truly contemporary look.