Please, please don’t ream me out. I’m just a meek little housewife with four
spoiled brats darling kids— and a husband. He’s handsome, built and makes a good living. He’s good to me; no complaints.
So what’s the problem? It’s my home; my new home. It has not one, but TWO of the ugliest fireplaces God ever created. One is ugly brick and one is ugly stone.
I know what you’re thinking. Why did we buy a home with two ugly fireplaces? That’s a very good question, Laurel and I’m going to tell you. It was June, we lost out on the home I really wanted.
We had to live in that neighborhood because of the school district. It was June. The closing was in August.
There are parts of the home that I like a lot. It’s got a great layout and lots of light. I think there’s a lot of potential.
The other thing is, I lied. I do have a complaint about the husband. He says that he likes the brick and the stone or at least is not interested in making any changes.
He thinks that we need to use that money for the kids’ education. That’s true. I’m not going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove the stone and brick. That would be nuts.
Can I paint it? I’m afraid to mention anything to h until I’m armed with a solid plan.
Thanks so much,
Sabrina Brykschitz ;] is a fictitious character. She’s an amalgam of situations I’ve encountered over the years or read about.
And I know that a lot of you are chomping at the bit to have this post about what to do with your brick and stone fireplaces.
However, this is a verrrry broad topic because there are many things to consider:
- Style of the home
- Age of the home
- Location of the home
- Size of the fireplace and the surrounding brick/stone
Since there is much to cover, I’m only going to talk about The Ugly Brick Fireplace today.
For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that you are looking for a traditional or classic contemporary style and that your home was built in the last 60 years or so.
But, there are so many styles of homes and most of us don’t have brick with a lot of character.
Like this one.
And we don’t have the 20 foot ceiling either.
Please note that this is definitely not a working fireplace as the hearth is made of wood!?!
Here’s what I would do if I had an ugly brick fireplace that needs to change.
Walk around your home and see it as one entire composition.
The fireplace is only one part, but it has to work with the home as a whole.
For instance, if you have a rustic home that’s primarily stained wood and a brick fireplace and you paint it white, it’s going to look bloody weird.
In fact, white-painted brick with a big wood mantel looks horrible, IMO.
Important info before I go on.
I realize that some have very strong opinions about whether to paint brick or not. That’s fine, but what’s not fine (by me, that is) is to insult folks with absolutes, like “it’s gross to paint brick.” Stuff like that.
But sometimes folks although well-intentioned make mistakes and I’ll be getting to that in a sec.
Let’s look at some other situations where the brick is left in its natural red brick color.
It certainly looks appropriate in this craftsman-style home. One thing I tried to find is a great looking room that has walls painted in a coordinating, rusty-bricky-reddish color. That is often a great solution if one has a husband that refuses to budge. The brick will virtually disappear.
This exposed brick looks appropriate in this Brooklyn Apartment. My old apartment that I lived in on the upper westside of Manhattan in the 80’s had an exposed brick wall and high ceilings. I rather liked the character it gave to the renovated building.
But I think it’s also cool to paint old brick.
What I’m having a problem with about 95% of the time is the white-washing look. It’s supposed to look uhhmmm, country, rustic, weathered?
But, it’s inside.
And it almost always looks horribly fake to me. Sometimes the brick comes out looking either a sickly pinkish color or a sickish gray color. I don’t see that as being much of an improvement. In fact, sometimes it looks a lot worse.
Here’s a whole page of white washed brick fireplaces on pinterest.
And there are hundreds more out there.
There are two techniques for getting the white washed look.
- The diluted paint method – Just what it says.
- Lime Wash – A complex technique which is typically done on exterior brick and stone but I believe can also be done in interiors.
But, for the most part, I think that if you’re going to paint the ugly brick fireplace,
then just bloody paint it.
A slight bit of antiquing is okay. I think that if it’s a genuinely old home that one has more liberty with the antiquing. But that’s not what most of us have.
Most of us have something like this.
Let’s Talk About What To Do With Our Ugly Brick Fireplace
The easiest and cheapest thing to do is paint.
If it’s raw brick, you will need a wonderful primer.
Cathy Dickson who commented here recommends Zinsser Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 and I have heard other good things about it too. She follows up with Benjamin Moore Cloud White in the matte formulation.
She’s done this many times as she’s a house flipper and says that it always looks terrific.
Re: paint sheen.
That is another bugaboo. I usually prefer a flatter finish (matte or eggshell) but if you don’t, that’s cool. I would prefer an oil based paint if it’s satin or semi-gloss however, but that’s difficult to come by these days.
If anyone has had a lot of experience in painting brick fireplace mantels and recommends a type and/or brand of paint, that would be wonderful. We’re all here to learn and make our homes more beautiful.
After painting comes the next bit of expense and that is a mantel.
And I realize that I sound like an incorrigible snob. But it is very difficult to find really well-done make-overs and some are just plain wrong– not because of a personal preference. I will explain why.
And some are okay jobs but then there’s some furniture that looks cheap or too precious or something.
One more thing. I’m posting images I found on the internet. In a couple of cases, I intentionally removed watermarks because I do not want to embarrass anyone. The purpose is not to berate anyone, but to improve on the good work they’ve done.
There are some problems here and some are a safety issue. I don’t think that the white washed brick wis working with the more formal mantel and trim. The mantel’s proportions are off. The crown should not fan out that much and not be so heavy as well.
But actually what should happen is that the legs of the mantel should be out further.
There is supposed to be a minimum of 6″ of non-flammable brick, metal or stone between the firebox and mantel.
After that, and this is a very common thing. I would tile the inset or use a black honed granite slab or soapstone. This makes it look a lot less like a mantel that was just slapped up in front of a brick wall.
This is a great example of a slab of honed granite or soapstone maybe in this case.
I love that and have specified it often.
A lovely addition is this return if the brick comes out from the wall a few inches.
I think this one would’ve looked amazing if the brick was painted the same color as the wall. And then if I would add a black honed granite around the firebox.
I think that this is a clever way of dealing with a low brick mantel.
An elegant crown/shelf is the perfect addition.
An old stone fireplace is wonderful over this old painted brick. This is undoubtedly in an urban setting such as San Francisco or maybe New York. It’s one of my favorites.
This old mantel is awesome and the home is genuinely old.
I think that’s a screen covering up some of the brick.
However, in most cases, I think that the most beautiful way to deal with the brick is to build over it.
A lot of the examples I’ll be showing are DIY and if we’re talking covering up, it is not a DIY project unless one has extensive building experience.
And please research the design if you don’t have a designer.
Here’s an example of what I mean. I love the paneled surround but the mantel is overlapping the panels and looks odd to me. I would put the mantel shelf over the panels and extend it to the ends. The hearth should be some sort of stone, not painted wood. And for the firebox surround, I would either put stone or keep it the same white color, in this case.
They did a terrific job and included a terrific tutorial about how they covered up their ugly brick.
This is a before (duh) and a really great looking after with tons of posts and tutorials.
This is a case where it depends what else is going on. I think it’s a great job. My personal preference would be to have all of the brick painted white with a slab of honed granite for the top of the hearth with a 1″ overhang, if possible.
A very elegant mantel, beautifully in scale with brick painted black. There is a special paint that’s heat-resistant for inside the firebox. It looks like the hearth might be painted too. Not sure.
One of my favorites from Brooke and Steve Giannetti.
I love the look of this dramatic fireplace with built-in bookshelves and shiplap.
This is from a home in Milwaukee. When I lived there in the late 70’s, I had a friend, who had this exact configuration. Fond memories!
This is one of my favorites. It’s a wonderful blend of traditional and rusticity. (source unknown)
There was a request to have some black painted brick. While there are some around the firebox, this is handsome in this setting. But I would be careful with the black. It depends on the look one is going for. (source unknown)
I adore this one too! Love the herringbone pattern. This may be more of a decorative fireplace.(source unknown)
please pin this graphic!
Well, I hope that gave y’all some ideas for dealing with a not-so-great brick fireplace. There are lots of options for keeping the brick, painting it and building over it.