Painting a brick fireplace is a good option for homeowners who want to update a room and give it a more modern look. White seems to be the most popular color although I've seen some really nice white and gray fireplace walls on Houzz.com.
When you're painting a brick fireplace, you should take more time and care to follow all the steps. Yes, I know how easy it is to skip preparing the walls or not bothering with a primer coat when painting. Your fireplace is the focal point in the room and the prep can mean a big difference between a good or great finished fireplace wall. You may also want to test paint finishes to see which you like best, with matte and eggshell being the most popular when painting a brick fireplace.
Painting a Brick Fireplace is Different Than Drywall
Brick is a lot different than the drywall you're used to painting. Brick is porous so you'll need to buy more paint that you would for a similar size drywall area. You'll also want to use a thicker nap roller to apply the paint, to make up for the texture of brick versus drywall which has a relatively flat surface.
A brick fireplace may have soot you can't remove so you'll want to use a stain blocking primer to make sure the soot doesn't bleed through and ruin your paint job. Lastly, a brick fireplace is exposed to higher temperatures so you want to make sure that the paint you buy will hold when exposed to the heat.
Preparation is Key When Painting a Brick Fireplace
Inspect and Repair the Mortar – which may be crumbling or have gaps, as they can affect the final results. If the holes are minor, you can fill them with spackle or caulking. If there are larger problems, you're probably better off calling a mason or handyman familiar with brick.
Thoroughly Clean the Brick – using a wire brush to loosen any dirt or dust, followed with a quick vacuum to remove everything. You can try cleaning with dish soap diluted in water or for tough stains, use TSP (trisodium phosphate) to clean the surface. With TSP, wear heavy-duty gloves and safety goggles, and make sure to protect nearby surfaces. Wipe the brick down with a dry cloth and let the bricks dry completely (remember they're porous) before you start painting.
Tape Areas Not Being Painted – just like you would for other painting jobs. The tape is even more important here because it is more difficult to cut in due to the uneven surface of the brick. You can learn more about my favorite painting tools and a great masking product from 3-M here.
Painting a Brick Fireplace
Prime Before Painting the Brick Fireplace – using a primer designed for masonry, and if you have stains that couldn't be removed, you'll want to use a stain blocking, oil-based primer. Apply according to manufacturer directions.
Painting a Brick Fireplace – will involve multiple coats of paint. Starting with the primer, make sure you allow enough time for each coat to dry. Pick a interior latex paint (matte, satin or semi-gloss) that can withstand the temperatures that a fireplace can generate. If you're also planning to paint the interior firebox, you'll need a special heat resistant paint for that.
If you’re worried about loosing too much of the brick character, here’s a fantastic story by Traci at http://www.beneathmyheart.net/2012/08/how-to-white-wash-brick-bathroom-update/, showing how she whitewashed a wall inside her home after they extended the house … because she didn’t want to give up the brick feeling.