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Fired Up! Fireplace Redo

As I settle more into the new(er) home, slowly changes are happening. For the last 3 and a half weeks we have been working daily (many hours a day) at purging and organizing. I actually enjoy this kind of task but it is challenging with my mobility issues. Hubs helps with what he can, but he works over 40 hours a week. 

One task that has been on my To Do list for 2 years, actually probably decades, was to give the basement fireplace a facelift. It is in my studio and is a prominent architectural feature in the room. 

Here is a bit of history on the fireplace. My parents had a Webber round black grill they got as a wedding present. My dad would remove the legs on it and put it in the fireplace in the winter and we would grill on Saturday nights. 

When I moved home briefly in 1992 before I purchased my first house, my dad spent most of the fall and winter in Florida. I took over the basement space as an art studio, as I was working full time and in college taking design classes too. I had my art table set up in the room. I wanted fires. I purchased a grate and a fireplace screen. My parents never had because they didn't have traditional fires down there. In fact, my mother hated fires for so many reasons. 

The fire screen I bought was from Sams Club and was too large for the opening. My dad had rigged up some kind of hooks for the screen when he returned from Florida that year. But it always looked awful because it was too wide and hung off the ledge. 

Fast forward a few decades. I move back in my childhood home, possibly for the rest of my life. And its time to finally fix the wrongs and problems with this house that my parents just never bothered with at all. We had the fireplaces inspected a year ago. They were deemed quite clean (hardly ever used). But were red tagged. The stack liner and brick surrounding it were showing their age. To get them (there are 2 fireplaces) fixed or switch to gas came out to about the same cost. We are doing neither right now until we start to remodel. But the fireplace face still needed a facelift. 

I wanted to paint the dated looking brick. I read several articles and watched several videos on how to paint brick. 

Here are my tips for painting brick:

Cleaning the Brick (picture 2 above)
  • Don't wash the brick. Brick is very porous and it will take a long time for it to dry. 
  • To clean the brick, use a stiff brush. A stiff brush will clean off years of dirt and grime and get into the grooves and nooks and crannies better. And then you can paint right away and not have to wait for anything to dry. 
  • In parts of the fireplace, the brick was falling apart so bad I had to be careful scrubbing.

Paint to use
  • As far as paint to use: if you do have a working fireplace and the area you are painting surrounds the fireplace opening you do need to use a high heat paint. But I have a non working fireplace. In researching whether to prime or not prime. Not priming the brick won. Reason: it would fully cover the brick and it was not what I was trying to achieve. If you are looking to fully cover your brick, the recommendation is to prime first.
  • Brick is so porous that paint will stick. Its a matter of how much will absorb into the brick.
  • I spent $2 on a quqrt sized can of returned latex interior paint at Home Depot. If you didn't know and you are not picky on colors, check out Home Depots returned paint section. They have stains and paints and oil based paints returned. Really cheap! I found a satin finish white color base, meaning no tint had been added.  It was the perfect finish and color for my project. They had a 5 gallon bucket of paint for $20. Nothing I needed. But I have used this method for several craft projects in the past. Returned paint. Paint is fine, just extra or wrong colors. 
  • I read where some use a 1:1 ratio on paint to water to paint brick, but it gets runny and then you need to use a rag to apply. You might need a rag to get into the grooves.

Painting the Brick (picture 3, 4, 5)
  • The trends in brick painting range from a light whitewash to full on thick white semi gloss paint. White does seem to be the color of choice though. I started wanted something slightly more opaque than a thin white wash. But truly didn't have any plans other than to just update the look.
  • I started by just applying a fairly dry brush of paint. I wanted to see how well it would stick and if I wanted to thin it out. Once you thin the paint, you cannot go back. I kept going with the fairly dry brush method for a large portion of the fireplace. See picture 3 above. 
  • Then I switched to a thicker application and ended up going back over the first section painted. I was also trying to figure out how far my paint would go. 
  • I didn't get into every mortar joint or nook and cranny. But rather I tried to allow the natural texture of brick to show. To get the mortar joints covered would likely have required another quart or more of paint. They were the most porous of all. Instead the cement mortar got more of a white wash look. Which makes the bricks stand out more and gives great definition. Again, I went into this project with no expectations other than getting some color and continuity on the brick. 
  • The only goal I had was to completely cover the cement ledge in white. Again, if it were a working fireplace this would definitely need to be high heat paint.

Fireplace Screen
  • When my friend Jeny was over recently I had just painted the fireplace screen, That needs to be redone soon. I looked at the spray paint cap cover and it looked black in the store. After I sprayed the screen and saw that the paint looked very dark brown, then I looked at the actual label on the can - Dark Walnut! 
  • The screen looks very nice in this color but I wanted black and black would look better for what look I am looking to achieve. 
  • We were looking at the screen and I had been looking online at replacing the screen, there are options out there and they all look similar to this one so I didn't want to invest in a new one yet. A custom one  will be the eventual goal or convert to gas and avoid that problem all together. Ah, side-tracked. We were looking at the screen and she noticed its about 1 panel too wide for the space. Held it up to the fireplace. Yup! one panel too many. Me? I just jump into things sometimes. I started pulling apart the screen. After all, it was already the wrong color, and now the wrong size. So I figure if I wreck it i am not a whole lot of anything. I pulled the finial off one of the middle panels. i was able to pull all the rods and such that held one of the interior panels off. Set aside that panel and extra rods and finials. Put existing rod through the remaining end panel and put the finial back on. No, I didn't take pictures of this process. Sorry. It was quite easy actually. Anyway. Put the screen back together and Voila! Screen fits great! 
  • Still need to repaint the screen to black. But it will suffice for now until I can back to the store for more paint.

$2 total investment
1 3" wide paint brush
1 quart of paint
2.5 hours of my time
1 old fireplace screen modified
= a modern facelift

I really do love how it turned out. If I want to go full cover white I still have that option, but right now I do not think so. It would only highlight how crumbled the brick is and probably look bad because of that. This way, with about 75% white coverage and a thin coat on the mortar gives it great texture and isn't bright white. The thing I noticed immediately is not only how much brighter the room is but the light emitting from the area is no longer yellow. It was a constant problem when photographing my projects, is everything in the room would yellow out. I figured it was the light reflecting off my golden oak stained table. Turns out it was the brick. Didn't see that coming! That was my added bonus to the project. Brighter whiter light. 

I still need to add a mantel. I mean, come on, who has a fireplace without a mantel??? Yeah, I would be willing to bet my dad intended to add one but never got around to it. Like so many projects around here. And the entire room needs to be stripped down to studs (ceiling too) and re-insulated and sheet rocked. Part of the sheet rock had water damage in July 1987. The only time the house leaked, But I believe it was 27" or 24" of rain in 24 hours or something like that. And that avocado green asbestos laden floor needs to be covered. No plans to remove it. It is down securely and is extremely durable, just needs covering. It would be a nightmare to try to remove it. Right now the plan is a black and white checkerboard floor. 

Feel free to ask any questions on how I did this project or supplies used. It was fun and quick with big results. My studio is becoming my happy place. Which is what it should be, where I want to spend my free time.

FYI Decorative Items pictured
  1. Wall Bird Cage - Michaels Craft Store
  2. Lateens - Ikea
  3. 9 box shelf - Target
  4. Crafts - mostly me
Thanks for stopping by. Happy decorating, Sandy



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