Painting Our Red Brick Fireplace White

We are currently working on updating the living room in our 1950s rancher and started by giving the red brick fireplace a makeover with some white paint and a new mantel.
Here's what the fireplace used to look like. (When this picture was taken we had installed new flooring on one side, but not the other.)
We started by removing the brass doors. The outside doors just lifted up and out. The rest of it was held in place with just two screws, so removing it was super easy.
After vacuuming the brick, we started the actual painting with some masonry primer. I tried using a roller, but I found it easier to get into all the nooks with an old paint brush. The brick really sucked up the primer so we did two coats of primer.
For the actual paint, we used Benjamin Moore’s Aura (Matte) in Snowfall White. It took two coats to get the coverage we wanted.
We also painted the inside of the firebox. We applied two coats of Rustoleum High Heat Paint in BBQ Black.
To build the new mantel, we bought a sheet of 3/4″ thick MDF at Home Depot. We had the folks at Home Depot cut the MDF close to the size we needed, so that it would fit in our mini-van and be easier to handle, and then we cut it to final size at home with our table saw.
We glued and clamped the MDF pieces together, and after the glue had dried, we sanded the joints a bit with our random orbital sander. We ordered a 2′ by 8′ sheet of paper-backed oak veneer from Amazon, cut the veneer to size with scissors, and adhered it to the MDF with non-flammable contact cement.
Finally, we applied one coat of Varathane Ebony stain and three coats of a water-based polyurethane, letting it dry overnight after each application. And then we simply set the new mantel box over the old. It just sits there with no further attaching needed. There are many more pictures and much more detail about the mantel building process in the link at the bottom of this post, if you are interested.
By the way, we also spray painted the brass doors with Rustoleum Universal Advanced Formula Metallic Paint and Primer In One in Oil Rubbed Bronze, but we ended up liking the open feel, and haven't hung the doors back up yet. Re-tiling the hearth is also still on the to-do list. We are finishing the rest of the living room floor installation first.
Anyhoo, we are really happy with how this project turned out and think it will work great with our vision for this living room!
What do you guys think? For or against painting brick?

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

4 questions
  • Tami Henninger
    on Jan 23, 2016

    How do you paint over soot? How do you remove the soot from brick?

    • Ours had some soot in the bricks right above the firebox and we simply painted over it. That's the biggest reason it took four coats. We found some tutorials online for trying to clean it and we decided it would be quicker to just paint over it. It was so stuck on there that it would have taken a lot to get it out otherwise.

  • Quan
    on May 26, 2016

    Hi, looks great! I just painted mine white as well. My question is about the interior black. Do you burn fires in it or just candles. Nothing in my research specifically is saying "appropriate" for firebox. If you burn, did/do you get any burn off or smell of the rustoleum you applied in there? Thanks! Nice mantle work too!

  • Bill
    on Jul 10, 2018

    What about the red brick tile on the floor..? Did you paint it ?

    • Mary B
      on Feb 7, 2020

      Hey Bill - I have the same question - did you ever get this answered?

  • Mary B
    on Feb 7, 2020

    Hey - looks great - what did you do about the red tile in front of the fireplace? I didn't see a picture of that. If you painted it what kind of paint did you use?

    • Bill
      on Feb 7, 2020

      I would not paint the red brick on the floor. It's a floor. Just getting rid of the red brick off the wall is enough.

Join the conversation

2 of 18 comments
  • Chris
    on Sep 29, 2016

    I will be doing this , this weekend, have lived with it red for 25 years hate it , looks so dated will let you know how it turns out .

  • Ellis
    on Jun 29, 2020

    I don't usually love the idea of painting brick, but this turned out great. The red was just so dated, this looks clean and bright and modern!

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