Need help with huge ugly fireplace

Carol Wilson
by Carol Wilson
We are remodeling our house and right smack in the middle of the kitchen/dining room/formal living room area is a HUGE, grey, porous brick fireplace. I'm afraid painting it would just result in the brick soaking up gallons of paint and looking worse. Does anyone have any suggestions?
  35 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Mar 14, 2016
    Instead of painting the fireplace you can try a white wash approach.
  • Lagree Wyndham Lagree Wyndham on Mar 14, 2016
    You could concrete it (Ardex) or tile it. There is a primer for bricks/concrete blocks that I have used, but I found it to be more costly to use the primer and just painted the blocks with out a primer. This was in my garage and it only took two coats and has held up well the last 13 years. I do not know what your style is but I see it covered in inexpensive white tiles with a couple of stripes of red or aqua glass tiles. Just my vision...I always try to get as much bang for the buck as I can.
  • Debi53 Debi53 on Mar 14, 2016
    I feel your pain. We have an ugly orange brick fireplace. Ours is on a wall, but is very awkwardly placed between the living & dining area. It seemed to loom over the whole room. I first stained it black, then white, and finally the same shade as my wall color. Please see the pics I have included that show my 3 attempts to minimize the giant in the room. Do NOT paint your fireplace initially. Use solid color masonry or deck stain. It will penetrate the porous brick. Paint will only sit on top of the brick and will flake off. The solid stain will not flake off and will cover completely. In the last pic, By painting the fp the same color as my walls (after I had first stained the fp black) and putting a simple surround around the firebox, we shifted the focal point from the entire fp to just a small section where the trim is. The rest of the fp blends in with the walls and your eye doesn't notice the entire thing. Even though your fp is in the middle of your room, I think that by staining it the color of your walls and creating a focal point with trim like we did, you can make it look much less intrusive. Your paint store can custom mix your stain the color you want.
    • See 1 previous
    • Denise Cave Denise Cave on Dec 01, 2017

      You have solved my pinkish ugly brick fp dilemma in my gray LR. Unsure how I get stain to match exactly - my interior paint won’t work?

  • Kayo Frazier Kayo Frazier on Mar 14, 2016
    Changing the size of the fireplace is probably not an option...So I would suggest taking down the cabinets & shelves down on the 1 side of the fireplace to create 2 pass thru on each side of the fireplace. If you want to change the color of the brick...I would use Kilz primer first, then paint it white so it matches the trim in the room. You could change the brick to a faux finish by adding a mortar/spackle then painting it. Then I would add a black, chunky, thick mantel all the way around the fireplace.
    • Carol Wilson Carol Wilson on Mar 14, 2016
      The cabinets didn't used to be there & I considered taking them down, but the only thing on the other side is a formal living room that we never use. I think removing them would be more trouble than it's worth. 😕
  • Lincluden Cottage Lincluden Cottage on Mar 14, 2016
    I agree taking the cabinets down to create a pass though on both sides. I'm wondering if you can't reface it with a planks to create a reclaimed wood veneer? If not, paint it. Also, I had a fire place with brass and used a black heat resistant paint to update the look. ;)
  • MN Mom MN Mom on Mar 14, 2016
    Is this entire wall thick or is it s veneer over wallboard? The fireplace looks more like a wood stove than a traditional wood burning fireplace. Maybe the wall can be redone if it's not a solid brick fireplace and it's a facade
  • Kate Jones Kate Jones on Mar 15, 2016
    We used to have an exposed brick chimney breast which was lovely in its day, when we wanted rid we covered it in plasterboard, I think you call this dry lining in the USA. Once done you can paint, wall paper, add a fire surround, shelves, what ever your desire. This would completely transform your room. Friends tried to paint theirs with Emulsion (Latex paint) and even external masonary paint and it took an age to get the look they were after. Good luck whatever you try.
  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Mar 15, 2016
    Hi Carol. I painted a wall of brick and used a sand/white mid of sanded grout for the front. I will say that the grouted part is by far my favorite. Will post pics of both. It really does not take a lot of paint but prefer the other. It's a cheap fix regardless.
  • Marlene Haigh Marlene Haigh on Mar 15, 2016
    If you use that wood stove, I'm sure it get pretty hot. The stove is probably ducted through the fireplace so be careful what you do to the brick. You could maybe clean up the clutter and whitewash with heat resistant paint.
    • Carol Wilson Carol Wilson on Mar 15, 2016
      @Marlene Haigh The "clutter" is part of our cleaning out for the remodel. I kept forgetting to take pics and just took them while I was there working on the rooms and remembered! The problem with a whitewash is this brick is not a smooth surface like most brick. I'm really concerned about paint covering it.
  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Mar 15, 2016
    Here are pics and let me know if I can answer any questions for you. The reason for both on the same fireplace is the amount of light that I had to work with. I was able to control how much brick stayed visible on the front using the grout. Then sealed it with a matte masonary sealer.
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Mar 15, 2016
    Agreed the big stone wall is imposingly dated. Wall it over and box in corners as columns, refront fireplace surround itself with clean smooth stonefront.
  • Carol Wilson Carol Wilson on Mar 15, 2016
    It is a solid brick and mortar and is built to withstand an apocalypse by my family in 1962. There is a wood stove insert, but the fireplace was originally built as a traditional wood burning fireplace and if we removed the wood stove, would be that again. I assure you it is all brick, all the way around, all 18 square feet of it!
  • Glenn Moore Glenn Moore on Mar 15, 2016
    We had a stucco contractor cover it.
  • Cheryl Cheryl on Mar 15, 2016
    I would give it a light color wash and put bold molding in white with a chunky mantel either in white or stained a medium shade.
  • Kit Kit on Mar 15, 2016
    Young House Love blog ....check out their first house photo gallery. They had a fireplace with the same type of porous brick that you have and they were able to paint it with great results. I have also seen a fireplace covered with slate tiles that looked great....but you could always go that route later if you weren't happy with the paint . Check with paint stores in your area for best paint to use for the job . I saved myself a lot of time when I took the paint store's suggestion and got a better quality of paint for my cabinets. A lot less paint was needed....saved me time and probably money.
  • Marlene Haigh Marlene Haigh on Mar 15, 2016
    I have seen rough brick painted but be sure that is what you want because it is very hard to remove.
  • Connie S Connie S on Mar 15, 2016
    A stucco finish would be pretty on that.
  • Sherry Swayze Sherry Swayze on Mar 15, 2016
    I wouldn't recommend Stucco for a fireplace surround. It can be nasty to try to keep clean & soot free around a fireplace. A stucco surround is very much a builder grade solution for a fireplace. Our designers have had to reinvent many many fireplaces for clients that were initially stucco'd from the builder. However, some other options are: Instead of paint, you could stain. Stain comes in a plethora of colors. If you decide to paint, I would recommend Elastomeric Paint as it is designed to be flexible so as to expand and contract, bridging cracks in vertical masonry surfaces. Apply with a thick roller OR with a spray gun- although, using a spray gun can be temperamental and difficult for the non-professional, due to the thick viscosity of the paint. Just remember, if you stain or paint, be sure to clean the bricks first with TSP, rinse and allow to completely dry for 24+ hours before starting your project (depending on the humidity and temperature of your particular geographic region). Also, I would seal the brick and allow the sealant to completely dry before painting. This allows for a better adhesion AND an easier removal of paint, if you should ever want to go back to the original brick. Another option for you would be to tile over the brick- but that would require a step where you'd have to stretch construction cloth or wire mesh over the bricks first- or build a box made of green board on top of the bricks to lay the tile over. There are all sorts of very nice options in tile these days. Not only is there natural material tiles: slate, granite, marble((too porous for fireplaces, in my opinion)), pebble and glass etc., there are also options in man made tiles such as wood tile, and a warehouse of different man made options. The sky is the limit! Hope this helps jog your creative spirits. ru4us- Interior design.
    • See 2 previous
    • Connie S Connie S on Mar 22, 2016
      Oh and if you wash brick, you need to give it more than 24 hours to dry. If you decide to tile over the brick. green board shouldn't be used on a fireplace chimney. You want cement board. It is the proper underlayment for fireplaces and woodstove surrounds. But then I've actually done this work myself, not just designed it.
  • Mary Mary on Mar 15, 2016
    I think it could look nice by adding a chunky wood mantel and styling the area so the focal point is what decorates the area rather than the fireplace. Imagine the loft apartments with brick walls and how great they look when decorated. I am not sure but you may be able to stain the brick. Paint is a good option if you want it to visually disappear by painting it the same color or a slightly different shade. Large colorful art or large mirror and accessories to cover some of the brick and add interest. Plants are always good to add to a room. Good luck!
  • Camille Camille on Mar 16, 2016
    I have an entire living room wall with red brick. I put a beautiful picture (or painting) with a stunning frame in the center over the fireplace. Then my husband hung a white charming shelf on each side. Then you can display family pictures, vases etc of you choice. I have received many, many compliments on this wall. Good luck
  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Mar 16, 2016
    We have an old house with a fieldstone foundation that leaked like crazy, so I started painting it all the way around with this DryLok paint. It has a slight texture to it, so it covers really well without having to use gallons and gallons. If you painted the bricks a light gray, then added a chunky white mantel to match your bookcase that might help to diminish the impact it has in the room.
  • Sherry Renfro Sherry Renfro on Mar 16, 2016
    Tile fireplace & hearth with large rectangle tile.
  • Carol Wilson Carol Wilson on Mar 16, 2016
    Have not done it yet, but will definitely take pics and post when I do!
  • Sherry Swayze Sherry Swayze on Mar 16, 2016
    So glad I was able to help. Now, go forth and have fun! ;)
  • Kathy F Kathy F on Mar 17, 2016
    paint is the best but u could frame it in and drywall over it my neighbor did that but we have gas logs got rid of wood to old to lift and carry
  • Gale sayers Gale sayers on Mar 21, 2016
    I did a friend's fireplace (looked exactly like yours). Used cheap latex white paint & painted the whole thing, then mixed some glaze with a light tan paint & sponged it on creating a faux stone look. After a couple weeks decided it needed something more to make it pop so use the same tan paint & using a small stencil brush did all the grout joints. Came out beautiful
  • Sherry Swayze Sherry Swayze on Mar 22, 2016
    You're right Connie. I misspoke. Thank you for catching that. Cement board is what should be used- Green board is for wet areas. I saw that someone else suggested dry wall. That's not really a good idea as dry wall is flammable and doesn't pass code for a fireplace. It may look good but as each fire is lit in the fire box, the back side of the board could be slowly smoldering. Also, I did mention about midway through my post, I did say, let the brick completely dry for 24+ hours- depending on humidity & temperature. For masonry fireplaces where a noncombustible surround is needed, a noncombustible adhesive is also needed. Mortar, thin set, or any concrete based adhesive used to attach the tile,stone, marble or granite surround is acceptable. Construction adhesives like PL400, liquid nails or any other glue product that can burn or melt, is not permitted per building code.
  • Leslie D Leslie D on Mar 23, 2016
    You mentioned 1962. Is your house Mid-Century modern design? If so, please consider not doing anything to permanently change it. That stacked brick is sooooo desirable in MCM homes. Perhaps covering it in pallet wood with furring strips could be an answer, without destroying the original design, while being mindful of code for combustible material around a FP/Woodstove and if you like a rustic-modern vibe). Ultimately, it's your home and you have to love it, but keeping the integrity of an MCM home (if that's the style), will be appreciated by many, especially if that's a consideration in future resale. I happen to love the brick, as's modern all over again. (I won't comment on the wood stove addition...LOL).
  • Carol Wilson Carol Wilson on Mar 23, 2016
    Thank you, Leslie, but it is a basic ranch style house. My mom was just WAY ahead of her time in her modification of the floor plan for it! She had to argue and fight with my dad's family, who were the builders, to get the entire kitchen, den/living room/front/formal living room areas all, basically, open as one big room with this fireplace in the middle as the only wall. The wood stove was an addition back in the early 90's when they wanted to keep the heat in the house instead of it going up the chimney. I will most likely take it out. Thanks for the advice!
    • Leslie D Leslie D on Mar 24, 2016
      @Carol Wilson Thanks for letting me know! I'm such a fan of MCM and that fireplace is classic for the era. If it's a typical ranch, then paint, cover, tear out, you really needed my permission....LOL .
  • Debi53 Debi53 on Dec 09, 2017

    Hi Denise, Your interior paint will work, but you will need to prime the fp before painting. I would actually reccommend staining the fp a similar color to your interior paint, or just stain it white. It doesn't matter if the stain doesn't completely cover the brick, because the paint will do that. The stain will soak into the brick and then you can use your paint without primer. Mine has been stained over paint for several years now and still looks perfect.

  • Debi53 Debi53 on Dec 20, 2017

    I stained our fp first. When I changed the color, I painted over the stain—no primer. This was about 7-8 years ago and the paint still looks perfect. We use the fp all winter long. We have gas logs, so we do not have soot that discolors the paint. I don’t know if that would make a difference. I think that the brick absorbing the stain acted as a primer of sorts and may be the reason the paint has held up so well. Others may disagree, I just know that this method has worked perfectly for me. So, you could get a stain –just masonry stain- that is close to the color of your paint, or white stain. You could use that for the first coat and after it dries, you could use your room color to paint. I would not use flat paint. If your room paint is flat, I would have the same color done in an eggshell or satin finish for the fp. It will make it easier to clean if you ever need to. Use a thick brush for the groves between the bricks and the thickest nap roller you can find to do the bricks. Go slowly to minimize splatter. Tape off wide sections on the wall and ceiling beside the fireplace to prevent getting paint on those areas and use plenty of drop cloths on your floor.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Nov 02, 2022

    Try painting the odd brick here and there to see what happens. You may like the effect!

  • If you use the right paint, it shouldn't be a problem. Or, try white-washing it.

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 04, 2022

    Can't tell from the picture could you plaster over the brick?