5 Update Ideas for your Fireplace: Brass, Mantel, Hearth and Surround
Partner post to The Best Paint Colours for Rooms with a Brick Fireplace
Is your fireplace outdated and boring? Have you been wanting to make a change, but can’t afford a full fireplace makeover? If so, then get ready to give your fireplace a swift kick in the ash…
1. Fireplace Update Idea: Paint the brass surround
Most brass surrounds have pieces that are removable. Unfortunately, some surrounds also have a strip of brass that separates the tile surround from the fireplace insert and this is not removable, however, once the other pieces are painted it’s barely noticeable.
This is a 3 step process
All the steps must be followed to a tee (and I am watching…).
Step 1: Sand with fine-grit sandpaper
The new paint needs a roughed-up surface to stick to and if the old surface is shiny, new paint won’t adhere properly. 400 grit sandpaper should be used to etch the surface without carving it. After you’re done, give it a good wipe.
Step 2: Heat Resistant Spray Primer (here)
When spray painting, fine/thin coats are essential to avoid drips and build-up.
Step 3: Heat Resistant Spray Paint (here)
This Rustoleum product is the best as it’s actually a BBQ paint and works like a hot damn (literally and figuratively).
*Remember, paint takes three weeks to properly cure – be very careful with your painted pieces when reattaching them.
2. Fireplace Update Idea: Retile with peel-and-stick tiles
This won’t work for stone obviously, but for a relatively smooth tile, it can be a FABULOUS solution!
Now, this is not a FOREVER solution – this is a ‘for now’ solution. In the ideal world, we would ALL start from scratch – but scratch can cost serious money. This is a great idea if your fireplace surround is fugly, but not forever, and you’d like something to get you by for a few years!
3. Fireplace Update Idea: Paint the mantel and fireplace surround
A wood mantle is not necessarily a ‘good’ mantle. If it’s outdated and doesn’t match your decor, it won’t do you or the aesthetics of your home any favours. On the other hand, if it’s white and you’re looking to make a change, painting it a dramatic colour can add some instant impact to your space.
In this next photo, the river rock stone fireplace (early 2000s) was looking dated and drab with the darker taupe paint colour and stained wood, but AFTER – what a facelift!
In this next photo, if you have the mantel in place, this look could be achieved using Ideas #2 and #3…
Examples of good wood mantels that suit the room they’re in…
Remember, just because it’s wood, doesn’t mean it’s good ~ (moi)
Step 1: Sand it
Whether it’s stain or paint, you need to sand your surface to remove the majority of the sheen. If you don’t do this, the new finish may not stick as well. You aren’t ‘sanding it down’ you are ‘scuffing it up’. Use approx. 220 grit. Once you’d done this step, give it a good wipe.
Step 2: Prime it
If you are painting over any raw wood you’d be smart to prime it first. In most cases, it’s best to use oil primer as the water in latex primer can often raise the grain in the wood – creating yet another step in the process. You can use latex paint over oil primer without any worries and two coats of primer should do the trick.
Step 3: Paint it
Regardless of whether you’re painting over wood/stain or existing paint, I recommend Benjamin Moore Aura – pearl finish. 2-3 coats of this product will give you a beautiful finish as it has a moderate amount of self-levelling properties which make for a smooth surface when applied with a 10-13mm nap roller. If it’s a hot day and your paint is drying fast, use Flotrol to give it a bit more drying time.
DON’T FORGET, paint can take three weeks to cure properly, so be gentle with your freshly painted surface.
While you can apply lacquer or varathane as a finishing coat, I personally haven’t found it necessary as this product has held up very well on many different surfaces in my home – as long as it’s been cured properly and I haven’t gotten impatient and put things on top before I should!
4. Fireplace Update Idea: Seal your stone, brick or hearth
Whether you have old brick, modern river rock or a 1980’s black slate hearth, these are all products that can change colour/tone when sealed. Most of these products were not sealed originally because they don’t usually get exposed to water.
In these next photos, these stone fireplaces are DEFINITELY contenders for sealant…
To see what your fireplace would look like when sealed, fill a spray bottle with water and cover a section of your fireplace with it. It’s really pretty cool. Keep in mind that many of the sealants won’t have the ‘sheen’ that water makes, but will create the ‘depth of colour’. There are the odd stone/brick products that don’t respond to water or sealing and this is usually because a) they are not natural products or b) they have already been sealed.
Some stone sealing products have a level of sheen to them. Usually, the more sheen, the more enhanced the colours will be, but you ALSO don’t want shiny rocks or bricks, so keep moderation in mind.
If your stone/brick doesn’t change colour with water sprayed on it, it’s likely already been sealed.
5. Fireplace Update Idea: Paint your brick or stone
Yes, men around the world just cursed my name – it won’t be the first time my face has been featured on a dartboard! You may notice many kinds of wood, furniture styles, stone applications and clothing fads that keep coming back in style, however, you don’t see many bricks being resurrected from the record books (there are a few).
Whitewashing is a popular look right now as it lets a lot of the texture and under colour show, without having the full-colour commitment of the original product. Just keep in mind, that many bricks, when covered in a white-wash, look a bit pinkish (particularly red or darker purplish bricks).
So, don’t be afraid to paint your brick and here’s how you can do it.
Step 1: Clean it
If your fireplace has soot/build-up on it then you need to clean it. Here are some in-depth cleaning instructions for brick (TSP works well). If you don’t have any build-up, be sure to use a wire brush to remove any loose hunky-chunky’s from your surface and then dust it all off.
Step 2: Prime it
You need to use water-based primer – NOT OIL BASED. Oil primers will prevent the brick from breathing – as we all know, breathing is essential. One good coat of primer will do the trick.
Of course, don’t paint the firebox or anywhere that the fire would touch.
Step 3: Paint it
Using a latex paint (satin finish is appropriate for brick) and a nice thick nappy roller, apply the paint to the brick. Once you’ve rolled it on, use a brush to fill in the grout areas that did not get hit by the roller. You’ll save yourself a lot of work doing it this way rather than cutting in ALL of the grout lines first and then rolling.
And with all of these update ideas (more HERE), it never hurts to get a second opinion if you are unsure of any of the above. My advice is based on personal ‘hands-on’ experience and I am not a tradesperson nor an employee of a paint/hardware store – I’m just a crazy lil’ Ginger who likes to paint stuff!
Want decorating ideas custom-tailored to your home?
Check out E-Design for your own personalized consultation.
Originally written in 2016, awesomely updated in 2019