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How to Update Your Fireplace – 5 Easy & Affordable Ideas

Posted on May 21, 2022 by KylieMawdsley

Tips to Make Your Fireplace Look More Modern

Is your fireplace outdated and boring? Have you been wanting to do a remodel, but can’t afford a full makeover? If so, then get ready to give your fireplace a swift kick in the ash

Affordable ideas and tips to diy update your fireplace brick, stone, mantel, tile surround and more. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online virtual paint color consulting

1. FIREPLACE UPDATE IDEA: paint the brass surround

Nothing kills a beautiful brick or stone fireplace more than an outdated brass surround. Luckily, you’ll find that most fireplaces with brass surrounds have removable pieces, making it MUCH easier to paint them. However, some surrounds have the odd details that are built-in to the frame, making them a bit more finicky, but not impossible to paint.

Red or pink brick fireplace, Benjamin Moore greige on walls and White Dove trim. Diy decorating and update ideas. Kylie M Interiors Edesign.

HOW TO UPDATE THE BRASS SURROUND ON A FIREPLACE

All the steps must be followed to a tee (and I am watching…).

STEP 1: Sand with fine-grit sandpaper

If the original surface is shiny, new paint won’t adhere properly – you need a roughed-up surface for the paint to stick to. HIGH grit sandpaper should be used to etch the surface without carving it (kind of like giving your skin a light exfoliation). And like your Mom always says, ‘remember to give it a good wipe when you’re done‘! 

STEP 2: Heat resistant spray primer (here)

When spray painting, fine/thin coats are essential to avoid drips and build-up. It’s also important that this paint is heat-resistant, rather than flammable (for obvious reasons). 

STEP 3: Heat resistant spray paint (here)

Again, the paint needs to be heat resistant and NOTHING works as well as this Rustoleum product as it’s actually a BBQ paint and works like a hot damn (literally and figuratively).

A matte finish is usually the best finish to coordinate with any other existing black on your fireplace surround and glossy can come off a bit abrasive looking.

Remember, paint can take three weeks to properly cure – be very careful with your painted pieces when reattaching them.

BTW, with all of these update ideas, 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’m not a tradesperson nor an employee of a paint/hardware store – I’m just a crazy lil Ginger who likes to paint stuff!

2. FIREPLACE UPDATE IDEA: retile with peel & stick tiles

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to update your old fireplace tile, other than paint, peel & stick stiles are the best way to get a fresh new look. Of course, this won’t work going over a more textured stone surface, but it’s GREAT over old tile!

While this next fireplace isn’t updated with peel and stick tiles, there are tiles out there that look VERY similar…

before and after fireplace makeover, travertine tile, Edgecomb Gray, living room. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

In the above photo, notice that we also took the dated round details off the supports, giving the mantel a more updated look.

Affordable and budget friendly diy decorating and home update ideas for fireplace. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour expert. Peel and stick tiles from Wayfair

1. Linear White and Gray 12×12 Tile | 2. Natural Stone Chevron Pattern Tile | 3. Dark Charcoal Peel and Stick Tile | 4. Warm Travertine Tile

Keep in mind, this isn’t necessarily a FOREVER solution – this is a ‘for now’ solution. In the ideal world, we would ALL start from scratch and use products that are in it for the long haul. However, ‘starting from scratch’ can cost serious scratch. This is really 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!

BTW, I say the above to be on the safe side, but at the same time, you might get 10 – 20 years out of it! I just trust it less as it’s not applied with traditional mortar/grout. 

3. FIREPLACE UPDATE IDEA: paint the mantel & 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. Let’s flashback to one of my favourite Kylie-isms…

Just because it’s WOOD, doesn’t mean it’s GOOD. 

In this next photo, the river rock stone fireplace (the early 2000s) looks dated and drab with the darker taupe paint colour and stained wood, but AFTER – what a facelift!

Living dining room update ideas. River rock stone fireplace. Warm gray paint colour Collingwood, taupe carpet. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

In this next photo, if you have a good mantel in place, this look can be achieved using Ideas #2 and #3 – peel and stick tile and fresh paint…

Fireplace idea marble surround and mantle painted Benjamin Moore Gray dark oak flooring, gray paint color on walls. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint color consultant,

Examples of good wood mantels that suit the room they’re in…

Living room, gray stone fireplace, round wheel chandelier, white built in bookcases, Stonington Gray paint colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color expert

Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray

Benjamin Moore Stone Hearth, White Dove, family room with slate pool table and fireplace, masculine style. Kylie M Interiors blog. Rick Pharoah Photography, client photo

Why yes, that IS a suit of armour! I have the coolest clients…

Livingroom vaulted ceiling, stone and shiplap fireplace with TV, off-white greige walls decor in grays, greens and blues. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour. Diy decorating and design blog and ideas

HOW TO UPDATE A WOOD MANTEL WITH PAINT

STEP 1: SAND

When prepping a mantel for paint (whether it’s stained or currently painted) 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. Just remember, you don’t need to completely ‘sand it down’ you need to ‘scuff it up’. Use approx. 220 grit. Once you’ve done this step, give it a good wipe.

STEP 2: PRIME

If you’re painting over any raw wood, it’s 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

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.

family fireplace with painted mantel, fireplace update idea

Family room with stone fireplace, Sherwin Williams Cyberspace, leather, laminate wood flooring, chartreuse chair. Kylie M INteriors E-design and home

While the wall paint colour and painted mantel are DRASTIC improvements to the above fireplace, I would definitely paint those silver metal strips on the fireplace!

In this next example, a white painted mantel is a CLASSIC choice (also, notice the painted brick, a super affordable update)…

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray, best greige neutral paint colour. Mantel decor, painted brick fireplace, leather chair. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting services

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray with White Dove

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 (and other comparable ones) seem to hold 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!

And remember, fireplaces don’t need to be over-the-top to look FABULOUS…

Fireplace with tv, round black chandelier, wall paint Sherwin Williams Alabaster, neutral home decor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, Jenna Christian home

The 5 Types of White Paint Colours

The Best Paint Colours to Update Your BRICK Fireplace

4. FIREPLACE UPDATE IDEA: seal your stone, brick or hearth

Whether you have old brick, modern river rock or a 1980s black slate hearth, these are all products that can change colour/tone when sealed (assuming they aren’t already sealed).

In these next photos, these stone fireplaces are DEFINITELY contenders for sealant, if the homeowner’s so inclined…

Living room, stone fireplace, shiplap, TV. Tall ceilings, Benjamin Edgecomb Gray best greige. Sherwin Ellie Gray Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online expert. DIY Decorating and design ideas

South west facing living room with stone corner fireplace, furniture, home decor and custom tv stand

To see what your fireplace would look like when sealed, fill a spray bottle with water and spray 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’ needed to see a noticeable change. There are the odd stone & brick products that don’t respond to water or sealing and this is usually because a) they’re not natural products, or, b) they’ve 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. However, you ALSO don’t want shiny rocks or bricks, so keep moderation in mind.

5. FIREPLACE UPDATE IDEA: paint your brick or stone 

Yes, men around the world are cursing my name – it won’t be the first time my face is featured on a dartboard (I’d prefer a calendar)! These days, you may notice a wide range of trends coming back in style; trends you NEVER thought (or hoped) you’d see again. However, you don’t see many bricks being resurrected from years gone by (although there are a few that are classic and should be left as-is – I’m a BIG fan of these).

This next living room is an example of what some whitewashed stones can look like…

Living room vaulted tall stone fireplace, neutral greige taupe walls, Edgecomb. tobacco cognac leather sofa. Client photo, Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray walls

This next stone fireplace is a tricky one as its warmth and saturation can be limiting as it relates to wall colours. And while whitewashing it won’t change a LOT, it would definitely calm things down by taking some of the saturation away…

Living room with Tuscan style gold yellow stone fireplace and built in shelves. Walls painted warm crema beige paint colour, Sherwin Williams Divine White, Kylie M Interiors Online paint colour

The Best Beige & Tan Paint Colours for Today’s MODERN Home

As for this next fireplace, while the owner doesn’t love the warm brown stonework, it actually has some great colours. In fact, based on trends getting WARMER every year, it could certainly come back. HOWEVER, you need to love the home you live in and this homeowner is planning on whitewashing the stone to soften its look…

Brown stone fireplace with Benjamin Moore greige taupe paint colour on walls, oak floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, client photo

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray

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 whitewash, look a bit pinkish (particularly red or darker purplish bricks).

River rock stone fireplace whitewash look, Benjamin Moore Collingwood, White Dove, vaulted ceiling, Kylie M Interiors Edesign

To be TOTALLY honest, I loved the warmth of the stone in its original form – BUT THAT’S ME. When it comes to your own home, you’ve got to do what YOU love and what speaks to your personal style and tastes!

These next photos show beautifully painted stone fireplaces…

Painted stone fireplace with Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan on walls, White Dove stone, home decor on mantel. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Painted stucco and brick fireplace. Painted Ballet White and White Dove with black mantel and country home decor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color advice blog

Benjamin Moore White Dove on both stone fireplaces, Ballet White on the drywall of the bottom photo 

For less than $50, this next 1970s brick fireplace has a modern updated and modern look. And I promise this brick is NEVER coming back in style…

ideas to update an old brick fireplace with paint

The 8 Best White Paint Colours from Benjamin Moore

So, if you’re feeling the itch to paint your brick or stone, here are some tips and how-tos…

STEP 1: CLEAN

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-chunks (a super technical term) from your surface and then dust it all off.

STEP 2: PRIME

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

Using latex paint (satin finish is appropriate for brick) and a nice thick nappy roller, apply paint to the brick. I recommend using a brush to fill in the grout areas that are too deep for 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.

BTW, with all of these update ideas, 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’m not a tradesperson nor an employee of a paint/hardware store – I’m just a crazy lil Ginger who likes to paint stuff!

This next brick is one that I love. Its classic and simple colours make it flexible for a variety of styles and the texture/warmth adds a nice vibe to a living or family room…

Traditional transitional style living room, brick fireplace, blue accents. Mantel decor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting and advice blog

READ MORE

6 Ideas to Update Your Home on a Budget

The Right Height to Hang Artwork 

How to Update Your Kitchen On a Budget: 4 Ideas

The Best Paint Colours for Your Front Door

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors Edecor and Edesign

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Online paint colour consultant Benjamin Moore Sherwin Williams, Vancouver Island, USA, UK. Interior, exterior, edesign colors. Kylie M Interiors, blogger marketing

Originally written in 2016, awesomely updated in 2022



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Comments

  1. Pingback: Modern Family Space

  2. Pingback: Just because it’s wood – doesn’t mean it’s good!

  3. What was the name of the color you used to paint the fireplace? Love the color, its exactly what I’m looking for to paint our fireplace.

    1. Hi Pam, that colour is Chelsea Gray by Benjamin Moore (I also painted my kitchen cabinets this colour!). If you want a slightly darker look you could look at Amherst Gray as well. I’m not sure which Benjamin Moore paint is best for brick, but for my client we used water based paint (which is VITAL when painting brick). We actually used the Behr Ultra 2 in 1 in eggshell finish. However, I’m sure the paint dept. at Home Depot would recommend Behr Masonry, Stucco and Brick Paint.
      The nice thing about the Behr Ultra is that it’s a 2 in 1, meaning you don’t need to prime. I’ve done several fireplaces now with this product over a course of 3 years and they are all standing up FAMOUSLY.
      If you choose another paint that isn’t a 2 in 1 product, you will want to prime as your brick will absorb a lot of the paint. Make sure it’s a water based primer, not oil-based!!!!!!

      I hope that helps, please send before and after pictures – I love to see them and maybe I’ll even throw them on my site!!!

      ~Kylie

  4. I have a full brick wall surrounding a matching fireplace and someone in the past put a sealant on it as you recommended. Now it is chipping, fading, and looks horrible. What ‘ll s of solution will remove those sealants from rough brick surfaces? I would NEVER suggest anyone do that if they saw the brick some 10 years later. Basic paint removers don’t work at all. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Debi, I’m sorry to hear about the problem you are having! My best guess is that there was a product previously on the brick or stone. I’ve also heard that if you use an oil based product/polyurethane product, it ‘can’ chip and peel if there is any moisture in the brick (which isn’t that uncommon, it’s a very porous product.) However, whether this is FACT or not, well I’m inclined to stay on the safe side with a water based product.

      Sealing brick is such a common thing to do – on interiors not as much but DEFINITELY on exteriors. If they used a quality and appropriate sealant and the original surface was in the right condition, there shouldn’t be a problem.

      Next time I’m in Home Depot I’m going to ask them, the guys at our store are really quite knowledgeable and might have some thoughts on how to remedy it….I’ll let you know!

      ~Kylie

  5. What product should I use to seal the old brick on my fireplace. I just sprayed it with water and it looks so much better. The brick that is not sprayed in comparison looks so dried out.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Elly! It would probably be best to go to your local tile supplier as they’ll be able to tell you what is best. You will likely need a product that will still let the brick breathe, so that it doesn’t get sealed up!

  6. Hi I like your suggestions on updating a fireplace. I have dark wood trim which matches the fireplace but the fireplace appears lighter and slightly orangish. Any suggestions on a pain color? My walls are grey/blue.

    1. Post
      Author
  7. What are your thoughts on white washing brick (e.g. yay or nay, a better white paint to use than others, etc.)? And along the same lines, what are your thoughts on the “german schmear” (which makes me want to eat a bagel with way too much cream cheese on it every time I say or think of that phrase)? Thank you!

  8. My walls are SW Passive Grey and my brick fireplace is Red Brick. I want to white wash our brick but not sure what White to use. Any suggestions?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Courtney! I’d recommend using the same white that you have on your trimwork (if you have white trim). If not, SW High Reflective White is a nice clean, simple white or SW Pure White has a touch of softness to it 🙂

  9. Pingback: 5 Hacks to Make Your Home Décor Look Expensive on a Budget - New River Valley Real Estate Blog

  10. How did you secure the round mirror to the river rock fireplace? Or how would you suggest doing so? Is it possible to do without drilling holes? Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Jen, I DID have to get a masonry drill bit, so I could go through the mortar/stone, that’s the only way to do it as far as I know!

    2. Post
      Author

      Hi Jen! We actually used a mortar drill bit to get an anchor in there. It wasn’t ideal, but was the only way to get it up there!

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