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How to Update your Fireplace – 5 Easy & Affordable Ideas

Posted on September 7, 2019 by KylieMawdsley


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Is your fireplace outdated and boring?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…

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

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.

Kylie M Interiors Edesign online paint color consulting. Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray, best greige paint colour in living room family room with stone fireplace

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.

Corner fireplace ideas. Sherwin Williams Lattice and Natural Choice trim. Kylie M Interiors edesign, online paint color advice

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!

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

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!

Ideas to update a stone river rock fireplace, mantel and painted built-ins. Kylie M Interiors. Edesign and online paint colour consulting expert and diy decorating blogger

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 the mantel in place, this look could be achieved using Ideas #2 and #3…

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…

Taupe brick brick fireplace, mantle with home decor, taupe beige carpet. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consultant

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

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.

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

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

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!

Read more: 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 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…

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 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).

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

ideas to update an old brick fireplace with paint

Read more: The 8 Best White Paint Colours from Benjamin Moore

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!

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors Edecor and Edesign

Want decorating ideas custom-tailored to your home? 

Check out E-Design for your own personalized consultation.

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



6 Ideas to Update Your Home on a Budget

How to Update Your Kitchen On a Budget: 4 Ideas

Originally written in 2016, awesomely updated in 2019



  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!!!


  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!


  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

      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.

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  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

      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

      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

      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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