How to Paint a Brick Fireplace and Give Your Space an Upgrade

Painting a brick fireplace can completely transform the look and feel of a room. With the right preparation and techniques, you can give your brick fireplace a fresh new look without too much time or expense. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to paint a brick fireplace and upgrade your space.

Assessing the Fireplace

Before beginning any painting project, it’s important to assess the current condition of the brick and mortar. Look for any cracks, damages, or missing mortar that will need repairs prior to painting. Repairing these issues will provide a smooth, even surface for the paint to adhere to.

It’s also critical to determine if the brick has been previously sealed or painted. Painting over an existing sealant or paint layer without proper prep work will likely result in peeling or chipping down the road. If there are prior layers of paint or sealer, these will need to be appropriately removed before progressing.

Cleaning and Prepping the Brick

Proper cleaning and prep work is crucial for achieving long-lasting paint adhesion. Start by scrubbing the entire fireplace with an all-purpose cleaner or mild soap and water solution to remove any dirt, soot, grease or grime. For more stubborn deposits, a mixture of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water can help break down stains.

Once cleaned, the brick must be completely dry before priming or painting. Allow several days for the brick to fully dry after washing. A damp moisture meter can help determine if any hidden moisture remains in the brick or mortar joints.

Lightly sanding the bricks will aid paint adhesion by roughing up the surface a bit. This allows the primer and paint to grip the brick better. Avoid heavy sanding which could damage the face of the brick.

Priming the Surface

Primer is a must for any painting project, but it’s especially important for brick. Quality primer will seal the porous brick surface and provide maximum adhesion for the topcoat of paint. For painting brick fireplaces, an alkaline resistant primer formulated for masonry is best. Alkaline resistant primers deter breakdown from the salts and alkalis inherent in masonry.

Thoroughly coat all surfaces of the fireplace with a consistent layer of primer, allowing complete drying between coats. The type of brick and its porosity will determine how many coats of primer are needed. Two to three coats of primer are typically required to adequately seal and prepare the brick.

Painting the Fireplace

Once priming is complete, assess the surface to ensure the primer has sealed the brick and any repairs or defects are properly covered. After the primer has fully cured for the time specified on the product label, you can begin to paint.

For the topcoat of paint, latex or acrylic paints are optimal for painting brick fireplaces. Oil-based paints do not flex as well and can lead to chipping or peeling over time as the bricks expand and contract. Latex paint also allows the brick to “breathe”, preventing moisture issues.

Use a quality brush to evenly apply two coats of the topcoat paint, allowing proper drying time between coats. For a smooth finish, gently sand the first coat prior to applying the second. Read the product labels to determine drying times for both primer and paint before moving forward.

Painting the Mortar

For the most natural look, the mortar joints can be left unpainted when painting a brick fireplace. However, paint can adhere poorly along the edges if the mortar is not addressed.

A good solution is to apply a mortar wash prior to painting the bricks. A mortar wash is a thin paint mixture that’s brushed just on the mortar joints. This seals the mortar and provides better adhesion for the main paint coats.

Alternately, the mortar joints can be painted the same color as the brick for a solid coat of paint. Take care to avoid getting too much paint buildup in the joints.

Finishing Touches

Once painting is complete, avoid building fires or using the fireplace for several weeks to allow ample curing time for the paint. Building small fires too soon can lead to cracking or peeling as the paint finish bakes.

If desired, a sealer can be applied for added protection and stain resistance. Use an interior sealer formulated for masonry. Limiting the sealant to just one coat will allow the paint to remain breathable.

Finally, touch up any minor imperfections and enjoy your bright, revived fireplace! Proper prep, priming, and paint selection is the key to achieving long-lasting, quality results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of paint should be used on brick fireplaces?

Latex or acrylic paints are best for painting brick fireplaces. Avoid oil-based paints which do not flex well on brick surfaces. Always use a primer made specifically for masonry underneath the paint.

Do the mortar joints need to be painted?

For the most natural look, the mortar joints can be left unpainted. However, paint adhesion may be compromised without addressing the mortar. Applying a mortar wash seals the mortar and improves coverage.

Can the brick be painted without sanding?

Lightly sanding the brick promotes better paint adhesion by roughening the surface. Avoid heavy sanding that could damage the face of the bricks. Proper pressure washing and cleaning also helps prepare the surface.

Should a sealer be applied over the painted brick?

A sealer is optional but can provide added protection and stain resistance. Use a single, light coat of an interior sealer made specifically for masonry. Too much sealer may prevent the paint from properly breathing.

How long until the fireplace can be used after painting?

Avoid building fires for 2-4 weeks after painting to allow proper curing time. Building fires too soon can cause the paint to crack or peel as it bakes. Small fires can be built after this time.

What causes paint failure on brick fireplaces?

Paint chipping or peeling is often due to inadequate surface preparation and priming prior to painting. Failing to properly clean, sand, and prime the brick results in poor adhesion. Building fires before the paint has fully cured also causes cracking.

Should any repairs be made before painting the brick?

Yes, repairs to cracked or missing mortar should be completed prior to painting. Any repairs should have time to fully dry before priming and painting. Addressing defects ensures an even surface for the paint.

How many coats of primer and paint are needed?

Typically 2-3 coats of masonry primer are needed, allowing drying time between coats. The topcoat of latex paint usually requires 2 coats for adequate coverage and an even finish.

What’s the best way to clean a brick fireplace before painting?

Scrub with an all-purpose cleaner or mild soap and water. For tough stains, use a TSP and water solution. Completely rinse and allow several days to dry fully before priming and painting.


Upgrading the look of a dated or dingy brick fireplace is easily achievable with some simple painting techniques. Proper preparation and priming are vital first steps for success. Top quality latex paints provide the flexibility needed for high traffic areas like fireplaces. Avoid oil-based paints which can chip or peel over time. With some strategic elbow grease and the right paint products, you can revive your brick fireplace with a fresh new look that upgrades your space.