How to paint a brick fireplace – Lifotravel

Q: I would like to paint the brick and tile around my fireplace, which has a gas insert. I suspect it might involve different prep work and paint for each surface. How should we proceed?

A: You face a few different issues: how to prep brick and tile so paint sticks, which paint to use and how to apply the paint evenly to such textured surfaces.

There’s considerable disagreement about whether you need high-temperature paint for the bricks and hearth or whether regular paint will work. Benjamin Moore and Behr, two major paint manufacturers, both offer advice online suggesting regular paint is sufficient. But many other online sources say to use high-temperature paint, such as the Stove Bright brand stocked by many fireplace shops. Forrest Technical Coatings in Eugene, Ore, makes Stove Bright, which comes in 36 colors and is available in both aerosol cans and brush-on formulas. (On Amazon, a 16-ounce can of brush-on charcoal paint is $27.99 and an aerosol can is $22.71.)

High-temperature paint is rated to perform well up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, so it might seem like the obvious, always-safe choice given the conflicting advice. But Leslie Arbgast, a receptionist for Forrest Technical Coatings who often winds up answering customers’ questions, cringed when asked if it would work on a tile hearth as well as a brick surround. High-temperature paint dries at room temperature, and once dry it sticks well to bricks, tile and many other surfaces without a need to prime first. It won’t peel, she said. But to truly cure and become hard enough to resist scratches, it needs heat — around 450 degrees. Getting to that temperature isn’t an issue when it’s used to paint metal stoves, metal fireplace inserts, or even barbecues. But brick around a fireplace and the tiles on a hearth should not get that hot, meaning high-temperature paint could easily scratch, especially on the hearth, she said.

Can you refinish a peeling bathtub? It depends.

So regular paint is the better option. Benjamin Moore has instructions and a YouTube video about how to transform a brick fireplace with paint, and the steps should work well even on just the single course of bricks on your surround and the tile hearth.

The first step, as always with any painting project, is to get the surface clean and free of debris. First, cover the floor with plastic to protect it. For bricks and the mortar joints between the bricks and the tiles, use a stiff brush to scrub away any loose grit. Benjamin Moore recommends using a wire brush, but the Brick Industry Association, a trade group, says wire bristles can scratch bricks; they recommend stiff plastic or natural-fiber bristles instead. Because you are planning to paint the bricks, though, the type of bristles probably doesn’t matter.

Vacuum up the debris, then clean the bricks and tile. Benjamin Moore recommends its Insul-X all purpose citrus cleaner ($27.78 for one quart at Walmart), but you could use a mixture of clear hand dishwashing detergent and water instead. The Brick Industry Association says to wet the bricks first with plain water so the soapy water and the soot it picks up stay close to the surface, where you can wipe or vacuum them away. Use a masonry sponge, which holds a lot of moisture, as an applicator. Wipe off the wash water with a clean sponge or vacuum it away with a shop vac (not a household vacuum or an ash vacuum, which aren’t safe to use for liquids).

Wait at least 24 hours for the bricks to dry. Then mask off surrounding surfaces with painters’ tape and make sure there is plastic covering the floor. Apply primer — the key to getting regular paint to stick to both bricks and tiles. Benjamin Moore recommends its Fresh Start all-purpose primer ($22.99 a quart at Ace Hardware) or its Insul-X Aqua-Lock bonding primer ($17.99 a quart), both of which are acrylic, water-based products. Other brands’ bonding primers should also work.

Use a brush, perhaps one with angled bristles 1½ inches wide, to paint bricks along the masking tape and the mortar joints between the bricks. Then use a roller with a cover designed for rough surfaces — probably with a three-eighths-inch or half-inch nap — or to spread primer over the faces of the brick. Or, because you are painting such a narrow band of bricks, you might want to use only a brush for the whole job. Paint the hearth after you finish the bricks.

Because brick is rough and porous, you will probably see numerous indentations that didn’t get paint. Rather than try to dab primer and then paint into all these divots, wait an hour or two for the primer to dry, then fill the crevices with paintable acrylic caulk, such as Dap Alex painter’s acrylic latex caulk ($2.99 a tube at Ace).

After two hours, the caulk will be dry enough for you to apply the first coat of the final paint. Choose a water-based paint with relatively little gloss, such as matte or eggshell, if you want to make texture differences in the brick less noticeable. If ease of cleaning and good light reflection matter more to you, go with semi-gloss.

Wait the time recommended on the paint label before applying a second coat. Be aware that water-based paints dry quickly, often in an hour or two, but they take more time to cure. Be careful not to scratch the paint, and avoid washing it for at least two weeks.

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