Painted brick fireplace

Painting a Brick Fireplace

Painting the fireplace in our Northern Ontario Canada cottage. A DIY Before and After story.

It’s been a little while since posting a DIY story. That’s because we’ve been so busy clearing up our fallen trees and pine needles (tougher to get rid with the outdoor burning restrictions) that we haven’t been doing any indoor work. We had a few days with so much smoke from the forest fires (not from ushonest) that we stayed inside and got to work painting the fireplace.

Ontario forest fire smoke over lake
Ontario forest fire smoke over lake – eerie times!

Our cottage is typical of many Canadian vacation cottages – built by the original occupants, added to, added to some more and so on. These cottagers had some serious building skills – but in those days permits, architects and interior designers were not at all necessary. (This leads to assorted problems – but also makes for lots of character!)

The island was originally used for ice harvesting with a barn for horses, a workshop and outhouse. Later a cabin was built, with a fireplace, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms were added.

300x600 Covered Home Repairs

Max enjoying the fire
Max enjoying the fire

There isn’t anything that really “needs” to be done to the cottage – with the exception that it really is a “Man-Camp” -designed for hunting and fishing – with black and wood furniture, black countertops and a sea of pine. It all works just fine – but I would like to lighten it up a bit without too much work!

I will however not be inviting any HGTV stars over any time soon to drywall our cabin in the woods! The sturdy cottage is just fine as it is – with just a few things to do here and there! We appreciate the woodsy personality and won’t be “suburbanizing” it!


The fireplace is a focal point of the cabin. It is wood-burning – which is handy because we have a few centuries worth of fallen pine to burn…… But it is not required for heat, as we have electric baseboards throughout and we only occupy the residence for three seasons of the year – other than the occasional walk across the ice to check on things in the winter!

ice fishing nipissing
A winter walk across the lake – past some ice fishing huts

Fireplace Inspection and Cleaning

We first had a local chimney sweep visit and clean the chimney. We just wanted to know if the fireplace was safe to use and clean. I expected them to climb on the roof and clean from top down – but apparently they NEVER do that. (When you call a chimney sweep don’t you picture a man with a broom looking down into the chimney?)

They just installed a bristly brush on a big drill type of device with a large extension pole, plugged in and cleaned away.

Chimney sweep tools and Max observing
Chimney sweep tools and Max observing

Now that I’ve seen the experts at work – I think I could do this myself – It is definitely another McGyver type of gadgetry that I appreciate!

(They charged $317 CDN – which we thought was a little high considering the simplicity of the work – but that included $62 for coming to the island, my husband picked them up a short distance away at the local marina!)

Then we started to worry that we smelled smoke in the cottage and hunted for a fireplace expert to see if he would inspect and line the chimney. This expert took pictures of the interior of the chimney, declared it safe to use and not necessary to line the chimney. This visit was only $150 – but the piece of mind we got from that visit was much more valuable.

Fireplace Brick

The fireplace was made of red brick over a base of cobblestones below the cabin. Over the years it has been added to. The chimney brick is smooth and appears to be quite old – (we are told over 100 yrs). The fireplace surround brick is the same as our old 1970s ranch house – so I’d guess 1970s brick. The hearth is yet another type of old brick!

Old chimney brick
Old chimney brick
1970s fireplace brick
1970s fireplace brick – a third type of brick on the hearth at the bottom!

Testing the Heat

Before deciding to paint our fireplace – we decided to test how hot the brick gets during a fire. We used the very scientific method – touching the bricks on the fireplace and chimney – all over – with our hands. The bricks were warm to the touch – but never hot!

(Always ask your paint specialist for advice about what type of paint to use.)

Our paint specialist told us that we didn’t need specialized high heat paint because of our “temperature check” (the brick never exceeds 180-200 degrees F)

Why Paint the Fireplace?

I wanted the three brick types to blend together better and to lighten a few things up in this cabin – without painting all of that pine! A fireplace is a focal point – and it ought to be something we like looking at!!

This is our fourth fireplace makeover! Our painted slate tile makeover is here. Our brick veneer gas fireplace makeover is here. Still looking for picture of the first makeover! A story about painting ledgestone is here.

Cottage brick fireplace before
Cottage brick fireplace before

Getting Ready

Prior to painting we swept down the fireplace and chimney, and vacuumed. We wiped off some of the soot with soap and water – but we didn’t use any fancy cleaners!

Our cottage came with 3 ladders – so we were ready to climb! We taped some of the woodwork with painters’ tape and put down drop cloths and newspaper on the floor.

What Kind of Paint to Use on Brick Fireplace?

We used Dulux paints, because we find we get the best advice in a paint store that focuses on just painting. We used one coat of primer:

Dulux X-pert Waterborne Alkyd Primer/Sealer is a premium quality, undercoating and stain killing formulation with advanced alkyd emulsion technology, offering the performance of an alkyd in a waterborne formula that cleans up with soap and water.

Applying a primer is essential to ensure proper paint adhesion and a long-lasting finish.

We applied 2-3 coats of acrylic latex paint. (Lifemaster Acrylic Latex paint) in a custom slightly off-white tint.

Acrylic latex paint is a water-based paint with an acrylic resin binder. 100% acrylic latex paint improves adhesion, washability, and color retention. Using acrylic resins also makes the paint flexible, so it’s durable during temperature changes.

These types of paint are suitable for brick surfaces and offer durability and easy maintenance.

Roller or Brushes?

We thought that we would be using a roller on a big pole to paint – but we ended up using paint brushes for the whole project.

We started by cutting in around the edges of the brickwork with a paintbrush.

We found the paint went very easily on the smooth top chimney brick – but it was hard to keep it from splashing on the woodwork. It was extremely awkward to get all the way to the top of the chimney – and my husband was very brave according to him and throughout the entire project we only said nice things to each other!

He also trusted me to hold the ladder if you can believe it! There may well be paint splashes on the woodwork beside the chimney – but who would ever climb up there to look?

Fireplace with one coat of primer
Fireplace with one coat of primer

The fireplace itself was an extremely porous nasty-to-paint brick. It took ages to press paint into the “holey” brick with a paint brush, but after the first coat of primer – the application got easier.

I have to say that when I put the first few strokes of primer/paint on the fireplace we had paint-remorse. Once the paint was on the bricks there was no going back and we realized it was going to be a LOOOONG project to complete. “Why did we start this?” But don’t worry – the story ends well……..

1970s porous brick
1970s porous brick

We did three coats of the tinted latex on the chimney over the primer – and two coats of thickly applied latex over the primer on the fireplace itself.

We left a day between each coat of paint to let the paint dry. After our final coat of paint we peeled away the painter’s tape – and cleaned up ALOT of spills.

Fireplace after painting
Fireplace after painting

Fireplace After

We are really happy with how our painted fireplace turned out. It just cleans up and lightens the look of the cabin. While it wasn’t difficult work – it was “trying” reaching the awkward spaces way up high – and the fireplace brick was tedious to paint.

We are really glad we did it ourselves and glad we didn’t invite the “Property Brothers” or “Vacation House Rules” over to cover it in drywall and replace it with an electric one. With a few days of arthritic effort and 2 buckets of paint and some brushes we madeover our cottage fireplace!

Painted fireplace
Painted fireplace

We are really glad to have completed this project and no longer have paint-remorse.

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15 thoughts on “Painting a Brick Fireplace

    1. I think Scott could definitely come over and have a cup of coffee on the porch with me. I do like the way they work on outside activities on his show!

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