Painting a Brick Fireplace

Painting a Brick Fireplace
Name: Ruth
Subject Glazing brick
Message: I've heard there is a way to glaze my brick fireplace to update it but still look like brick.
My husband doesn't want me to paint it, so I wondered if you could help me with glazing it. The brick is dark and has what looks like a smoke film on the hearth. I can't get that film off. Thanks for your help!

Ruth,
Thank you for your e-mail.
There are several problems with painting a fireplace, and all of them have to do with the heat generated by using the fireplace. (If you happen to use the fireplace as a year-round planter, then never mind; you can do what you want with the bricks!)
As a rule, paint is not designed to be heat resistant; it will blister and peel if it gets too hot. And the thicker that the paint is applied, the worse the blistering will be.
Second, a lot of bricks have a grainy texture that will cause a thickly applied latex paint to lift.
Third, soot can seriously discolor the paint.
Having said all of that, yes, you can “paint” the bricks, but not in the way you think.
The key is to use an oil based paint, but thinned down to be almost a stain. This will allow the color to penetrate the surface of the brick, preventing any chance of the paint blistering.
What you will need is a high quality oil based paint, such as Benj. Moore’s Satin Oil Impervo paint. You can use any color you wish as a base color. Using an empty can or plastic container, mix some of the oil paint with about 15%-20% mineral spirits and blend well. Using a supply of inexpensive “chip” brushes (these are the cheap white bristle, wood handle brushes that usually cost 2 bucks each; do not use more expensive bristle brushes, as the texture of the bricks will chew up the brushes) start brushing and dabbing the color on each brick.
If you do not want to have to recolor the grout lines, then be careful not to get this color onto the grout.
Once you have colored all the bricks, you can now start to apply some pattern color. (Unlike painting a smooth surface with oil paint, where you have to let the paint dry overnight, use can start to apply pattern color almost immediately). Get some more of the oil paint in a variety of colors; mix each with approx. 15% mineral spirits, and using a thick (1 ½” thick) kitchen sponge, start applying the pattern colors randomly over each of the bricks, emphasizing a certain color on one brick, then a different color on a different brick.
Okay, now. The $64 question: “What colors do I use?” Well, boys and girls, let me give you a color selection that I have found to be very effective.
A good base color is Benj. Moore’s #HC-50. Then, for the pattern colors, use a quart each of Benj. Moore’s #HC-71; #HC-72; #HC-77; and #HC-64. These colors, applied over the #HC-50, will create a classic brick look. Just remember to treat each brick separately, and color each uniquely.
If these colors won’t work for you, then you can certainly use your own.
Hope that helps.
Best wishes,
Glenwood Sherry
That Paint Guy

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