Making Enemies: Painting the Fireplace
From the time we can make eye contact, we begin to learn how to work and play with others. We learn about instincts, danger, and warm feelings all by taking in our surroundings and accessing the risk vs. reward at hand. Some of us develop into social butterflies that never meet a stranger and others are still hugging momma's leg while the other kids have fun in the sandpit. Sometimes we make mistakes and the instincts we thought we could trust burn us or because of outside influences the friends we've made drift away or become enemies. Ok, so all of that had really nothing to do with this post aside from introducing how I trusted my own gut and thought it would be a barrel of fun to paint a massive brick fireplace and then realized I had been completely duped by my own risk vs. reward meter. Our lovely 1980's home would not have been a true renovation if I hadn't addressed the huge elephant in the room. That elephant was brick. One big ole wall of it. Brown, black, red, and outdated. I knew right away I was going to be searing Pinterest for inspiration. I'd seen it a million times, it couldn't be too hard. I considered renting a paint sprayer to tackle all of the paintwork throughout the house, but our small town resources provided nil. Because I was trying to do my part and be frugal, buying a sprayer didn't seem within reason.
Prep Before Paint
Take note of the bare floors and read the How-to Remove Carpet post here. Like any other home project, prep-work is a must. When I started the prep for painting this fireplace, I thought cleaning off the brick would be the worst of all. I was very wrong. A couple of days earlier, I had painted the surrounding living room walls and as I started I noticed, well, a lot of hair and dust in my paint. It wasn't in my paint, but actually all over the walls. The walls in the room are very heavily textured, like plaster and perhaps when we'd removed the carpet, things like dirt and dander, went flying and clung to the heavy peaks in the walls. I put my paint and ladder away and ran out to grab a shop vac (a similar one here). I used the shop vac, with a brush attachment to vacuum the room and fireplace from top to bottom.
Painting the Fireplace with a Thick Roller
According to all 9,000 blog posts I read about painting my fireplace, all I needed was a really thick paint roller and I'd be in business. I went to our local Sherwin Williams and told them my plans for giving my fireplace friend a proper makeover and I left with the thickest roller they had. Bad news. It was not enough. It didn't look like any special kind of roller, it was just as thick as any roller I'd been using on the plaster walls (see it in the corner?). I ran it through my paint tray, rolled it up the brick facade, and scoffed in disgust. I would have had better coverage from have my kids spit the paint on the fireplace (no kids were harmed in the painting of this fireplace). The roller didn't fill any of the pits in the bricks and it didn't even come close to filling the mortar lines. Oh boy.
Painting the Fireplace With a Small Brush
To remedy painting the mortar lines, I tried to use a 1-inch paint brush in between each and every brick, but I soon realized the brush was about a half an inch thick and the gaps between the bricks were less than. I couldn't shove the paintbrush between the grooves without quickly mangling the bristles. That was not going to work either. For a fleeting moment, I thought I'd take a whack at using an aerosol primer. I quickly figured out that spray paint indoors is not a grand idea. Before I'd choked myself half to death from the fumes, I ran down the road to the hardware store to pick up a face mask. When the nice man at the counter asked if I'd "found everything I was looking for," I all but broke into tears. I told him of the tragedy that had unfolded with my fireplace and he asked what kind of roller I had tried. I told him that the painting experts had hooked me up with the thickest of rollers. He said, "like this one," and held up a roller wider than Hulk Hogans bicep. Um no, not that one, actually. He smiled and sent me on my way with my jumbo roller and I went in for attempt number three.
Painting the Fireplace with a JUMBO Roller
Now, would you look at that!?! The jumbo roller was magic! Magic, yes, but not perfect. It worked well to fill in the pits of the fireplace, but still, to get the paint in the giant mortar grooves, I had to press the roller into every space and squish the paint in. For a solid day, I found that the best technique was to continue pushing a very paint-soaked roller into every mortar space, using all of the strength I could muster. Then, I would use the 1-inch paint brush to wipe the dripping excess back and forth across the grooves and fill in all of the bare spaces. At the end of the day I stepped back and realized, I hadn't even made a dent in painting the fireplace. I had only covered a very small amount. That paint sprayer was beginning to look like a much better investment.
Sick of Painting the Fireplace
Painting the Fireplace With a Paint Sprayer
It may look like the fireplace is finished here, but this was only the primer layer. As you can see from my face, I was very over this project. At this point, I would have paid for three paint sprayers if it meant I didn't have to use a roller or brush again for the rest of my life. Instead of three paint sprayers, I opted for one sprayer and went for attempt number 4.
Because I was ready to throw in the towel, I didn't mess around with reading the instruction booklet for the paint sprayer I'd purchased. How hard could it be? I poured the Sherwin Williams Alabaster into the tank and was ready to fire away. Nothing came out. Three times, I added about a tablespoon of water to the paint, stirred, and took aim. The third time was the charm and the paint sprayer was finally working its magic. In hindsight, I probably needed even more water because the paint was not coming out of the nozzle in a consistent flow; more in spurts. GAHHH!!! Once the paint was dry, and you cannot tell by the photo, the lines I'd swiped back and forth with the sprayer were just as inconsistent as I'd expected. The husband had joked that he was afraid that if I put anymore paint on the fireplace that the weight of the paint was going to cause the entire structure to fall through the floor. His joke was funny, for sure, but I was also a bit concerned.
Painting the Fireplace: Before and After
I expressed my struggle to my contractor who was busy removing the walls between the kitchen and family room and when I returned to the job site the next day, he pointed out that he'd done me a huge solid and evened out the mess I'd made with his own sprayer and it looked beautiful! Look! I even gave you a peek at our new floors below in the before and after.
Are you a fireplace painting extraordinaire? What steps have you taken to paint your fireplace? Has my experience left you feeling inspired or completely terrified?
***This post contains affiliate links to the products I used in this project. If you purchase through the links, I will make a small commission.