I recently wrote a post on how we updated our downstairs living room by removing the bright red carpet, painting the walls, and covering the old paneling with a DIY barnwood wall. The last thing we did to update the room was color washing the brick fireplace (as opposed to whitewashing). It was originally a pink/red/taupe color that was outdated and didn’t work with the rest of the house decor. It was a super easy project and took less than an hour. Since sharing photos of our new room, I’ve had several people ask me for the steps on how we updated the fireplace. So, without further ado, this is everything you need and a step by step guide to do a gray wash brick fireplace.
How to: Gray Wash Brick Fireplace | Color Washing Brick
White is the most obvious option for painting a fireplace but our room is made up of mostly taupes, browns, and grays so white just wouldn’t work. I decided a warm gray would be the best option because it would tie together the DIY barnwood wall and the taupe carpet and couch.
Now, I like the look of a white painted fireplace but I’m not a big fan of gray painted fireplaces. I think because white brick is obviously painted where gray brick is generally naturally colored and it has variation to it. So, I started searching and experimenting and decided to color wash our brick fireplace with a gray tone that would make the pink brick look more like slate.
It’s fairly simple and cheap to do a gray wash brick fireplace, but it is messy. Here’s everything you’ll need to get started.
Supplies to Gray Wash a Brick Fireplace:
Flat Paint – You’ll need a basic acrylic indoor paint in a flat finish so there is no shine. I bought a quart of paint for a standard fireplace surround but a sample size would probably have been enough to do a gray wash brick fireplace. (I also used our quart to paint a bookcase to match the room.) Our color is Pittsburgh Paint Grand Distinction “Deconstruction” (Men7130-5) in Flat.
Stiff Bristled Brush – I used a 3″ natural bristle chip brush. It was cheap and the short, stiff bristles help get into the grooves and holes in the brick and mortar.
Wire Brush – It’s best to use a wire brush before you begin color washing a brick fireplace to get rid of loose bits.
Scrub Brush – I used a plastic scrub brush along with a vacuum cleaner attachment to clean up the after the wire brush.
Putty Knife – I have a plastic putty knife set amazon I use to help paint along carpet and hard to reach trip areas. They are really cheap and come in hand for tons of random jobs.
Plastic Container – You’ll need a small plastic container, wide enough for your brush to fit in, to mix the paint/water mixture. I used one with a lid that sealed tight so I was able to shake the paint and water to mix it.
Plastic drop cloth – I recommend a plastic drop cloth because the paint is very runny and could easily seep through a thin fabric drop cloth. Even better, layer a fabric drop cloth on top of a plastic drop cloth.
Rags – Have a few rags on hand to wipe up drips on the plastic and more importantly, to blot the color wash on the brick fireplace.
Water – You’ll use water (I used city tap water) to thin the paint into a wash.
Optional Painters Tape – You can use painters tape to tape off areas you don’t want gray washed, however, I find it’s easier to just be careful (and have a damp cloth on hand) then it is to get the tape to stick nicely near the not-straight edges of a brick fireplace.
*Please note this is not safe to do INSIDE a fireplace. You would need to use a heat-safe paint for that, which I know nothing about 😉 Obviously, you paint at your own risk, Factual Fairytale in not responsible for any damage to your fireplace or surrounding home.
Step by Step: Color Wash Brick Fireplace
You can truly do this with any color paint just keep in mind the water will tone down the color (so red would end up more of a pink). Because of this, we choose a slightly darker gray that we wanted to end up with. Our color is Pittsburgh Paint Grand Distinction “Deconstruction” (Men7130-5) in Flat.
Step 1: Prep Area to Gray Wash Brick Fireplace
First off, lightly brush over the entire surface with your wire brush to remove any loose bits of brick and mortar. Then, use your plastic brush and/or a hand vacuum attachment to clean up all the dust, ash, and debris. Lay down your drop cloths to protect the surrounding floor and furnishings. The mixture will splatter on adjacent walls, windows, furnishings, etc. but cleans up on hard surfaces with just a damp cloth.
Step 2: Mix Paint for Color Washing Brick
First, determine how much of your brick you want to show through. Like I said, ours was mostly pink and we wanted to cover that but still have some variation to the colors of the brick.
I did a 1:1 ratio of paint to water. So, 1/2 a cup of paint and a 1/2 cup of water in the plastic container. If you want more of the original brick to show through you can do a 1:2 ratio, 1 part paint, 2 parts water (1/2 cup of paint and 1 cup of water).
Shake up the paint and water mixture to make sure it’s completely mixed. It will be very, very runny so be careful opening the container.
*Factual Tip – If you’re unsure on the right ratio, do a 1:1 mix and test it in a small, inconspicuous area. The great thing is, when you do a gray wash brick fireplace, you can just wipe it off with a rag if it’s not right. If it’s still too thick, add more water. Just remember your ratio in case you need to mix more color wash to finish the job.
Step 3: Apply Mix to Gray Wash Brick Fireplace
Using your stiff, short-bristled brush and working in small sections (about a 1ft x1ft area), apply a small amount of gray wash to the top corner of the brick fireplace making sure to get in all the mortar lines.
For the natural stone look and to add variation in the brick color, dab over the bricks with a rag in various places to make the original color show through slightly. I did this mostly on the white bricks and the dark gray bricks to add depth to the solid gray wash. I did not dab the red and pink bricks at all since we wanted that color completely covered.
Continue working your way across and down the fireplace, until you get to about the bottom 6″ of brick along the floor.
Step 4: How to Gray Wash a Brick Fireplace at Carpet Line
Our brick goes directly into the carpet so I had to be careful at the bottom.
Using a 6″ plastic putty knife, separate the carpet from the brick by sliding the flat edge down the brick and pushing it into the carpet. Carefully, and with minimal mixture on the brush, gray wash brick fireplace down to the putty knife and then lift it up and away.
Do this all along the bottom edge making sure to overlap the putty knife sections to protect the carpet.
*Optional Step 5: Touch Up for Color Washing Brick Fireplace
Step back and look for any light, dark, or colored spots on the fireplace. Add more wash to the thin areas and blot any dark areas.
Cheap and Easy Color Wash Brick Fireplace, Complete!
That’s it! Let it dry and it will set up like normal paint. Like I said, it’s super easy, fast, and cheap! The whole thing cost no more than $15 and replacing the brick would have been over $2000! In less than an hour, it completely changed and updated our room. What once was a very old, traditional, outdated fireplace is now a modern, rustic, slate-looking focal point and we couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out!
(I still haven’t cleaned up the paint splatter, oops, it’s summer…)
How did your gray wash brick fireplace turn out?
Let me know in the comments below and send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can share them with the readers!
Until next time, happy DIYing!