August 12th, 2016

DIY Trick: Painting Brick and Stone

Painting brick or stone can seem challenging, but it’s an easy-ish DIY project if you have the right paint and tools.

Painting a stone or brick fireplace surround can freshen up a room.

Design & Color

There are times when a brick or stone fireplace is screaming in sadness for a coat of paint. And when I spotted this fireplace at a client’s new-to-them-but-stuck-in-1980s home, I knew that a fresh coat of paint would perfectly freshen up the entire family room.


A fireplace surround made of brick or stone can be painted and completely freshen up a room.


So, selecting color for a fireplace can be vexing. It’s a statement element in any room, and in this room, the fireplace is huge. At first we talked about a black gloss, but after sitting with the client on her living room floor and walking in and out of the room from the adjacent rooms, the giant leap into gloss black wouldn’t have worked with the family’s mojo or style.

I think the homeowner wanted to use the black gloss paint to push that fireplace a little too far into the land of modernity. And while the family is definitely on the pulse of what’s cool, they aren’t a slick black, chrome, glass, and leather family. They have a coastal cottage style.

So we looked at soft browns and greys for this 1980s fireplace until we settled on the perfect color, Castle Wall Grey.

And we made a plan to build a mantel shelf to help visually balance out the off-center fireplace (If you can tell me why the pendant light is hanging there in the before photo, please tell us. We still don’t know).


If you like the look, try Glidden's Castle Wall Grey paint color.

Paint & How-to

Painting brick or stone means thinking about it more like an exterior project rather than an interior project. So whenever I have to paint a deeply textured surface like this, I use a few good 4-inch paint brushes as my go-to tool.


The first place I’ll use a paintbrush is to get in all the mortar joints—the nooks and crannies of the stone—and work on the accumulated dust bunnies in there.


Next, I like to prime a porous surface like this with Glidden Gripper Interior/Exterior primer. It’s ideal for all the imperfections, cracks and surface area you get with painting a stone cladding like this. And of course, I apply it with a 4-inch exterior paintbrush.

The key for me is to keep the bristle tips wet so the stone is able to absorb as much primer as it can—without over applying. And here’s reason for the brush. Painting a surface like this (or real stone or brick) means it’s nearly impossible for there not to be drips. With a brush, you can easily ‘chase’ drips and brush them out. I always recommend checking what you’ve already painted because sometimes it takes drips a few minutes to develop. It’s not the paint, it’s all the hard edges that draw too much paint out of the brush.

Painting stone or brick requires the right tools and the right paint.


The primer is a slightly unsung hero in this transformation because it helps the color go on smoothly and stay on for years to come. Theresa chose a grey-brown paint color in semi-gloss to mute the manufactured earthiness and again, we go to a brush to apply it.

Dabbing between stones and brushing the color out enables the paint to reach into, under and around the bazillion nooks and crannies on a surface like this. And I always plan on two coats.

Mantle: A Floating box-shelf

For the mantle—I love Theresa’s design on this. It was fun for me to build and install it. I think it has super clean lines that offset the rough stone make it modern looking without being too vernacular, too ‘modern’ or too earthy.

We worked together on the placement and size of the floating mantel shelf for the fireplace that wasn't yet painted.
Theresa blended the paint with white and did a wash technique on the wood to make the mantle look like it had been there as part of the home, yet still fit with the young family’s modern but casual lifestyle.

The key to this custom look was to brush and wipe. She used a 3 ½-inch angled brush for a nice smooth application of the color. She then applied her mix and wiped the pine boards down with a paper towel.

Painting the new wood to look like it was 'aged' with the home, just took a little whitewashing technique.
On the wall, Theresa positioned the mantle such that it was the unifying factor in all of these out-of-balance elements making a lifeless hearth perfectly homey and brimming with charm.


We created the mantel so it's a really long floating shelf above the fireplace, which gives a modern and casual look to the fireplace surround.

This post is sponsored by Glidden® paint, a PPG brand. All thoughts, opinions and paintbrushes are my own.