Home Improvement: Painting the Hearth

There are many reasons people decide to paint their fireplace hearth, including wear or unavailable replacements for brick or stone. Painting is a great way to change the look of the fireplace and fireplace hearth.

Preparation is tedious, but important. Measure the area you will be painting. The hardware store will be able to recommend how many gallons of paint are needed for your project when you tell them the area to be covered. The hearth needs cleaned, which means the entire fireplace should be scoured clean. Make any repairs to brick, stone, or mortar after the initial cleaning, being certain to clean up any accidental spills or cement. Based on past experience, I recommend a full twenty-four hour period of drying time. That minimizes paint bubbles and peeling.

Cleaning

Spread several drop clothes around the hearth, to keep the flooring or carpet clean. Brush or vacuum the area to be painted. TSP (trisodium phosphate) is a great cleaner and degreaser. It also works wonders with smoke stains and soot. Use a nylon scrubber and scrub brush. Because TSP can sometimes irritate or burn hands, wear rubber gloves. You can get the scrubber, scrub brush, and gloves at your local Dollar Store. TSP can generally be found at your local hardware store. If you are young, ask Grandma or Grandpa. TSP was a household cleaning name way back when. It was the perfect cleaner for asphalt tile.

Painting

Leave the drop cloths to protect the flooring and items that can’t be moved. Use masking tape as an edging around the hearth and fireplace (do not get any paint on the inside of the fireplace). I use ¾” tape to be on the safe side. Meticulous people can get by with ½” tape. This is often available at the Dollar Store, and always at the local hardware store.

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If you have a flat or slightly-textured surface, you can use a regular paint roller. If it is more textured, as in bricks or stones with strips of mortar in-between, get a roller with more nap. If you are painting the entire fireplace, get an extension pole for the paint roller, as well. You should also have available a durable stepladder. Purchase them at the hardware store.

If you are painting brick that has not been painted before, use primer first, letting it dry overnight. If the hearth gets a lot of use, apply two coats of paint. When repainting, a semi- gloss with primer added will do. I encourage the use of semi- gloss because high gloss paint really brings out imperfections. If you intend to keep the same color for the rest of time, buy enamel paint. If you are like me and think you will change your mind in the next few years, buy acrylic. It is easier to paint over or remove. Also, water easily washes acrylic paint off the rollers.

The Home Depot, True Value, and Lowes are excellent hardware stores for supplies. They usually have guidelines or a class scheduled for do-it-yourself projects. Many WalMart stores also carry home improvement supplies.

Based on personal experience