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How to Paint Fireplace Tile – Easy Home Update

When we moved into this home, the outdated 1980’s fireplace was one of the first little spaces to get transformed. The cost of replacement was so high so I researched other options. At first, I was wondering if I could even paint fireplace tile surround? Well, you can! It’s a super easy DIY but it definitely required some preparation. I’m so happy with the finished project, so I’m sharing how to paint a ceramic tile fireplace along with some tips I learned along the way.

ceramic tile fireplace surround painted black with white mantel
outdated oak and tile fireplace
fireplace before paint makeover

Fireplace Makeover Options

Before moving in, I could not let this space go. There were many wish list projects cut for the sake of time and money, but I could not look another day at the existing tile. You know how it is, sometimes a small detail will haunt you every. single. day.

We were dealing with a serious orange oak fireplace surround and peach faux marble tiles. It was screaming for a full-on makeover.

Initially, I wondered if I had to replace the tile altogether? Or maybe we had to look at ceramic tile refinishing?I

quickly learned those would be pretty expensive and possibly lead to more issues. So, I opted for painting fireplace tile!

outdated fireplace before painting

Since I wanted to paint both the wood mantel AND the fireplace tile surround, I needed to really sort out the steps and what the entire process involves.

I wanted a more modern, minimal look for the tile fireplace. I know that updating a fireplace has major impact and would completely change this space.

Painted Tile Fireplace Supplies:

  • Interior Latex Paint for Mantel and Tile – I used Sherwin Williams Pure White for the wood mantel and would use Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black for the ceramic tile, both in a matte finish
  • Primer – this is super necessary & I love this brand, I’ve used it on tons of projects and goes on tile surface easily
  • Paint Foam Roller Set – I opted for paint rollers to avoid any brush lines on this project
  • Sanding Blocks – I think fine grit sandpaper works best and is gentle on tile, these blocks are much easier to control than regular sandpaper
  • Painter’s Tape – this type is a DIY staple for me! (tip – use painter’s tape to mark off artwork size before purchasing)
  • Non-Residue Cleaner, such as TSP – this stuff is hardcore but it’s really important to clean all the tile grout and grooves, be sure to read label & precautions!
  • Paint Brushes
  • Painter’s Plastic  – this makes the two part project easy (wood mantel + fireplace tile surround)

Steps for Painting Tile Fireplace:

First, you might be wondering if you need a special fireplace paint and what I’ve learned is, nope! Most latex paint can tolerate high heats and the ceramic itself can be painted as long as it’s cleaned and primed. This makes the ceramic tile reface even easier!

painting a ceramic tile fireplace

1. Sand Mantel and Tiles

If you’re dealing with orange wood that saw its prime in the 80’s (not knocking it – my dad has the cabinets and rocks it) , you’re likely looking to paint that too. If so, sand that baby first. You don’t need to take it down completely to raw wood, but fully remove that shiny sheen.

The tiles need to be gently sanded too. These are pretty basic ceramic tiles with a light texture. I used the fine grit sanding blocks to roughen up the tile surround. This helps the paint adhere.

We used an electric sander for the wood mantel for efficiency, but if we didn’t have access to that, the sandpaper blocks would’ve worked just fine.

This project involves ceramic tile, but really glossy porcelain tiles can be trickier to sand and need an extra fine grit and sanded super gently.

painting a fireplace mantel surround

2. Clean and Mask Off Tile Surround

After cleaning all the sand dust, I covered the tile with plastic using painters tape. Even though it will all get painted, this helps make sure the paint wen on uniformly and a smooth finish.

But going one step more than taping edges, I also covered the entire center with plastic. This was necessary since we used a paint sprayer, but I might do it if hand painting anyway just to be cautious.

painted wood mantel surround

3. Paint the Mantel

We sprayed the entire mantel with Sherwin Williams Pure White which is a touch warmer than our walls (Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace). I don’t trust myself with a sprayer and would’ve done this step by hand if I didn’t have help!

Already, this is quite the fireplace makeover – even before the ceramic tile reface!

4. Clean Ceramic Tile Fireplace

(Seems basic but oh so important!) You could really do this step after sanding, but for clarity’s sake I’m gonna put it right here. Either way, it’s super important. The tile must be cleaned from dust, dirt, and other crap that builds up from the 80’s.

HOWEVER, you also want to make sure to use a non-residue cleaner so the paint adheres well after cleaning. I used a TSP (an old school cleaner that cuts through anything, but wish I would’ve gone with a more eco-friendly choice)

5. Tape Off Mantel

So much taping and prepping. But really, isn’t that most of what painting is all about? Once the mantel has dried for a few days, go ahead and tape off that baby being careful to make smooth clean lines with the tape. Because we were in the middle of a full on remodel, I didn’t worry about the floors. Otherwise, be sure to cover and tape!

black painted fireplace tile and white wood mantel surround

6. Prime & Paint Fireplace Tile

Time for the fun part! For this fireplace, I used a black paint that included a primer but if it hadn’t I definitely would’ve primed it separately first.

Here, I used the foam rollers for a smooth finish to paint all the tiles around the fireplace. I would definitely recommend the rollers over paint brushes. The rollers help get to the tile grout and don’t leave tell tell brush strokes.

Wondering about painting over grout? Because I really wanted the most clean, minimal look possible, I painted over the grout lines. Some people paint the grout one color and then paint the tile separately. Not only does that sound like a huge hassle, I prefer the over all minimal fireplace design.

painted ceramic fireplace with black tiles and white wood mantel
finished fireplace – yay!

There it is, easy! Let me know if you have any questions on my process and definitely let me know if you choose update your fireplace as well!

Painting the fireplace tile made such an impact. It goes down as one of my Favorite Home Updates Under $200

tile fireplace makeover with black and white paint
fireplace makeover with black painted tiles and white surround
moving things in with Pete the cat 🙂