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How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace

Recently, we made a quick, low-cost update to our builder grade home with a whitewashed brick fireplace. Our front living room went furniture-less and drab longer than I’d like to admit. With its odd shape, bay window, and pinky brick fireplace, I all but gave up trying to figure out what to do. Plus, the boys loved it as an all-purpose room for nerf battles, bowling, and indoor soccer. At some point, I decided it was time to take it back and make it the best it could be. On a very limited budget. Very. Limited.

modern living room with whitewashed fireplace

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brick fireplace before whitewashing
Brick fireplace before painting

Like many of its 80’s contemporaries the brick fireplace was flexing some serious pink. Along with the white carpet and oak trim it was a whole thing.

We replaced the carpet with laminate wood floors and painted the wood trim. Then, it was time for the fireplace update!

I tried making the most of this space with mirrors, artwork, a rug, and splurging on a couple of chairs. But it was time to tackle the big pink elephant in the room. The fireplace.

So, we went with the best, least expensive option- whitewashing. I’d say this project belongs in my 6 Easy Home Updates Under $200 list.

Steps to Whitewash a Fireplace

how to whitewash a fireplace

1. Wash the Brick

Before painting, make sure your brick is clean. I started by dusting & vacumming away cobwebs . Next, I sponged the brick with 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water to remove any residue.

For stubborn areas, I used a soft bristle brush. If I did it again, I might use TSP which I’ve since used on other fireplace makeovers (like this tile fireplace and my current stone fireplace).

whitewashed fireplace transforms dated pink brick

2. Choose the white paint carefully.

If you’ve been using a white paint consistently throughout your space, chances are it will work here. However, because brick has a lot of colors and tones, the white may appear differently after applied to the brick.

Consider the paint undertones here and take note of whether it’s a warm or cool white. 

We used Behr Polar Bear White

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    3. Mix the Paint Solution

    For this purpose, white wash is essentially watered down white paint. Here, I used regular latex paint.

    Many sites recommend a 1:1 ratio of paint to water, but we did much less paint than that. We used approximately 1 part paint to 3 parts water mixed in a big home depot bucket. Mix it well!

    Can you whitewash with regular paint?

    Yes, you can! I used regular interior latex paint that you would use for walls and selected a matte finish.

    whitewash paint

    4. Paint One Coat at a Time. Repeat

    The cool thing about whitewashing is that you get to choose how much brick you want to show through.

    Although it took longer, we learned it was best to try for one thin application, let dry, and apply again for more white. We applied with a big, soft sponge starting from top to bottom.

    We used a total of 3 very thin coats of whitewash.

    Because the whitewash is so thin and watery, it’s helpful to have another dry sponge nearby to soak up any drips or if the wash goes on too heavy for your liking.

    pros & cons of a whitewashed fireplace:

    Whitewashing felt like a huge gamble. I mean, there’s no going back on this one right? It either works or it doesn’t.  I didn’t have a plan B. Which is probably not advised, but I figured it had to be better than pink.

    Ultimately, we went with Behr Polar Bear White which is a slightly warmer white, but no yellow undertones. Because our trim work is more of an off white (now, that’s a long story), I wanted it to go well with the trim but also not have a big cream fireplace.

    If I had to do it again, I would suggest other neutral white paints, such as the ones used in my Neutral Paint Guide. I would also probably do another coat with less brick coming through, but that is just my preference changing.

    In the end, I think it works. It achieved my goal and toned down Big Pink and modernized our 1980’s living room ever so slightly. Thinking about whitewashing your fireplace? Just let me know if you have any questions & be sure to save this post for reference!