My 6-Hour Fireplace Makeover

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I’m ecstatic to finally be sharing this with you guys… This has been one of my favorite, most satisfying projects ever! If you didn’t know, our new homestead here in Muskogee, Oklahoma is 5,100 square feet of projects. We (my hubs and I) have a bit of a problem when it comes to projects… we, like, can’t say no… Like, we’re addicted to the torture of having a to-do list a mile long and never being able to enjoy a weekend day off because we love to make things beautiful and fun. But we have no regrets and many accomplishments to show for it!

SO in this happy mixture of actual necessary replacements, maintenance and repairs and fun DIY make-it-pretty projects I chose to tackle our living room fireplace first! The previous owners (who built this house in 1971 and were in their 90’s when they sold it) had painted this fireplace a terrible off-white color. I was not a fan. With this being our center of family time, I knew I wanted to get this done asap.

I removed the old mantle prior to taking my ‘before’ photo (whoops!).

Initially, I wanted to completely remove the paint and fully expose the brick. After much research online it seemed my only option was to apply a paint-removal paste to the brick and spend hours scraping and wire-brushing the brick. While that sounded like loads of fun, I decided to try a more crafty route.. I wanted to try to give the fireplace an ‘antiqued’ look by sanding away the paint… and I LOVED the results!! But there were some important precautions that came with sanding brick. I’ll get into those here shortly.. I couldn’t find any articles or videos where someone else used this same technique, so I spent plenty of time doing research for this idea.

This project took me (collectively, because you know, toddler-mom life) about 6 hours from start to finish. Here are the tools and materials I used:

The two safety concerns with this project are (1) the dust from grinding the brick and (2) potential for lead paint. I knew based on the history of this house and the wear on the brick prior to the paint being applied, that it could not contain lead. There are tests you can purchase if you are not 100% certain. Dust from sanding/grading cement products can potentially create silica dust. The dust from this project is primarily from the paint, but to be safe it is critical that you are able to properly ventilate your area and protect anyone in the area from inhaling the dust. Be sure to open all windows and wear your respirator before starting the sanding. Though I didn’t have any furniture in the room at the time, I would certainly recommend covering anything in the room. The dust will get everywhere.

Have your materials and respirator on? Take a wack at it! There really isn’t a method for the removal – just an end goal to make the paint look worn. Remove as much as you’d like, or as little. I did about 30% removal. I also would go over the edge of the brick just before I needed to replace my sandpaper because it would tear it, but I liked the effect it gave. It makes the wear look natural.

About 3.5 Hours in…

Once I sanded to my extreme satisfaction (and very tired arms), then came cleanup. I used the wire brush and a spray bottle with a 1:1 solution of water and vinegar to scrub off any loose particles. We want to keep those dust particles in check – use liquid when possible! The vinegar helps to prevent the water from creating any bacteria in the brick spores. Then I sprayed a light mist of the liquid on the floors before sweeping up the dust. The last step for cleanup was to take a rag and use the vinegar/water spray to do one final wipe down!

My finished fireplace!

Next, stain that beautiful plank of wood! I mixed my two favorite stains and applied the mixture with shop rags. Depending on the build of your fireplace, secure the new mantle. We used liquid nails because we have a bricked shelf. Six hours later and I couldn’t be happier! What do you think?!

I plan is to paint all of the surrounding paneling white, and I’ll probably go with a soft white. Not sure yet… but I’m certain whatever color I choose, this stunner will remain the showcase of the room.

I’m SO happy I decided to take the chance on my idea to ‘antique’ the paint and I hope if you try it, too, you will share it here and tell me how it turned out! XOXO, Megan

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