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Grey-Washing A Red Brick Fireplace: Before And After

A couple months ago I posted the most amazing news on Facebook: my other half finally relented to my incessant persuasions and agreed I could do a grey paint wash on our brick fireplace (a.k.a. the wall-to-wall monstrosity).

Here is the fireplace as it was when we first viewed the home six years ago (right), and after I ineffectually lumped on a ton of white décor to try to lighten up the space (left).

You’ll notice there’s a number of other “issues” with this fireplace. The pine wainscotting, the adjacent navy blue wall that smothers the room (my oops), and the plywood-topped storage boxes on either side of the fireplace, which for some reason were never finished properly, just to start. Really, the only good thing about this fireplace was the barn beam mantle… way ahead of it’s time.

Here is my inspiration board. It took me hours to hunt down an inspiration image of a fireplace paint washed in grey (bottom right)—almost everyone does a white wash on red brick. I studied this photograph thoughtfully, because though my fireplace had a bare wood rustic mantle, it didn’t have the white elements that make this space contemporary and bright. I decided I couldn’t proceed with the brick makeover without tackling the pine wainscotting, so I finally tackled that backlogged project as well.

(clockwise from top: one, two, three, four, five)

I did mass amounts of research out of fear of irrevocably damaging the brick with the grey paint wash, making the already dire situation worse. I need not have had any fear. Many blogs recommended a paint wash was a two-person job, but I effectively tackled this project from start to finish solo in the span of an eight-hour day. The paint-to-water ratio, number of coats, and method of application varied from project to project. but the results all seemed relatively the same. I found that 2 parts paint and 1 part water was a sufficient dilution (you WILL have splatter, protect nearby areas). I applied two coats of paint, and worked the paint into the grout and across the bricks as I went, rather than edging first and painting the bricks second. Some blotting was required but I wasn’t neurotic about it as all the excess paint eventually seeped into the brick and grout with no discernible “drips” like you would get when painting drywall.

The paint colour used is Benjamin Moore Escarpment.

After The Grey Paint Wash

Fireplace makeover DIY with a grey paint wash on red brick.

At the end of the day I found that paint washing the bricks in grey did not preserve the variation of brick colour as well as it did in a white wash. I should have anticipated this from the above inspiration photo of the grey fireplace (bottom left), but that blog provided no “before” image, so I had no way of knowing whether that fireplace began with monotonous uniformity or the typical variation in brick colouring fireplaces usually possess. In the end I wasn’t happy so I went back to my grey paint and in one bowl mixed in some white paint and in another mixed in some black, so that I had a dark and light shade of the same paint. I thinned the two new paints only slightly with water (I eye balled it) and then applied the darker and lighter paints to a random selection of bricks to achieve a more natural effect.

There’s been unanimous awe. Everyone is very impressed with the results of the grey paint wash, even my skeptic other half. I am relieved it turned out so well. As for durability, the paint is completely soaked into the brick so there is no risk of scratching it off accidentally.

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8 Comments

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  • Reply Julie Croucher

    I love your fireplace, I’m thinking of using the same paint on my equally ugly red brick fireplace, I see you used Benjamin Moore escarpment CC-518, please can you share which finish type the paint is please? Many thanks

    August 25, 2017 at 1:39 am
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      I just used a regular eggshell finish that you would use for any living room wall. After I bought it, it occurred to me that I should have purchased matte, but once I used the paint I realized it didn’t matter. The paint soaks into the brick so much that I don’t know that the finish makes any difference at all.

      September 11, 2017 at 3:14 pm
  • Reply Bev Yeager

    Looks like your fireplace had black grout, mine does too and that’s what makes me nervous about whitewashing it. Did you have any coverage problems with the dark grout? Any tips?

    September 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      No I didn’t have any issues with grout coverage at all. You just have to make sure that you get your brush in there everywhere to deposit the paint. Grout is porous unless its been sealed.

      September 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm
  • Reply Yvette Gomez

    Love all, what is the color for number 4?

    September 28, 2017 at 10:19 am
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