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Location: Lacey, WA, United States

I have a Certified Artist/Teacher degree with the National Society of Decorative Painters. Taught decorative painting, color theory, calligraphy and other art related classes for 12 years. I enjoy using my artistic talents, especially to update furniture and repurpose found items. I am married to the world's most wonderful husband. We celebrated our 48th anniversary this year (2016). We have raised six children, three boys, three girls. Have 10 grandchildren. Through the NSDP I have paintings in the White House, Blaire House and Smithsonian Institute. I was given the honor of being the Chair of the Pacific NW, "Breeze and Brush" Decorative Painting Convention. What fun we had! I like keeping healthy and enjoy life. I love humor and people. God has been good to me!

Friday, October 10, 2008

What not to do on a hot August day!

Here's a picture of what our fireplace used to look like.  If you have one like it and have been wondering how to update it and change the color, look no further.  Hopefully I can save you a lot of time and effort researching online and elsewhere to find a solution.  Most sites I accessed talked about the pro's and con's of painting brick but didn't give much help on how to do the job if you wanted a change.

I suppose red brick with charcoal and black accents was the 'in' thing back in the 70's but I was not happy with the look, over the years, it clashed with just about everything in our living room and I was ready for a change.  Floor to ceiling and almost a whole wall wide, the brick curved around the left side for another four feet; it would be a huge job to update it.  I didn't want to put money into recovering it so painting was my next option.

I had been thinking about painting the brick for a couple of years, but was hesitant to start because I wasn't sure of the colors to choose and whether I wanted to tackle such a large area.  I had painted a brick fire place years before but it had been a very small area of brick and it was fairly old so I didn't hesitate to paint and make it look better.  This was different, once done it couldn't be  undone!

So when my husband was out of town for several days, I made my hundredth trip to the paint section of our local Lowe's and pored over the color samples as I had done again and again.  I pulled out sample #2006-10 for Valspar paint and I immediately knew those were the colors I had been searching for; neutral and soft.  I had to also find a dark brown for the hearth, which I did.  It was time to order.

I bought two gallons of Zinnser primer (water base) to seal the brick before painting.  I bought one gallon of 2006-10B Lyndhurst Gallery Beige, for the base color (a medium beige); one quart of 1006-10A Free Wheeling (a darker beige) and one quart of 2006-10C Vanilla Steam (a soft creamy color).

For the hearth I chose 3011-10 Frontier Road (a soft dark chocolate).  I used all of these colors in painting the brick, using a dry brush technique to apply the accent colors of dark beige, chocolate and cream colors.

I headed home, excited that I had finally found the colors I wanted and ready to plunge into the painting project.  I had to remove the fireplace screen with glass doors first, this put my painting project off for a couple of hours because I decided I didn't want the heat scarred, brass doors any more.  I drug them (heavy, heavy) into the back yard, scrubbed them with hot soapy water and a brush, rinsed and stood them up against a tree trunk to dry.  When dry I used a very fine grade sandpaper, something like 000, and sanded all of the brass to get rid of the shine.  I taped off the windows inside and out with newspaper and blue painters tape.  Laid the doors on top of an old plastic tablecloth (great for spray painting) and gave them two good coats of black, high-heat, spray paint.  As long as I was going to get dirty and have black paint on my spray finger I decided to also clean the fireplace tongs and holder (the wrought iron parts) and shine up the metal.

That done I retreated back inside, out of the sun, to tackle the fireplace painting.  I should mention, I chose the two hottest days of the year to do this job, 93 degrees.  I recommend lots of iced tea, cold watermelon and fans.  The nice thing about hubby being gone is that you can eat when you want, don't have to cook if you don't want and eat whatever you want!!

Okay, I rounded up drop cloths (old sheets), a bunch of old paintbrushes, the larger ones (4 inches and larger) I set aside for 'dry brushing the accent colors'.  Got the stepping stool and set up the lightweight aluminum ladder, blue painters tape, cottage cheese and margarine containers to hold paint and a couple of wet cloths for wipe ups.

The brick was highly textured, lots of ridges and gaps, I know, I know!!  Use a thick, fluffy roller.  Well, at least to me, they are messy and spatter all over everything and still leave unpainted areas.  I primed the entire fireplace by hand with a large, stiff bristled, brush.  Be sure to protect with newspaper and painters tape, any area where the paint could get on the wall or ceiling, or in our case, on the carpet.  Our brick went all the way to the floor and had carpet all around it.  I'll explain later how I protected the carpet as I painted around the bottom.

Before priming, vacuum the brick and hearth, go over it with damp old cloths.  If, like I did, you have used a wax on the hearth, wash it with T.S.P (Tri Sodium Phosphate) it is sold wherever paint is sold or in hardware stores.  It will remove all grease, wax and dirt.  Rinse well and dry before priming.

I started at the top since it is easier to expend your energy up high and still be able to have some left to paint lower down, without having to use the ladder or stepping stool.  I'll admit it took me a whole day to just prime the brick.  Prime both the brick and the grouted areas.  Get in all the holes (we have a circulating fireplace with cold air intake at the bottom and hot air outlets above the fireplace opening)  Check and double check for areas that didn't take the paint.  I had to use a very small brush in some places to reach unpainted areas.  I primed all of the brick areas and left the hearth unpainted so I could stand on it to paint; the hearth was the last thing I primed and painted.

Take a break, have a glass of tea, put your feet up and watch a little t.v. or play a computer game.  Don't forget to feed the dog and cat or medicate them, whichever they need, or both.  Admire what you've done so far and pat yourself on the back (after you wash the primer off your hand.)

When I got down to where the carpet stuck up around the bottom bricks I used a section of cardboard from a box I cut, nothing big and bulky, cut it to a useable width and length.  Mine was heavy cardboard two feet long by 5 inches wide, just big enough to protect a  foot and a half section while being painted and wide enough to hold and not paint your fingers.  I hooked up my hairdryer with an extension cord and had it within reach while painting these bottom bricks to dry the paint before removing the cardboard protection.

I placed the primer container on a piece of plastic, had the brush and blow dryer ready.  I pulled the carpet back away from the brick, positioned the piece of cardboard over the carpet and up against the brick at the bottom, as low as I could get it.  I would then paint the brick from the base up, don't load too much paint on the brush, you don't want it to run down behind the cardboard.  Work the paint into the brick and up high enough that it will be above the carpet fibers when you remove the cardboard.  When you have painted the bricks that are the length of the cardboard, turn the blow dryer on high and dry the brick so it is not wet to the touch.  Remove the cardboard and move to the next section and repeat until all of the lower bricks are primed.  I cut several pieces of cardboard so I would have fresh ones to use most of the time.  Use this technique when you apply the paint also.

When the primer was dry I applied an even coat of the 2006-10B, Lyndhurst Gallery Beige, again using a medium sized brush, working the color into the textured brick and grouted areas.  It is important that you view a painted area from all angles to be sure everything is painted, do a two 
square foot section at a time.

When the light beige is dry you are ready to apply the accent colors; in this order: 2006-10A Free Wheeling (darker beige), 2006-10C Vanilla Steam and last 3011-10 Frontier Road (dark chocolate).

To add these colors use this technique.  I used a piece of cardboard with waxed paper taped over it, about 12"X14", like a palette for painting.  I put a little of the darker beige on the surface using a spoon and spread the paint out a little making it easy to tap your dry brush bristles into the paint without 'loading' it up too much.  Use a 4" or larger brush, dry bristles, tap the bristles into the paint and tap the brush on some newspaper to remove some of the excess paint, you want very little paint on the bristles but enough to transfer lightly onto the bricks.

It is important that you jump from place to place so the color doesn't look stuttered, spotty or planned.  Hit the brick here and there with this darker color, jumping around, in about 8 or 10 places.  Immediately, before the paint has set, using a large, dry, stiff bristled brush; pound the edges of the dark beige, wipe the brush on an old cloth now and then.  Continue doing this until it looks as if the dark beige is fading out around the edges (you don't want a spotty effect).  Continue until the entire brick area has been accented with the dark beige.

Do the same thing using the 2006-10C Vanilla Steam (cream color).  Use a different dry brush for this lighter color so you don't muddy the colors together.  Use less of this color than the dark beige (by less I mean not as many places dry brushed with this color).

Last, use the 3011-10 Frontier Road (chocolate brown), not very much of this color at all, and apply it very sparingly. Pound it well around the edges to soften, wiping the brush on old clothes now and then.  The chocolate color can overlap the dark beige in some areas but not all.

Step back now and then, 6 to 8 feet away and check the colors for softness and randomness.  You'll begin to get the picture.  Last of all, if when you step back, you notice that some of the dark beige and chocolate are too overpowering in areas you can tap some of the cream color into a dry brush, wipe off the excess and very lightly tap it over the dark areas you don't like, then use a clean, dry brush and soften the edges, this will subdue the dark colors, add more if you want it lighter.

The last thing I did was to prime the hearth, two coats, let it dry for a day and then painted it with three coats of the 3011-10 Frontier Road (dark chocolate).  There is a big difference between dry and cured.  Paint can be dry to the touch but will scratch and mark easily if not cured (dry all the way through).  I let the paint cure for 10 days before I replaced the fireplace doors and put the heavy decorative screen on the hearth.  It is well worth the wait, nothing is more upsetting than to see your paint scratched and damaged after all of the time and work you put into making it look good. 

The work and sweat that went into this job was so worth the outcome.  I am very happy with the results and have even had fires in my new updated fireplace to see if they would harm the painted brick.  There has been no heat damage at all.

So here is what the fireplace looks like now.  I am so glad I took the time to accomplish this project.  I hope this gives you some ideas and help.