How to Make a Brick Fireplace Look New

Tired of looking at the same old brick fireplace? You can make your fireplace look new with a few simple steps. Sometimes a thorough cleaning produces such stunning results that the fireplace feels like new without any additional work. But perhaps making repairs, painting the brick or completely overhauling the look of the facing and hearth will give you the fresh look you've been longing for.

Brick wall and fireplace
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How to Make a Brick Fireplace Look New

Cleaning the Brick

Even if you know you want to do a lot of renovation work, you must start by cleaning the brick. Otherwise, paint and other materials won't stick to the surface as easily.

Inside the fireplace, soot (also known as creosote) and grime build up and stain unsealed brick, which requires stronger detergents and a bit of elbow grease to clean.

Look for commercial cleaners that mention a creosote-fighting formula or that specify use for fireplace bricks. For smaller amounts of creosote build up, a paste made by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water can scrub away the soot.

Both creosote and the chemicals used to clean it have potentially irritating effects. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves when cleaning fireplace brick and follow all other safety precautions indicated on the label of the cleaner.

Use a wire brush to work the cleaner deep into the surface of the brick and mortar followed by an absorbent cloth to remove the loosened grime and residue. Continue to add new cleaner, scrub and wipe until satisfied with the results. You can also finish up by wiping the brick with a cloth soaked in warm water.

Warm, soapy water should do the trick for sealed bricks (which have a smooth, shiny and easy-to-clean surface) and the facing fireplace/hearth bricks, which don't tend to be affected by creosote.

Repairing Brick and Mortar

After cleaning the brick and mortar, you may notice that the mortar looks scraggly, crumbly or chipped. Brush all of the loose material away and use a mortar repair tube in a caulk gun to fill in any gaps or holes. Then, smooth the mortar filling with a dowel rod before it can dry in order to give it that original sunken look. Wipe the excess off the brick as a finishing touch.

If a brick appears so damaged as to need replacing, consider patching the face of it with a bit of concrete or even with a bit of the mortar caulk. You'll need to paint the repaired brick to match the original color scheme or you can paint all of the bricks for a new and uniform look.

Painting or Sealing

If you want a renovated look after giving the fireplace bricks a good scrub, consider adding a coat of sealer designed for bricks. This gives the bricks a sparkling shine and will make the next round of cleaning even easier.

Painting bricks allows you to preserve that unique texture while giving your fireplace a modern update. Start by painting the clean, dry bricks with a primer designed for this material. Without primer, the paint won't adhere easily to the bricks.

Next, choose your style: You can paint the individual bricks to preserve the look of the mortar or you can paint the entire ensemble.

Note that painting the inside of the fireplace, also known as the firebox, requires a heat-resistant paint. Some homeowners choose to paint the firebox black so that any creosote that builds up inside remains completely hidden. However, it's still a good idea to clean the firebox regularly, as creosote may catch fire.

Other Fireplace Renovation Ideas

Perhaps you simply want to get rid of the brick look entirely. Fortunately, creating a faux-stone or tiled fireplace can be achieved without having to build a new fireplace from scratch. First, you'll need to add a layer of mortar over the brick, then add stone veneers or tile and fill in the gaps with additional mortar or grout.

Other ways to update the look of your brick fireplace include adding a new mantle and screen or extending the fireplace all the way to the ceiling if it stops midway up the wall.