Painting brick is a controversial subject. For some reason people hate to cover up natural brick with paint, but let's face it, if the brick is ugly, painting it will make it look a whole lot better. In fact, painting a brick fireplace is one of the best ways to update a dated 1960s or 1970s room. Fireplaces that went into homes around that time tend to look dingy and the style is tough to work with.
That said, removing paint from brick is incredibly tough and expensive, so before you decide to paint a brick fireplace be sure it's what you really want to do. This isn't a home décor project that's easy to change if you decide you don't like it.
For those of you décor savvy folks who are brave enough to do it, here's how:
Prepare the Brick
Go over the entire surface with some sandpaper to remove any loose bits of mortar. If the brick was painted before, scrape off any loose paint. Scrub the surface with soap and water and a stiff brush to remove any soot, dust, etc., and then rinse the soap off as best as you can. Let the surface dry and then vacuum it once more just to be sure you got everything.
Prime the Brick
Paint manufacturers make primers and paints for just about every surface you can imagine, including brick, so it shouldn't be hard to find the right product. That said, it's always best to talk with an expert for advice on the best products so speak to someone at your local paint or home improvement store before buying. Latex is generally good for brick because brick is so porous, so that's probably what they'll recommend.
In most cases, a single coat of primer should be sufficient, but don't be surprised if you have to make a trip back to the store to get more. Since brick is so porous it can sometimes absorb much of the first coat. You can use a roller or a large paintbrush, but if you use a roller you'll want one with a fairly thick nap (an inch or so). You should also have a brush on hand to make sure you get all the grout painted.
Add the Paint
Let the primer dry completely before painting. Use a good quality acrylic latex paint for the topcoat. Plan to apply at least two coats, and possibly even more if the fireplace is used frequently. Let the paint dry and cure before placing any accessories on the mantel (if it's painted brick as well). Latex paint needs a couple of weeks to fully cure and you don't want to leave any marks or indentations.
It's that easy. Painting a brick fireplace doesn't take more than a weekend and the results are often amazing. The change is significant and it can totally lighten and brighten a room. So let go of your feat and start painting!