$10 Fireplace Makeover – Whitewashing Your Dated Fireplace

Before & After Comparison
Before & After Comparison

Cost break down & Supplies Needed: 
Rust-oleum high heat paint$6.98
Sample bottle of white paint from Lowes$3.48
Plastic drop cloth We already had one
Painters tapeWe already had some
PaintbrushWe already had one
Old rag We already had one

The first time I walked through our home, I still remember my thoughts upon seeing the seventies style orange toned fireplace adorned with glaring shiny brass. The fireplace was asymmetrical and lets just say, I was not necessarily in love.

After living in our home now for close to 8 years and surprisingly the seventies style look still hasn’t come back in style and my love for the fireplace hasn’t changed either. While I absolutely love the character of living in an older home, I was not fond of the particular style of fireplace we had.

The fireplace is often considered the focal point of a room. Our fireplace wasn’t really something I wanted to be the focal point of the room though. Throughout the years, I tried to look at the positive. After all, the fireplace served the purpose of keeping us warm and provided extra seating when we had company over. However, the overall appeal was less than satisfactory. I was still stumped at how to make it look better.   I thought hanging decorations could possibly improve the look or distract from the shiny brass. However, I am no interior decorator and my sad novice attempts were a fail.   I concluded that nothing short of an expensive demolition and starting over from scratch was going to make the fireplace look better….so I thought.

One day my oldest son had a friend over to play. When his mom came to pick him up she commented on how our house had similar features to the older home their family had just purchased. She told me how much fun they were having doing projects to update their home. She noticed that our fireplace was almost identical to hers. I told her I wasn’t sure how to really “improve” the look of it. She went into detail about how their fireplace looked just like ours and they had completely redone it for around 10 dollars!!!!! Ten bucks? Seriously! What?!! I started picking her brain with all kinds of questions of how that was even possible.

Well, after seeing my neighbor’s before and after fireplace pictures, I realized that this fireplace makeover was indeed possible and could look good just like hers did! Really, what did I have to lose… $10? I was confident our fireplace couldn’t look worse either. So I went and bought supplies and decided to start right away.

Sadly, I didn’t take many before and during pictures of the process. Some of the before pictures of the fireplace are pictures I had to dig through the photo albums.

Here is a before picture of the glorious shiny brass, orange rock, and not so great decoration.
Here is an even more up close look of the shiny brass. At least we had a handy mini mirror right?
Here is an even more up close look of the shiny brass. At least we had a handy mini mirror right?

The first part of this process involved getting rid of the shiny brass on the fireplace.

I found inspiration online from people who had used Rust-oleum high heat paint to cover up their shiny brass. I went to Lowes and purchased a can of it immediately. I love paint!

Before spray-painting the brass, I needed to prep the area. I didn’t want to get spray paint on the fireplace rock or paint residue on anything else in the house. I taped newspaper all over the fireplace rock to block it from getting paint residue.

However, I needed a way to prevent the spray residue from getting on other stuff in the house. So I taped a plastic drop cloth above the fireplace and let it drape down like a tent structure over the fireplace insert. The plan was to crawl under it and spray the brass under the tent area. I am thankful for my mom throughout this process because she helped do the dirty work I guess you can say. I was pregnant and nervous about all the fumes so she took one for the team. She crawled under the plastic drop cloth tent structure and started spraying away at the brass. She had to come out every minute or so to get a breather. All in all, it took around 10 minutes. The plastic tent worked great to prevent spray paint from getting everywhere.   I forgot to take pictures of the prep work and her spraying it. However this is the end result of what it looked like when it was all finished being sprayed black. I was already a little more pleased now that the shiny brass was gone.

Shiny brass all gone

The next part of this process was to get rid of the orange rock look. I didn’t want to paint the rock because I still wanted a natural rock look and not a painted look. This is where my neighbor gave me the idea to whitewash the rock. I purchased a sample bottle of paint from Lowes. I mixed 1 part paint to 3 parts water to dilute it and make it really watery. Whitewashing involved dipping the paintbrush in the diluted paint, and painting it on the stone with the paintbrush.. Immediately after painting the rock with a paintbrush I wiped it off with a rag. I was really nervous to do this part of the fireplace because if I made a mistake, it wasn’t reversible.

I did what I always do when it comes to projects; I called my mom to help me out. Before applying the white paint she kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I told her I was sure and so she dipped the brush in and began putting paint all over one of the stones. We started with a rock on the side and very bottom so it wouldn’t be noticeable if something went wrong. I slightly panicked when I saw the rock with bright white paint on it. However, we took the rag and immediately wiped all the paint off and it left it with a lightened up natural look. After a few rocks, I was sold on it and we went to town finishing the whole fireplace. Don’t be nervous if it looks bright white and painted like mine did. Once you wipe it off with the rag, it looks totally different and natural and you can calm down. My mom painted the rocks while I wiped off paint after her. One person could easily do this, but it was nice having 2 people; one to paint and one to wipe. I opted not to paint the grout. I wanted the natural grout look. So for that reason we only painted the tops of the rock.   After about an hour, we had the final project complete. For 10 bucks, I couldn’t be happier with the final look!

Whitewashing complete
Whitewashing complete

Seriously so much better! I love the improved look and couldn’t be happier. Now that we had a new looking fireplace I have always wanted a fireplace mantel. I wasn’t sure how a mantel could work on a bunch of jagged and uneven rocks. I told my hubby that for my birthday that all I wanted was a mantel. Stay tuned for part 2 of the fireplace mantel.

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