I used nothing but paint to create a major fireplace upgrade. I mean, okay, it was A LOT of paint, but still. Only paint here.
I’m going to cover every part of this project, so click through if you only need a certain part of the tutorial:
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How to Paint a Fireplace: Mantle, Insert, and Tile
The process for painting a fireplace isn’t going to be the same for everyone, because fireplaces are like fingerprints–no two are alike.
…Oh, what’s that?
Okay, so that’s not actually how it works at all. BUT STILL.
THE POINT IS that fireplaces can have a lot of different materials, okay? In my case, my fireplace had a wooden mantle, a metal insert, and a tile surround. So those are the things that I painted–plus, I painted the wall above my fireplace. But that was just me being extra.
If you have a brick fireplace mantle, then you’ll need to disregard the steps for this mantle… and so on.
Let’s move on.
How to Paint Fireplace Tile
This was my first time painting tile, and it became quite a saga. You can see the whole thing in my Instagram stories.
But if you don’t want the sob story, here are the supplies and steps to painting fireplace tile:
Supplies to Paint Fireplace Tile
Need more details on the best tools & supplies for your projects? Check my Incomplete List of the Best Tools & Supplies for DIYers. It includes ONLY tools & supplies that I’ve personally used and recommend, plus some honest notes about each product and what you really need (and don’t need).
- Painter’s tape
- Sand paper
- TSP or other grease-cutting cleaner
- Bonding primer
- Microfiber roller
- Stencil (optional)
- Tiny craft brush (optional)
Related: Want more inspiration for your fireplace? I gathered 21 of the best and most unique shiplap fireplace ideas.
1. Clean the Tile With TSP
Start by just wiping down the tile, then use TSP on top to make sure you get all grease or oil or dirt.
2. Sand the Tile
It feels to me like every time someone says “sand,” 90% of the audience bails on the project.
SANDING IS NOT THE ENEMY, MY FRIENDS.
Even if you have triple the amount of tile on your fireplace as I did, this will probably take you less than ten minutes.
You’re not trying to sand the tile into oblivion. You’re simply giving it some texture for the paint to cling onto. YOU CAN DO THIS.
3. Wipe the Dust Off
This is such a quick step that I was tempted to skip it… but don’t. Just don’t.
4. Tape Things Off
Again–this depends on the layout of things. But when you paint tile, you’re going to use a high-quality primer and a high-quality sealer at minimum. If you don’t want the surrounding materials to be splotchy and destroyed, TAPE.
5. Use Bonding Primer
I’m really not the ultimate source of painting tile at this point in my DIY life, but this is one of those times that I think high-quality primer isn’t something you’ll regret.
Make sure you let it dry completely.
6. Paint Tiles With Your Base Coat
Now things start to get more fun! Paint your base color (or maybe only color) onto the tiles. This totally depends on your tile and color, but you should just plan to do two coats of paint.
Again, each of the steps up to this point will go QUICKLY. This is a great project to break up into different days if you have a crazy schedule or are a mom or whatever else.
Type of Paint for Fireplace Tile
I used latex paint here. Was it the absolute best choice? No.
But was it the worst choice? Also no.
This project took me WEEKS, because life. So at one point, my husband, who I love so much, actually used the fireplace to start a fire before there was any sealer on the tile paint. This included bringing in logs and throwing them onto the tile.
Love him so much. But I didn’t love that.
And YES, paint did peel. Thankfully and miraculously, it was only a few small areas that I was easily able to patch.
If you are painting more tile or more heavily trafficked tile, I wouldn’t use this tutorial to do it! I would also suggest using porch paint.
I didn’t do that for this project because I knew from the beginning that this was an experiment in tile painting, and I didn’t want to spend $60 on large buckets of paint that I wasn’t sure I’d ever end up using.
If you have questions about this, leave a comment or message me on IG or TikTok.
7. Use Your Stencil or Hand-Painted Pattern
Once your base coat is done, time to add pattern to your tile!
Again, this was the part of the project that became a giant month-long saga, but I’m not going to get into that.
I originally chose this geometric Athena stencil from Etsy–which I LOVE–but I ended up hand-painting a chevron pattern.
You do you, girl.
8. Seal Up Your Beautiful Tile
Sealing the tile is definitely the most important part! I used Minwax Polycrylic, mainly because I’m familiar with it. It’s not stinky and it dries super fast–plus, I used it on my painted granite countertops and it was pretty magical.
However, again, I’m well aware it’s not the MOST heat-resistant sealer out there.
VERY IMPORTANT PRO TIP: If your painter’s tape is still on, REMOVE IT BEFORE THE SEALER DRIES!!!!!!
Want to know how I know? I didn’t do that, and then I did 3-4 coats of sealer! So it had sealed right over the painter’s tape, and when I lifted the tape, I also lifted every layer of paint.
Sigh. Learn from my mistakes, fiend!
The good news is that apart from my mistakes, we’re going on one year with this fireplace tile and this sealer is holding on like a champ!
Related: Get 12+ of the best & most unique blanket storage ideas that actually work for real people
How to Paint a Fireplace Mantle
These are the supplies you need for the actual mantle:
Step 1: Clean + Prep
Okay, this is just ALWAYS a step before you paint. I’ve tried skipping it a few times out of pure laziness….. 0/5 stars, do not recommend.
This is also the time to sand the mantle, clean the dust, and then tape things off.
Step 3: Prime
Are you gathering that painting a fireplace mantle is not a very unique or exciting process? Yeah.
I’ll add some excitement to your life because I’m a rebel (if you know me in real life, you’re laughing… because…… no).
I didn’t sand OR prime my fireplace mantle!
I know, I know! It’s a crime! A TRAVESTY!
Step 4: Paint
It wasn’t a thought-out decision, either. After painting the fireplace tile, I was just D.O.N.E and I just started painting it with a brush.
And then…. the entire thing was painted in less than 2 hours.
So, you may or may not want to follow my rebellious ways. To be honest, I’m rather shocked that my paint has held up so well! But dang. It has.
Pro tip: Depending on your fireplace, you may also want to seal your paint. I didn’t–at this point in the article, I’m SURE you’re just shocked.
If you love painting, like me, check out my DIY Ombre Dresser tutorial! Even if you don’t love painting… it’s the easiest dresser painting project you could do.
How to Paint Fireplace Doors or a Fireplace Insert
NOW. Painting the fireplace insert was my biggest concern during this project.
This is obviously the main place where heat from the fire touches the paint. So, the question is:
Do You Need Special Fireplace Paint?
Every fireplace is different, so take my answer with a grain of salt–but no.
For the fireplace mantle and tile, the actual fire is unlikely to get close enough for long enough to really affect the paint.
For fireplace doors, the correct answer is “it depends.”
But if you have a fireplace insert like I do, and all you’re trying to paint is the edges–it’s going to be okay.
In cases when you really are trying to paint something super close to a fire or some other type of high heat, there is this specialized spray paint at Home Depot. It’s less than $5, so you could easily use that to be extra safe.
Supplies to Paint a Fireplace Insert
After seeing that supply list, I bet you already have an idea of the process…
Step 1: Remove the Fireplace Doors
Yep. Just…. remove them.
Step 2: Tape Them Off
If you have the same fireplace insert I have, use plastic to cover the doors and tape off those edges. This step takes longer than most other steps in this article!
Step 3: Spray Paint the Doors
Or use whatever type of paint you choose.
Want to see a super short video of this? Watch it right here.
Step 4: Put the Fireplace Insert Back
Yep! Just…. put that insert back in.
That’s it! This is how I decorated the fireplace for Christmas:
And this is how I did it for fall!
Final Fireplace Upgrade
Those are all the steps to doing a full fireplace makeover with nothing but paint. The total cost was probably around $100, and this is a focal point and really the statement piece in our living room.
Want another statement piece? Read how to make a geometric accent wall!