Use latex primer to cover set-in stains and soot.

How to Refinish a 70s Full-Wall Brick Fireplace

by Michelle Radcliff

Outdated brick fireplace surrounds and walls can become a real eyesore in homes with modern and contemporary interior styles. You don’t have to remove all that brick to give the fireplace a completely new look. If your budget and do-it-yourself skills are limited, start by painting the brick to match the rest of your color scheme. Other options are refacing materials to cover up the brick such as tile, stone veneer or sheet rock. Combine these materials with a custom or prefabricated surround to bring a 70s fireplace into the 21st century.

1. Paint

A fresh coat of paint breathes new life into practically any surface, including old brick. Loosen years of grime, soot, dirt and debris with a stiff wire brush and then vacuum the brick. A good homemade solution for washing brick includes equal parts vinegar and water. Spray this solution on the brick and wipe down with a rag. Try not to oversaturate the bricks with too much water, as the porous material absorbs moisture. The bricks must be clean and dry for proper adhesion of the paint. A coat of primer will help cover especially dark brick or set-in soot stains. Roll on your paint color with a nappy paint roller and use a paintbrush to fill in deep crevices and mortar lines. Apply as many coats as needed for thorough coverage.

2. Drywall

Options for installing drywall include adhereing it directly to the brick with joint compound or building a frame first using two-by-four furring strips attached to the wall with masonry nails. Consider the type of decor you plan to hang on the drywall, such as LCD TVs, paintings, mirrors or shelving. For heavier or fragile items such as electronics and mirrors, furring strips many offer extra peace of mind and stability. Masonry nails driven into the mortar must hold each panel in place until the joint compound has completely dried and bonded permanently to the brick surface. After that, the nails can be removed and the drywall finished as usual, including cutting away openings for tile, mantels, surrounds or crown molding.

3. Tile

Floor and wall tile of practically any size can be installed over brick using cement backer board or by troweling thinset directly on the brick. Before tiling, clean the brick in the same manner as you would if painting it. Choose a tile style that matches the room’s style. Large floor tile with very fine grout lines creates a very sleek, modern finish. Marble tile provides a refined, upscale look. Mosaic tiles installed around the fireplace face add an artistic touch to Art Nouveau, Craftsman or Eclectic style decorating schemes.

4. Stone Veneer

Stone veneer panels can be applied directly over brick, depending on the situation. A scratch coat is needed to adhere the panels to the brick surface. Painted brick will not accept a scratch coat, and unpainted brick may be too crumbly. An ideal surface is raw and porous but not crumbling. Sand- or water blasting are possible options. Otherwise, a new surface made from 18-gauge metal lath may be necessary. Once the surface is prepared, the scratch coat can be added. Stone veneer is available in three basic types: real, thinly sliced stone; cultured stone, which is made from cement and other materials making it closely resemble real stone; and faux stone made from lightweight polyurethane.

About the Author

Michelle Radcliff owned a retail home furnishings business for eight years. Radcliff offers decorating advice on her blog, Home Decorating News, is a regular contributor on interior design at LoveToKnow.com and earned certification as an interior decorator from Penn Foster College in 2013.

Photo Credits

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