Whitewashing a fireplace

fireplace after edited.jpg

Light and Bright

Good morning!

     Let's talk all things light, bright, and beautiful.  When it comes to my home, I always desire my space to be well lit, preferably with natural light.  Here in Minnesota (and especially this year), the darkness of winter often makes me feel a bit stir crazy.  The sun rises late, sets early, and the limited hours of sunlight leave me feeling a little bit low.  My body craves sunlight-bring on that Vitamin D! Whether I'm inside or out, I like to surround myself with light.  

     When our house was built, they used a bunch of dark, light sucking finishes.  Don't get me wrong, it looked nice and visitors always complimented our home.  However, coming for a visit and living in a space are two completely different experiences.  We tackled a couple D.I.Y. projects on our main floor this winter to brighten up our space, and they have made a tremendous difference.  It's crazy how much different a space can feel with just a little paint.  The project I'm going to be sharing with you today is how I whitewashed our fireplace.  Not only did this brighten up our living room,  but it also got rid of the yellow/orange/red tones in the stone that didn't really match our style.  The best part about this project-it only took four hours and about $10 worth of paint. Once you see how much I was able to change our fireplace with such a small investment, you might just find yourself with a paint brush in hand too!

Here's what our fireplace looked like originally.

Here's what our fireplace looked like originally.

Taking a Chance

     Now you are probably looking at this photo and thinking, that the stone isn't really that dark.  However, this photo was taken during peak daylight hours.  When the natural light is gone, this stone seems to suck every little bit of remaining light from the room.  Especially in the winter when we are only at home to see daylight on the weekends, the darkness really gets to us.  Despite being no stranger to D.I.Y. projects, I'll admit that I was a little bit intimidated by this one. There is so much stone on our fireplace, and this meant that if it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to this would be one BIG mistake.  Let's face it, no one wants to tear down all of that stone, especially when our house is only a year old.  

     Eventually, I got over my fear and decided to go for it.  My husband Putter had been on board with this idea for months, but I needed a little bit of time to warm up to the idea.  After reading lots of tutorials and narrowing down exactly what I wanted the fireplace to look like, I was confident that I could make it happen.  Before I started the project I made sure that I had all of the necessary supplies on hand.  Since this project was pretty simple, I actually had everything that I needed already on hand.  Here's what I used: (Please note that I am not affiliated with Home Depot or any of the brands linked below, these are simply my go-to painting items).

The Supplies

Behr Ultra Premium Plus (eggshell finish)-Nimbus Cloud

Medium stiffness angled paintbrush

Drop cloth

Lint free cloth (I used an old dishtowel)


Disposable gloves (optional, but recommended)

Painters tape 

Painting cup

Ladder or step stool (you might not need this if you can reach all of your stone)

Getting Started

Once I gathered all of my supplies, it was time to get everything set up.  After moving the furniture (I used it to make a barrier to keep my little "helpers" out of the way), I started the cleaning process.  My fireplace was not very dirty, but I took the time to make sure it was really clean before I started.  This included washing it with warm soapy water, dusting all of the grout lines and ledges with an old paintbrush, and using my vacuum's cleaning wand to vacuum the entire surface.  If you have an old or particularly grimy fireplace, I suggest taking extra care to make sure that you clean all of the gunk off before beginning.  Then, I protected the floors with a drop cloth.  Watered down paint is very messy, so don't skip this part! I also suggest wearing clothing that you don't mind dripping a little paint on.  I had my painters tape handy, but ended up skipping this step.  Since I have done a lot of painting and am pretty confident with a paintbrush, I didn't bother with taping.  I was too excited to get to the fun part! 

Babysitting courtesy of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! Without fail, at least one of my kids is standing precariously on the arm of a chair/couch while watching T.V. Nothing like that feeling that you might fall while kicking back and relaxing....ha!

Babysitting courtesy of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! Without fail, at least one of my kids is standing precariously on the arm of a chair/couch while watching T.V. Nothing like that feeling that you might fall while kicking back and relaxing....ha!


     Next I mixed my paint with water.  I wanted to maintain the character of the stone and still be able to see some of the color variations in the stone, so I used a 1:2 ratio.  In my research, I found that most people stick with a 1:1 ratio, adding equal parts paint and water, but since I wanted my whitewashing to be more transparent I used more water than the "norm".  After adding 1 part paint and 2 parts water to my painting cup, I used a paint stick to mix everything together.  Since paint is heavier than water and tends to settle to the bottom, I made sure to stir my mixture occasionally throughout the project.  This helped to make sure that I achieved a uniform coverage.  

Go For It

     Now for the fun part-whitewashing! I decided to start in a spot that would not be visible so that I could adjust my paint-to-water ratio if necessary.  Since our fireplace has an outlet above the mantle for connecting a T.V., I started next to the outlet.  We don't have a T.V. above the fireplace, but will always have this spot covered by something regardless.  


Here is my whitewashing process: paint the mixture onto a stone, wipe off as much paint as I can, repeat.  I painted each stone individually, along with the surrounding grout, and then wiped the paint off right away.  I did not want to allow the paint to soak or dry because this would not give me the whitewashed effect that I was going for, and the result would have been closer to simply painting the stone white.  After completing the whitewashing on a small section, I decided that I was happy with the paint-to-water ration that I was using and decided to continue with the rest of the fireplace.  

The 1:2 ratio is looking good!

The 1:2 ratio is looking good!

Over halfway there!

Over halfway there!

     By this point in the project our "babysitter" was done and there were puzzles and Legos everywhere! My furniture barrier worked great though, so I couldn't complain! 

Now to sit back and cozy up by the fireplace!

Now to sit back and cozy up by the fireplace!

     Despite my reservations, this project turned out exactly how I envisioned it.  The space is SO much brighter!  I was able to maintain the character of the stone by allowing some slight color variations to show through, yet got rid of the dark red, orange, and yellow tones that I didn't like. A couple months later and I am still totally in love with this project.  Next up,  We plan to build a new wood mantle that will wrap around the current stone mantle.  I can't wait to see how this project adds even more character to what we have already done!

Here's to bright days ahead,