Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bricking Bad

Yup, we’re big Breaking Bad fans over here.  Can you believe it’s ending soon?!  I love me some Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.  Anyway, while we're certainly not playing host to a meth cook lab, we are the proud owners of a lovely brick gas fireplace.

But the brick...it was bad.  Well, let me clarify - it actually wasn't bad at all, but that didn't go along with this post's title, so just roll with it.  It was just a very traditional red infused brick.  And just stuck out too much with our decor so it made the hit list.

By way of history, a fireplace was one of the must-have items on our list when we were house hunting.  There’s just something so tranquil and cozy about them.  From a functional standpoint, we ended up with a gas fireplace that I absolutely adore.  To be able to fire it up in 10 seconds flat and turn it off equally as quickly and easily is priceless to me.  I know many people (Eric included) prefer a natural wood burning fireplace; however, I’m a girl of spontaneity and cleanliness when it comes to fires.  No waiting, no ashes...sign me up!  (Sidebar: I do loooove a natural fireplace...just not one I have to clean up after.  I already have two toddler boys - need I say more?) 

As much as I loved the fireplace’s convenience, I didn’t love the deep red undertones in its brick.  So after a bit of Googling around, I stumbled upon some whitewashing tutorials and was really digging the look.  After a bit of hemming and hawing since we knew we couldn’t “undo” a whitewash treatment, we decided to give it a go and crossed our fingers.  So begins the day the fireplace got whitewashed. 

The supplies I needed where quite basic:

  • 3” cheap quality paint brush (we're talking $2.99 cheap)
  • Drop cloth
  • White paint
  • Water
  • Painter’s tape
  • Rag (or an old t-shirt)

Here’s what we started with: a rather red toned fireplace with a less than red concrete mantel:

Step 1: Enlist the help of some burly men (aka Eric and his brother) to remove the concrete mantel and the fireplace surround. The surround was much easier than I thought. Eric just had to unscrew about four screws and that was it. She popped right off.

Step 2: Tape off the walls surrounding the fireplace and hearth.  Some of you may be confident skipping this step, but I was not.  I knew I wanted to err on the side of caution with my paint/water mix and not go too white.  To achieve that means having a more watery/dripping mix (more on that later).  Water/drippy = harder to work with = definitely use tape and a drop cloth.

Step 3: Mix up paint and water concoction.  I opted to use a 3:1 ratio, meaning three parts water and one part paint.  I reasoned that while this potentially could be lighter than I ultimately wanted, it’s always possible to go back in for a second coat.  But, of course, going too white right out the gate isn’t something you can undo. 

Step 4: Grab your 3” cheap-o paint brush and start brushing on your mix.  Mine was very drippy as you can sort of see from this photo.  I’m apparently also very happy and smiley to be tackling this project.  Also, don’t pay any mind to my sweet, sweet painting outfit...or lack of any hair and makeup to boot...yikes.  Anyway, I worked in about one square foot sections at a time.  Make sure to get into the grout lines as well (unless for some reason you're trying to maintain their original color).  And don't worry about the fact that it looks like it goes on REALLY white at first.  Brick is extremely porous so it ends up soaking up a lot of the paint mix.

Step 5:  Rag off the excess.  Once I had each square foot whitewashed, I grabbed my trusty rag and wiped off any excess.  I actually just used an old t-shirt that I cut up for this step.  I worked mostly on the left side first, then tackled the top right, and then rounded out the job on the lower right portion of the hearth. 

And here she is in all her whitewashed glory:

Annnnnnd….I’m in love.  I’m very glad I went with the 3:1 ratio.  The concrete matel blends in much better as well now.  We still have plans to paint the built-ins and wainscoting white as well as add some crisp white crown molding.  Maybe once all that happens the fireplace will still have too many red undertones and need another coat, but for now it looks really awesome toned down.  And now I have to shift my focus to styling the mantel, but I’m still searching for the perfect pieces to use (as well as the perfect sales prices!) so more to come on that eventually.  Also, we're toying with the idea of a new mantel as well, but that will require a bit more research eventually.

Total Project Cost: $3
3” paint brush: $3
Drop cloth: $0, already had
White paint: $0, already had
Water: $0, we've all got this!
Painter’s tape: $0, already had this
Rag (or an old t-shirt): $0, already had this
Here’s how the family room to-do list is shaping up so far...LOTS still left to do:

  • New rug, artwork
  • Window treatments – bamboo shades?
  • Install crown molding
  • Whitewash fireplace
  • Paint wainscoting and all trim
  • Replace electrical boxes/cover plates to match white trim
  • Paint built-ins white
  • Add a fun painted or wallpapered back to the built-ins for extra interest
  • Additional recessed lighting? Or lamps on console table?  Both?
  • New couch? If not now, new throw pillows for the interim
  • Install new dimmer switch
  • Build or score sweet deal on a new TV/media center
  • New mantel?

All in all this whitewashing took about three hours from start to finish.  Has anyone else delved into the whitewashing pool lately?  Or perhaps just straight up painted some brick?


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