How to distress a brick fireplace

Brick fireplaces have a traditional and elegant look, provided that the brick is still in good condition. Brick breaks down over time, developing a dark appearance from the soot built up on the outside. It also develops cracks and chips that give the fireplace an antique look. Even if your fireplace is still in good shape, it's possible to give it the look of an older fireplace, simply by distressing the brick.

Clean the fireplace with scouring powder and a soft brush. Wipe off the fireplace with a soft cloth and check for any soot stuck to the brick. Dab a piece of modelling clay against the brick, removing all traces of soot and dust or leftover debris.

Pour a small amount of acrylic primer in a paint tray. Apply the primer directly to the brick, using a paint roller for a smooth and even coating. Use a paintbrush to paint primer around any untouched areas and to give the brick a smooth coat of primer.

Paint the fireplace with acrylic paint, once the primer completely dries. Paint over the brick, using a roller first, and then use the paintbrush to paint any gaps or cracks in the fireplace. Apply more coats until you achieve the colour you want, letting the previous coat dry first.

Rub fine-grade sandpaper on the brick, removing a small amount of paint. Vary the depth and speed of your sanding, to create a distressed look. Use steel wool to rub larger pieces of paint away from the fireplace. The steel wool creates a rougher look than the sandpaper.

Apply paint stripper or turpentine to the brick, using it on random areas of the brick. Dip a soft cloth in cool water and wipe away the liquid. Depending on how long you leave the paint stripper on, it either removes some of the paint layers or exposes the brick underneath.


Protect the area around the fireplace, covering the floor with a tarp and taping old newspaper to the wall. This keeps the paint from splashing around the fireplace. For a different look, apply one coat of paint, let dry and then apply a coat of paint in a different shade. When you distress the brick, some of the first paint coat shines through.

Things You'll Need

  • Scouring powder
  • Soft brush
  • Soft cloth
  • Modelling clay
  • Acrylic primer
  • Paint tray
  • Roller
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic paint
  • Fine-grade sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Paint stripper
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About the Author

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.