You can easily and quickly paint your stacked stone fireplace to transform the look of your space. I’ll share all the tips and tricks I followed, and the supplies I used so that you can brighten up your dark stone fireplace.
Our Fireplace Before
The fireplace in our living room was covered in dark stacked stone in a variety of colours, primarily dark grey and rusty oranges and reds. I know that a lot of people love this type of stone, and it’s not out of style – it’s just not my taste.
I disliked the stone on the fireplace for a few reasons. Firstly, the dark colour sucked all the light out of the room, especially in the evening. It’s a northwest exposure so it only gets morning light, and then the fireplace acted like a big dark hole soaking up all the light after for the rest of the day.
Second, I found the stacked stone too busy. Stacked stone is inherently irregular and jagged in its placement. That might have been fine if the stones were all one colour – say grey. But the jumble of colours and the irregular edges made it all too visually busy for my liking, and it didn’t give my eye somewhere to rest.
Thirdly, I prefer to decorate with primarily cool colours and use warm colours as accents. The colours in the fireplace were too warm and orangey, and I’m not a fan of grey either. In addition, we found a wood beam that we want to eventually use as a mantel, and it wouldn’t stand out on this stone. We needed to have more contrast.
I’ve always loved white painted brick fireplaces. They can look really classic yet modern, and very soft. We discussed taking off the stacked stone and putting on brick veneer instead, and then painting it white. Maybe we will still do that someday.
But in terms of our overall budget and the number of projects we want to undertake in the house and yard, spending a lot of money to rip out the stone and replace it with brick didn’t make sense.
But it still bugged me when I looked at it every day so I set out to paint it, which is a quick and affordable makeover that you can do in your own home.
For another DIY makeover you might be interested in, check out our Bifold Door Makeover or DIY Cutting Table.
Keep reading for all the steps on this fireplace transformation.
How to Paint a Stacked Stone Fireplace
Materials I used to paint a stacked stone fireplace
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- Stiff nylon bristle brush and vinegar to scrub the stone
- Primer – I used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3
- Paintable Caulking – I used DAP Alex Plus Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone
- Paint – I used Behr Masonry, Stucco, and Brick Paint in Falling Snow (PPU18-7)
- Large soft bristle paintbrush
- Small craft brush
- Other painting supplies as preferred such as painters tape, drop cloths, painting cup, ladder
Note: Our fireplace has a gas insert. We do not use it often, and the stone does not get hot. If you have a different kind of fireplace, or your surround gets hot, do your own research about what kind of paint is best.
Process I Followed to Paint a Stacked Stone Fireplace
Many other tutorials for painting stone fireplaces emphasized the importance of scrubbing the stone with vinegar, then rinsing and allowing to dry before you begin painting. This is to remove dust and debris. Be sure to wear eye protection when you scrub the stone in case little bits go flying.
I became quite worried when I was rinsing the stone down with old cloths because they were turning very orange. It never occurred to me that all the orange and red sections were actual rust from oxidizing iron in the stone. Wetting the stone was likely making it worse, so I stopped.
I did research about painting over rusting stone and didn’t find a lot of information. There is much information and special products for sealing and painting over rusted metal, but not for stone. I ended up phoning Rustoleum to get a recommendation for the best primer to use. They suggested Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 because of its stain blocking and rust inhibiting properties.
I was still nervous that the rust would bleed through and make it look terrible when I was finished. But I decided I didn’t like how the fireplace looked as it was, so why not give it a try? I taped off a few edges including the stone trim around the fireplace insert.
Using the Bulls Eye primer, I started with the first coat. I quickly learned a technique that worked for me. I would use the small craft brush to cut in the edges where it met the drywall on the left and right sides. Then I would use my large 3 inch brush and paint a rectangle at a time, maybe 1.5 ft wide and 1 ft high. Because the stacked stones are so irregular, lots of their tops, sides and bottoms are exposed. I used the large brush to work into all the cracks and tried to cover all those sides as well as I could.
But then all the different cracks, irregular edges, and overhangs caused pooling and drips. So after getting a base coverage with my 3 inch brush, I went back with my craft brush to make sure all edges were covered, and any areas of pooling and drips were smoothed out.
After I had a rectangle done to my satisfaction, I would move on to another rectangle, overlapping just slightly with the previous one. And periodically I would check back over previous sections for any more sneaky drips that had appeared, especially underneath bottom edges. I continued priming in this manner until I had finished a whole coat.
A few hours after the first coat of primer, my fears were confirmed. There were a few rust spots bleeding through, and this was the worst one.
To take care of this, I used the little craft brush and put a couple of extra coats of primer over top of those spots. After a couple extra coats, only this one stubborn spot was still bleeding through. I decided a couple more spot prime coats were needed. There’s probably 8-10 coats of primer and paint on that one little spot, but it’s been nearly a year and nothing has bled through so I’m feeling good about it.
Of course, I cannot guarantee that you will have the same results in covering rusting stone – I can only share what worked for me.
The following photo is after 2 coats of primer. While I loved how much brighter the fireplace was looking, it was becoming obvious that there were a lot of gaps between the stacked stone. And those gaps created dark shadows and lines in between the white stacked stone. They really stood out, making the whole thing look messy and amateur. So we both painstakingly took turns doing caulking sessions with the DAP Alex Plus paintable caulking. This is not a hard job – it just takes time.
I squeezed the caulking along the gaps, and then pushed it in and wiped away the excess with my bare finger (even though you’re supposed to wear gloves). Next time I would try the trick to smooth it with a wet wipe. After filling every little gap and hole we could see, you can see the difference below:
And here is another shot with the gaps filled. So much better!
I decided to do one final coat of primer (for a total of 3) to prime over the caulking. I also felt there was still so much colour coming through from the stone. Here’s how it looked after 3 coats of primer:
To paint the fireplace, I used Behr Masonry, Stucco & Brick Paint. I had it tinted to my favourite shade of white, Behr Falling Snow PPU18-7. It’s a nice creamy white that’s not too yellow. This paint only came in a gallon can, which was unfortunate. For the 2 coats I did on the stacked stone, I used very little so I would have been fine with a quart. However, it’s safe for exterior uses too, so perhaps I can use it for an outdoor project at some point.
I followed the same procedure with the paint as I did with the primer, painting in small sections and smoothing with the craft brush. If I recall correctly, the paint was a little thinner than the primer. Therefore I really had to watch carefully for drips.
Here is what it looked like after the first coat of paint. It was already so much more opaque.
I did a second coat of paint over top, so the fireplace stone has 5 coats in total (3 of primer and 2 of paint), except for the rusted areas, which have many more layers of primer. Five coats might seem like a lot but I think it was worth it.
Our Painted Stack Stone Fireplace Transformation
We love the final transformation of the fireplace. I believe it cost less than $100 to paint our stacked stone fireplace (with lots of extra paint and primer left over). The 3 coats of primer, caulking, and 2 coats of paint were not difficult to do. They only took a few days and some attention to detail. If your stone is not as dark or as rusty, you might not need 3 coats of primer.
The Behr Masonry, Stucco & Brick paint only comes in a flat sheen. The flat look paired with the warm white gives the surface a very soft and chalky look. I feel that it looks more natural this way, even though it still looks like painted stone. And best of all, it reflects so much more light into our space.
We chose to leave the section under the hearth unpainted. We felt it blended in better with the hearth stones and the hardwood, and that a bright white horizontal line might look out of place. If we change our mind at some point it would be easy to go back and paint it.
The white stone is now the perfect backdrop for our later stage plans for the fireplace area. We are planning to build a built-in bookcase in the empty nook. We also want to hang a wood beam mantel, and a lovely vintage mirror above it. I can’t wait for those projects to be completed, but I think this transformation has the most impact!
Tips to Paint a Stacked Stone Fireplace
- Choose a good quality primer
- Use a wide, soft brush to work into the crevices, and work in small areas at a time
- Use a small craft brush to make sure all edges and corners are covered, and to smooth any pooling and drips
- Check back over previously painted areas every few minutes to catch any drips, particularly underneath the stones
- If you have any areas of rust bleeding through, try spot priming those areas with several layers
- Use paintable caulking to fill in dark gaps between the stacked stones
I want to hear from you. Would you be willing to paint your brick or stone fireplace? Or are you against painting brick and stone altogether? Just like painting wood, people have strong opinions. What’s yours? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,
Maria Joao Lisboa says
Hi Danielle. I have a stacked dark stone fireplace that makes my living room dark. I want to do something to improve the looks of it without spending a lot of money. Could you give some suggestions? I would very much appreciate. Thank you. Maria
Hi Maria, thanks for your question. Painting a stacked stone fireplace is a really economical way to transform how it looks, and is a great solution when replacing the stone is out of budget like it was for us. Some of the materials that we used we already had on hand but I think the whole project cost us less than $100. A quart of primer would be sufficient, and if you can somehow find masonry paint in a quart as opposed to a whole gallon, since we only used a tiny fraction of the gallon. Otherwise you’ll just need a large, soft brush, and a cheap craft paint brush for touch-ups, and a small tube of paintable caulking if you want to fill gaps. You can see the specific materials I used in the post above. It’s even possible that you don’t need to use masonry specific paint with appropriate priming, but I haven’t tested that myself. So the main cost is the paint, which depends on what kind you use or where you live. In Canada, a gallon of Behr Masonry paint is $48, but in the US it’s only $27 and you won’t even need the whole gallon. Hope that helps!
Oh my gosh I just loved the original version….
Thanks Patty. Yes, that style of stone is quite popular and lots of people love it. It’s just not my style and it sucked all the light out of the room, so I greatly prefer it painted.
Hi! I love your transformation and have been debating doing this to mine for quite some time. If prepared properly, do you think a paint sprayer would have worked/been easier?
Thanks for your question Mallori! I’ve never used a paint sprayer before and they seem intimidating. But watching people use them correctly makes it seem SO much faster. If you covered everything else around in plastic, I do think a paint sprayer probably could have saved tons of time/effort. I’m a bit unsure about how difficult it would be to get paint in all the stubborn corners and under edges of the stones because I don’t have experience with a sprayer. But I think with enough thin coats and approaching it from various angles you could do it. And if not, you could always use a brush to touch up some spots that are harder to cover. As well, you’ll likely still need to check for drips because of how paint pools on the uneven surface. If you try it, you’ll have to let me know how it goes! But go for it – it’s such a dramatic transformation!
This project is on my to do list. I don’t know why it seems so daunting Lol, thanks for sharing your tips.
Thank you Suani and you’re welcome. You’re right – it can seem a bit daunting because it takes more effort than rolling a flat wall with paint for example. But it’s not that bad if you break it into chunks! And the end result is so worth the effort.
Such a great idea. I have been looking to repaint my fireplace so I will definitely be using your awesome tips. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Allie! Glad you found the tips helpful. I’d love to see your fireplace transformation when it’s done.