Painting (and re-painting) a tile fireplace

Hi guys! I’ve been busy. Puttering. Lots of puttering. Painting, cleaning, cooking and taking care of furbabies at work & at home. Miss Emmaline Pistachio-face needed emergency surgery to remove a painful growth on her back paw, which turned into also removing a couple tumors the vet discovered in her back two breasts. We don’t have the results back yet to know if they were cancerous or not, but a chest x-ray was clear so at least they haven’t spread. So that was scary! Apparently you’re supposed to give your dogs breast exams periodically. Who knew! Anyway, she’s recovering well from her surgery so that’s all good. 

Remember how I said that I’ve been painting? I painted our fireplace! Whoever flipped our house before we bought it must have gotten a good deal on beige travertine tile, because it is EVERYWHERE in here. Both bathrooms, the hallway, and inexplicably, the fireplace. It starts on the floor and wraps all the way up to the ceiling. WTF. I totally understand a tiled fireplace, it’s very fire-safe, but poorly cut, asymmetrically laid beige tile sporting unsealed grout? Not my kind of sexy. If our fireplace were a man, he’d be rocking jorts and socks with sandals.


I tried styling it, putting more stuff on the mantel, taking stuff off the mantel, and nothing helped. The grass was just GREENER, you know? So I started researching. What could I do to fix this? Well, I could demo the tile and frame it out in wood like they did over at Little Green Notebook. Or, I could not demo anything and just box it all out in wood like the folks at Young House Love did. But holy sh*t those look involved. Suuuper involved. I’m more of a “get it done in a day and definitely under $50” kind of girl.

And so there’s paint. There’s always paint! You know how much I love paint. Give me a $13 quart of paint and a short-handled angle brush and I will give you a masterpiece. When it came to choosing the color, I really had no choice. As soon as I set eyes upon the fabulous dark black fireplace at Little Green Notebook I KNEW I needed a black fireplace. 

MY PRECIOUS!! Image from Little Green Notebook

I had literally *just* finished painting our master bedroom a soothing dark grey (Almost Charcoal by Valspar) when I got the idea to paint the fireplace, so it was only natural that I make use of the rest of the gallon by painting the fireplace the same color. 

Painting my tile fireplace

Step 1: Prepare the surface. I googled “painting tile” and found a lot of stuff about sanding and deglossing and degreasing and yeah, that’s just not my style. I used a sandpaper block to rough up the tile and then thoroughly washed it with soapy water. This is an interim project, the “in between” before I can afford to actually demo and do it WELL, so I didn’t worry too much about paint not sticking or chipping. As long as the surface is clean & roughed up, I figured it was good to go. It’s not like my fireplace will be walked on! Obviously if you are painting floor tile you’ll need to put more elbow grease into it.

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Step 2: Paint. In other words, wheeeee!! I love this step. I love my short-handled angle brush so much that I don’t even bother taping edges anymore. I used a small foam roller (for cabinet painting, leftover from my cabinet painting project) for a first coat, ran my brush along the grout because boy does grout suck up paint! And then a second coat with the roller to smooth everything out. 


Step 3: Let the paint cure. This is a hard step for me! I wanted to go ahead and put everything back up on the mantel but it can chip so so easily if it’s not cured. This takes anywhere from 24-72 hours depending on the humidity in your home. If you run fans it can generally speed things up. If you can lightly scratch the tile with your fingernail and it doesn’t come off, the paint is cured.


Step 4: Put everything back! Another “wheeee!!” step for me. And then take pictures. (also remember how I said I wasn’t painting floor tile? Well, I didn’t paint the floor tile. I was concerned that my lackadaisical prep procedure would lead to chipped & scratching paint on the floor tiles, so I left them be. If their beigy-ness starts to bother me I’ll paint them. Until then, there they be!)

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And then, after all of that, I realized that the paint color I used was much, much lighter than I had anticipated. While “Nearly Charcoal” looks very dark & sexy in our master bedroom with eastern sun exposure, in our much-brighter western exposure great room the color looked washed out and, dare I say it, pale


So I fixed it. Ever since we installed the deep sink in our hall bathroom I’ve been needing to touch up the bathroom paint. Some time ago I painted it a dramatic dark grey, Valspar’s Hematite. The leftover paint from that bathroom project that I had stored in the garage was SOLID when I went to bring it inside. So apparently paint does NOT like being frozen, thawed, frozen, thawed, and then frozen again! Seriously, the paint was like solid, spongy foam. There was no coming back. Anyway, after shedding a tear for all of my ruined paint leftovers (it’s all been stored in the garage. Whoops!), I made a trip to Lowes for another quart. It is Valspar’s Hematite color matched in Olympic ONE paint + primer in satin finish. And voila! (Yes, it was puppy dinnertime when I took these pictures)

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Much better! Also, that new pretty plant up there is a sago palm. Although members of the palm family are non-toxic to pets (which is why I bought it in the first place), sago palm is actually NOT a palm. Again, whoops! It’s actually a member of the Cycas family, which is highly toxic to both dogs & cats. And so it ended up on the mantel, well out of reach of any curious furbabies! 

Anyway, I am beyond pleased with how this turned out. I just love throwing dark, saturated colors into our tiny cozy cottage! Let me know what you think of this project, and if you’ve done it yourself! I’d love to hear ideas on how to make the paint last longer & not chip.




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