How to Paint a Wood Fireplace for Under $50

Let’s face it – as young adults, we don’t have millions (not even hundreds!) of dollars to spend on our home decor and furnishings. We’re 20-something year olds most likely in entry level positions learning how to navigate bills and budgets with our newly acquired paychecks. Thanks to the help from the three main F’s – family, friends, and Facebook Marketplace – we are able to curate a hodge podge of furniture from different generations, in different textures and colors, for our first home or apartment. While nothing matches or looks like something Joanna Gaines would have styled, it was free or cheap furniture so you can spend your hard earned cash on food (and beer and wine) instead of  on overpriced furniture.

But what if beautiful furniture didn’t have to break the bank? What if you could have the style you want at a fraction of the cost. Spoiler alert: You can!

When I moved into my first apartment, I put Flea Market Flip on TV and “flipped” my grandmother’s old coffee table and a bookcase. I said goodbye to an out dated brown wood and marble table and hello to a modern, crisp white table with glass top. In that moment, I realized how simple it was to transform an object that I didn’t necessarily love into something that I was proud to display in my home because a) I made something BEAUTIFUL and b) I brought a piece of family furniture back to life. Once I got comfortable with the materials and techniques, I decided to tackle my favorite project to date: our fireplace.

Backstory: Nick’s parents had this gel fuel fireplace from their old house they were no longer using. Gel fuel fireplaces are similar to electric fireplaces, in that they are portable, movable structures. The difference with gel fuel is that you use canisters filled with flammable gel to heat the house rather than electricity (saving us money each month on our electric bill!) In all honesty, there was nothing wrong with the fireplace in it’s original state. The wood was reddish brown in color, in great condition, and I loved the shell detail. I was just looking for something a little more modern and classic to match our dark espresso and white furniture. I went out and bought white chalk paint and PRAYED the fireplace would turn out beautiful.

The fireplace before:

The fireplace after in our new home:

To paint a wood fireplace, all you need are a few good paint brushes in different sizes, chalk paint and Polycrylic protective finish. The actual painting of your piece can be complete in just three easy steps and in one weekend!

Step One: Using a damp washcloth with gentle soap, clean off the surface that you are cleaning. This will remove and dust or dirt particles that can cause bumps or bubbles in your paint. Let dry.

Step Two: Open and stir your chalk paint and begin painting the entire structure, starting form the bottom and working your way to the top of the fireplace. With chalk paint, you don’t need to prime beforehand, saving time and money! Be sure to paint using long, even strokes and always remove any excess paint drippings with a stroke of the brush. It is up to you how many coats of paint you want to use on your fireplace. Since our original piece was a darker wood, I did three coats of paint. Just be sure to let dry at least 1-2 hours in between coats.

Step Three: Once completely dry, finish your fireplace with a coat of Polycrylic clear finish. Since the finish is water based, it will not cause any yellowing or discoloration like oil based finishes often do. If you do more than one coat, let dry for two hours. Once complete, let dry overnight before using.

Painting the exterior of a gel fuel or electric fireplace is completely safe, and does not cause any issues with the functionality of the piece. This painting method works on wood fireplaces as well as laminate exteriors.

I love how our white fireplace is the focal point of our living room and can be dressed up for the holidays. To purchase a new, modern electric or gel fuel fireplace can cost anywhere from $300-$600, minimum! Thanks to the fireplace donation from Nick’s parents, and $50 worth of materials from Lowes, we were able transform an old fireplace on a budget without skimping on style.

If you’re lusting for a functional fireplace for your home or apartment, check out Facebook marketplace, flea markers and yard sales to save money on your base structure. It’s amazing how a little bit of paint can turn someone else’s trash into your treasure.

Happy Furniture Flipping!



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