Chalk painting a 1970s stone fireplace

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For the longest time I was unsure what to do with this fireplace in the downstairs of a 70s split-level / split-entry home I have.  The large brown rocks made a huge statement in the room, it really attracted your eye the moment you walked in.  The thin off-centered mantle looked inadequate and the gold fireplace doors really gave it the “classic” look that anyone older than 35 probably remembers all too well.  It is 12 feet wide, has a window on the wall on one side and a door on the other side, all on a wall that is only 22 feet long to begin with.  The entire room is 13×22, so this stone is definitely the focal point.

I have been updating the downstairs of this split level house to make the basement into a 1 bed/1 bath efficiency.  The engineered hardwood floors were all ready in place and in great shape, but I was going to make the place a bit more updated.  There’s a lot of work being done down there, including isolating the HVAC that used to supply the entire house and adding a separate HVAC for just the downstairs, scraping the popcorn ceiling, and a complete bathroom remodel as a few examples.  Which accounts for a large reason I have slacked off on blogging.  I will attempt to be better about it as I go and perhaps will consider shorter posts to make that start happening more.

I checked out both big name stores, Lowes and Home Depot since I spend so much time in each and compared my options on store bought chalk paint.  I knew I could make my own, but when you’re doing such a large project as this entire 700sqft place is, I just went for the easy solution.

  • Lowes had a great option with tintable chalk paint in the $30-35 range by Valspar.
  • Home Depot had Rustoleum with 3 color options: black, grey and white for around $17.

Not knowing if I was going to ultimately end up with a sledge hammer in my hand I decided to go with the $17 option.  I think both would have been a great, the color options with Valspar would have been nice and I’d have gone with a more cream colored white to blend a bit more, but “good enough” was appropriate for this.

The mantle was removed and the fireplace front doors were removed.  The place already looked better just by getting rid of those two things.  I did not document how to replace the mantle, but there were two nuts accessible underneath the mantle that allowed me to unscrew it and slide it right off the lag bolts there were mounted into the morter joints between the stone.  I then just unscrewed the lag bolts and removed the expansion sleeve that were in there.

The chalk paint we watered down, initially a bit too much, in a 2 gallon bucket.  We luckily didn’t try to mix the entire quart with water on the first go, so we could add more paint and fix the mistake.   We painted it on with a 2.5″ angled brush, painted a number of stones and then blotted and wiped the stones with a dry cloth to remove most of the paint we just put on.

Use a drop cloth

I know this sounds obvious, but with the paint being watered down, it splatters more than normal.  I suggest you cover the hearth as well, even if you’re going to paint that like I did.  My girlfriend referred to the spots that ended up on the hearth as “bird droppings”.  If you know to look, you’ll still notice them even though we painted over them.

Degrease the stone near the burn area first

I did not think through this part before we started.  I degreased with a bunch of “Purple Power” degreaser I had on hand.  I think this stuff is pretty cheap, I bought a massive 2.5 gallons of it years ago for bike maintenance purposes, but it comes in handy every so often.  I would suggest you go with a smaller container though

I did a much better job of cleaning the grease off the right side than I did on the middle and left side of these stones.  It’s going to turn some rags black, but scrub it a bit and then wash it back off with water and let it dry before you paint it.

Here’s a series of pictures that I hope all the Pinteresters will like and is useful in seeing the difference for what you might do for your own project.  I know I didn’t find many examples of white washing this style of stone, so I hope this helps.




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