Fireplace makeover

See how to transform your fireplace mantel with just a few coats of paint

Fireplace mantel makeover

For the record, I have a rule against painting woodwork, especially when it comes to antique woodwork in a centennial home. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent striping off layers of paint from trim, baseboards, railings and fireplace mantels just to reveal the beautiful original oak underneath. That being said, there’s an exception to every rule.

Let’s face it, a fireplace is meant to be the feature of the room. In my case, it was more of an eyesore. To all you rehab addicts who cringe at the idea of painting over woodwork, let me tell you that I tried everything in my power to strip this mantel, but nothing seem to do the trick. I tried furniture stripper, acetone, denatured alcohol, and even tried power sanding. Nothing I tried even came close to striping the wood. There was no way I was going to leave the mantel looking the way it did, so dark and gloomy. And don’t even get me started on the hideous old yellow renaissance look ceramic tile.

Suddenly, it hit me. I finally understood all those people I have judged for painting over wood. I was about to do the very same thing. Making the decision was the hardest part. After that, the process is fairly straightforward.


Start by sanding all the surfaces. You need to scuff up the glossy surfaces in order for the paint to stick, especially for ceramic tiles. Luckily mine already had a rough surface, but I gave them a good scrubbing anyway.

Wipe it down

Use a damp cloth to wipe down all the surfaces and remove all traces of sanding dust. Let it dry.

Prime the wood mantel

Because wood stain tends to bleed through paint, I used a shellac stain blocking primer to seal it first.


For the mantel, after the primer has dried, apply 2-3 coats of pure white semi-gloss enamel paint.

Because the ceramic tile is close to the fireplace opening and is likely to get hot, I used Rust-Oleum high heat BBQ paint. I also liked this paint because of its deep black satin finish, which contrasts nicely with the glossy mantel.

Now just sit back and enjoy the fire. Or even better, roast some chestnuts on an open fire.

Fireplace mantel makeover

See more transformations like this in the home decor section.

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