how to paint a granite fireplace surround

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating, home improvement, Living Room, My House, Painting & Refinishing, Room Makeovers, Tutorials30 Comments

One of the downsides to buying a house that is new-ish and in nice condition is that it’s hard to rip out and replace things that are perfectly nice.  In the other homes we’ve owned, I’ve been able to take the approach of “we can’t make it any worse, so let’s just go for it!”  In this house, we can make things worse and also make them look cheap and shoddy in comparison to the quality of the home.  So, I was hesitant to do any sort of DIY treatment to the granite fireplace surround in the living room.  There was nothing wrong with it, but it just wasn’t my taste.  I can’t tell you how much research I’ve done over the past three years on how to paint a granite fireplace surround before I finally took the plunge!

granite fireplace surround before painting | miss mustard seed

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to paint it, so I looked into sanding off the shine and even practiced on a few remnant pieces of granite tile.  I’ve watched YouTube videos and read articles and I never felt ready to start the project.  My hesitation was I didn’t want it to look like painted tile.  I felt like it might read as a cheap shortcut.

While my parents were here, we started a project in the basement for the boys – building a climbing wall.  They have been on a climbing team since last summer and it’s been a sport where they have thrived and excelled.  It is the thing they have missed the most with all of the closures and restrictions.  We don’t know when they’ll be able to go back to climbing regularly at the gym, so we decided to build a bouldering wall in the basement.  I’ll share more on that in another post, but it ties in here because we painted the plywood with a gitty-textured paint that got me thinking…

I bet this would add some great texture to the granite fireplace and make it look more like natural stone and less like a coat of paint slapped over tile.  

I pitched the idea to Jeff and he gave me the green light.  “If you completely destroy the fireplace, we’ll just have it replaced.  I’ve never liked it either.”  I had the feeling, though, that I wouldn’t destroy it and this crazy idea might actually work.  My fireplace surround would be the guinea pig.

I started by cleaning the tile to remove any dust or residue.  I just used warm soap water.  I then primed the tile and granite slab with Kilz Adhesion primer applied with a 2 1/2″ angled sash brush and a microfiber roller.

kilz adhesion primer on granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

This is the nerve-wracking part of painting a perfectly nice granite fireplace surround.  Primer always looks ugly!

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

It already looked better to me, though!  I was so glad to cover that shiny, speckled granite!

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

I allowed the primer to dry overnight to maximize the adhesive properties of the primer.  Before applying the first coat of textured paint, I taped off the mantlepiece with Frog Tape.  I have a very steady hand and I wasn’t concerned with getting primer on the mantle or firebox, but a textured paint is another story.  It wouldn’t be as easy to wipe off if I was messy.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

For the textured paint, I used Nicrotex Climbing Wall Paint in French Gray.  It’s basically acrylic paint with sand in it to add texture.  Now, I’m just going to insert here that if you call Nicros and ask about painting a granite fireplace surround with their product, they would probably discourage it!  That’s not was it was designed or marketed for.  I read up on it, known, and know enough about paint that I felt comfortable using it.  I also want to note that our fireplace is gas and the tile around it does not get very hot.  It gets warm to the touch, but not hot enough that a high-heat paint would be required.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

I brushed and rolled on two coats of Nicrotex allowing 24 hours to dry between each coat.

It was already looking interesting after the first coat…

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

…and it looked even better after the second coat.  I was mindful of the pattern and texture I was creating and made sure to alternate brush and roller marks to create a random, natural look.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

I liked the French Gray on its own, but it was too close to my wall color (Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore) and I wanted it to be closer to the color of Montauk Blue Slate (which we used in our foyer.) Jeff also said it looked like a sidewalk!  If you want a more modern, cement-look, this product would be great for that.  I could’ve built up the texture enough to completely hide the grout lines.

I mixed up a cup of 7 parts Trophy to 2 parts Artissimo (both colors from the Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint line) and that was a pretty good match to the slate.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | custom color to match slate | miss mustard seed

I brushed it over the Nicrotex in a crisscross pattern to create some variation and more texture.  I didn’t paint the grout lines, though, and just left them French Gray.  After painting one tile, I knew it was going to work.  When you examine the tiles close-up, you’re not really sure what they are made of, but when you take a couple of steps back, it looks just like slate.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

I was sold before it even dried.  I felt like Dr. Frankenstein.  It worked!  It worked! 

I truly was giddy about the success and walked around the house for the next two days telling everyone that I was ready to tackle any project.  No challenge was too great, no idea too nutty.  I was basking in the glow of DIY victory.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround | miss mustard seed

And, the best part is that this paint is on there.  It isn’t going anywhere.  Sometimes paint over granite can feel like it’s a fingernail away from coming off, but this is very solid and it will continue to harden over the next couple of weeks as it cures.

I decided not to put a finish on it, because I liked the matte finish of the Milk Paint and the color.  I didn’t want to darken it or add any shine and I wasn’t concerned about protecting it from heavy use, moisture, etc.

I also know that people are going to wonder if you can do this to countertops.  I wouldn’t suggest it simply because the end result has a rough and gritty texture.  That would be hard to clean and it just couldn’t feel nice.  For a fireplace, though, it’s perfect!

You can see the final reveal in THIS POST.

how to paint a granite fireplace surround

Related Posts

ensuite bathroom makeover progress

stripping & waxing antique pine

make-do custom mattress for an antique daybed

five things | fall decorating favorites

30 Comments on “how to paint a granite fireplace surround”

  1. You clever girl! It looks great!! I kind of liked the granite and thought it looked nice but this looks 1,000 times better and much more “you.” Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  2. Woah!! Major impact and a wonderful and comparatively inexpensive fix! This already looks fantastic, Marian. I like the repeated theme as you already have slate in the house in other places. Yay!!!

  3. My mom just moved in next door and we have been contemplating what to do with some ugly tile around the fireplace. This is the perfect solution. Thank you! I’m wondering if the grout lines could be filled in with “mud” prior to painting instead of building up with paint if a consistent surface was desired?

  4. WOW, you finally did it, fantastic! I could not have waited as long as you did, I hated that the glossy granite around the fire place, not your taste and not mine.
    It is fun to jump into cold water at times and explore ways to tackle a weird type of project you never done before and use products that did not exist a few years ago. So, congratulations. To my eye it is a bit dark, but it is your home but it is such an improvement. And you are a fearless woman.


    1. Thank you, Monique! I wanted to do it sooner, but just wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it. Inspiration finally struck and I’m glad I waited.

  5. I commend your bravery, risk taking and can-do attitude. What a coup! You pulled it off on account of being gutsy, smart and determined. Congratulations!!! It looks fabulous. A standing ovation to you.

  6. So nice! I’ve been contemplating painting our granite surround but I want it more of a matte black. Could I use the same primer? What kind of regular paint works for fireplaces?
    Thanks for any tips!!

    1. Yes, you can certainly use a matte black paint with the same technique I used or I’ve also heard of people using black chalkboard paint with success.

    2. I’m so excited to find this site. I have been wracking my brain about my fireplace. I don’t love the surround, but really hate the granite. So knowing I (my husband) can paint it is life changing. My only concern is my fireplace has a gas starter but we burn wood in it. Do you think the paint would hold up under that level of heat?

      1. I would test it out the next time you build a fire. If you can touch the granite and it’s just warm, then the paint would be fine. If it’s too hot to touch, then I would suggest only using a paint made for high heat.

  7. Thank you for sharing this experiment with us! The results look great! I love that (after research) you dove in and did it!

  8. This is really pretty! I admit to being worried half way through, but it worked! I have some beautiful Saltillo tiles around my fireplace; I don’t like the color but feel disrespectul painting them. Yours really fits your style – Congratulations!

    1. I know what you mean! You could try something like putting a plywood piece cut out the same size/shape as the fireplace surround and paint that. Then, it can be removed.

  9. I am the first one to pick up a paint brush and paint something different and daring. I live in the granite state (NH) and i see all kinds of granite incorporated around me. Have you ever heard of honed granite. It is where they somehow
    soften the granite and make it matte looking. I have seen it on granite counters and it is attractive. I don’t know if you just dislike and wanted it to go away.
    that being said you did a stellar job painting it.

  10. Marian – the teaser pics look fantastic!! Will you clarify about the grout lines…you did purposely paint with the sandy paint to color them, but brushed over them with the milk paint? Thanks!

  11. WOW!! It looks just GREAT!! Kudos to you for taking that very important first step. My sister is about to move into a house that has those big stones on the sides of the fireplace. I’m going to show this to her and see if she’s game to get rid of those ugly things.

    You impress me more and more as each day goes on. Excellent job – as usual!!

  12. I have never understood the attraction of granite. Have never seen a piece I liked. This looks so much better IMO. It is amazing to me what paint is able to do in this day and age.

  13. I am thrilled for you! Never been a granite fan myself. It looks a lot like the soapstone around my fireplace. I can’t believe all you have accomplished in the last few weeks. You have really been on a roll!

  14. That shiny granite always did look a little out of place and kinda said, “I’m over here!” when you see the across-the-room-view. Now, the finish fades in and becomes part of the scenery. Great job!

  15. Love it, now I want to tackle my ugly granite surround that goes with nothing in the room, now to explore colors… Great job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *