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!
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.
This is the nerve-wracking part of painting a perfectly nice granite fireplace surround. Primer always looks ugly!
It already looked better to me, though! I was so glad to cover that shiny, speckled granite!
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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 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.
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.
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.