DIY Fireplace Makeover Part Two: KILZ Priming and Painting

Learn how to prime and paint a mantel as part of a fireplace makeover, and when and why you should use primer in a renovation project. Plus, our tried and true tips for getting a great paint finish using primer. 

Thank you to KILZ® Brand for sponsoring this post, we have used your products for years and love them.  All opinions are our own! Read our full sponsorship and affiliate disclosure policy here

One of the biggest decisions in my mind for the fireplace makeover here in our Jordan House renovation was choosing a paint color. I’ve got to be perfectly honest, I really love plain bright white paint off the shelf and shaken… it just doesn’t get old to me!  So, when it came to picking the color for the fireplace makeover, it wasn’t the easiest decision to not pick my favorite color.  Ultimately, I really only gave two colors a fighting chance.  The choice was between bright white and gray.
To explain a little about the space, it is one large living-dining-kitchen area (since we took out a wall!), so when you open the front door, you see it all.  Now, the gray choice option came from the kitchen cabinets.  Yes, I went with gray kitchen cabinets, I’m still not sure what exactly I how I got so brave, but ultimately they look great!!  (You can see the color a bit here when we showed our baking drawer as a pantry alternative.) Anyway, bringing the gray from the kitchen over into the living room, I felt would be a good way to tie the rooms together. Also, because the walls are all just bright white, having the fireplace also be painted white was just too boring.

But we didn’t just jump into painting it gray right away and it helped me know for sure that the decision to paint it gray was the right one.  To start off, one of the most important things we did was prime the fireplace with stain blocking KILZ 3™ Premium Primer.

DIY Fireplace Makeover Fireplace Mantel Prime And Paint 1 (1)

After putting up the new molding, with wood scraps that had never been painted, plus exposing old stained wood and patching with a wood colored filler, we knew from experience that priming was definitely a critical step.  I should also let you in on a secret, when it comes to projects in our house, I would rather do everything ONCE the right way… and NOT twice. Which is one of the reasons I’m very happy to wait with something unfinished, until I am sure that I know exactly what I want to do with it.  Then we try to do it the right way, all the way.   Just to clarify- since I’ve been remodeling one house or another for literally the last 18 years, whenever I have been impatient and just jumped into a project- skipping steps, I have always ended up disappointed. So, because this fireplace is the main focal point of the room, we started with primer- just don’t skip this step! And you won’t be forced to regret all the extra work, of stripping, sanding, PRIMING and painting again- you’re welcome!

Priming and Painting a Fireplace Mantel with KILZ

Video of Priming and Painting the Fireplace Mantel

Reasons for priming.

You may be asking, what does KILZ® Primer do?  I know I mentioned this earlier, but over the years we have done TONS of projects, and we have realized that it is not worth skipping steps.  There is nothing worse than painting a wall and having the paint bubble, or stains come through… ask us how we know.  So now, whenever we are working on a project with new wood, plaster, previous crazy colors or unknown finish — we prime!

  • Stain blocking – There is nothing worse than thinking you are done with a long, hard project, just in time for an old (sometimes unseen) stain to come through the paint finish.  These situations, you often think, I’ll just add another coat of the final paint, only for the stain to come through that as well.  Priming with KILZ stops the old stain bleeding through and helps you to hide stains for good!
  • Proper foundation – There are several problems that can happen when painting without the proper foundation for the final paint.  First, if you are painting over a very dry surface, and you have not primed, the final coat paint will be sucked up by the dry surface.  And you paint will not cover as much square footage, which can cause the need for more paint.  Second, this can also cause problems with the finish sheen, if the surface is uneven to begin with you may get part that are shinier than other depending on how the paint absorbs into the surface you are painting.
  • Good Adhesion – If you are painting a plastered or patched surface, the final paint may not stick as well.  Primer is made to adhere to these dry surfaces, and therefore the next coat also adheres well, because there is a solid foundation.  Once while painting a patched wall I didn’t prime the patch.  But because paint is generally latex  (think stretchy- think balloon) the a paint did not adhere to the plaster, and ultimately bubbled, then dried in a terribly ugly fashion (we had to cut it out, sand, patch, prime and repaint that area- ugh).
  • Mildew Resistant – Not necessarily an important consideration for our current project, but depending on what you are painting or the climate you live in this could be a very important need to consider.

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Tools and Supplies:

DIY Fireplace Makeover Fireplace Mantel Prime And Paint 1 (4)

Tips for Priming and Painting:

  • High quality brushes and rollers – to avoid having fuzz from a cheap roller, or bristles from an inexpensive brush dried into your paint finish, make sure you don’t go with the cheapest rollers or brushes.  Instead, invest in a nicer roller and brush to avoid the problem.
  • Light coats – If you are wondering how do you apply KILZ Primer, ALWAYS add thin light coats of paint to avoid a messy final finish or dried on drips!
  • Feather the edges – Don’t slap on big globs of paint and leave the edges dark and solid before moving to the next area.  Paint can dry quickly and leave ugly beads or dribbles of paint if you don’t feather the edges.  (this goes with the last step, but is worth repeating – light coats, feathered edges)
  • Clean brushes and rollers – there is a lot of advice about how you can put your brushes/rollers in the fridge to avoid cleaning them.  I understand the annoyance of cleaning these, but I HIGHLY recommend cleaning or swapping brushes if the project is a long one.  Without cleaning, the paint can dry and build up on the bristles, leaving larger brush marks and resulting in a clumsy finish look.  If you are asking, how do you clean brushes after using KILZ?  This will depending on the particular product you use, but as long as you are using a water based paint (like we are) soap and water is all it takes to clean it up.
  • Clean Surface – make sure the surface you are about to paint is dust free and cleaned if appropriate.  You want the paint to adhere to the finished surface not the layer of dust that is sitting on top of the surface!
  • How many coats of primer do I need – As many as it takes to give a nice clean surface.  This may be as little as one coat, but if you have staining showing through, follow the instructions below.
  • Staining – If staining comes through the first coat of primer, add another coat of primer, adding coats until the stain is hidden completely.  The stains need to be contained before moving on to the final coat.  Some stains are more tenacious than others, but don’t skip this.  Do it right, you will never regret doing the job right the first time!

How we painted our Fireplace Mantel:

Priming and painting is ultimately very easy and luckily a fast project!

Obviously we started with primer.  In order to have a nice clean and smooth finish I started painting light thin coats, feathering the edges into the corners of the molding on the fireplace using the 2″ brush.   After I felt it had a decent coverage, I transitioned to using the foam roller (the dense foam rollers with a curved, rounded foam edge with helps for getting into corners).  I then rolled a light coat of paint onto the previously brushed on portions to smooth any brush marks for a nice, mark free, finish.   Continue to work in small controlled sections to avoid hard dried out lines, drips or lumps before you can smooth them with the roller.  Finish painting the rest of your project following these simple steps and the tips above.  Always, remember to wash your brushes and rollers between coats.

After an hour of drying time, when you are sure no stains are coming through, you may add the final coat of paint.

DIY Fireplace Makeover Fireplace Mantel Prime And Paint 1 (2)

Painting the Gray!

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It doesn’t take long after you prime before you will be able to paint on the final coat.  According to the label instructions you don’t have to wait long after painting KILZ Primer.  The paint is dry to the touch within 30 minutes, but you need to wait an hour before the next coat.

First, I want to put this out there: if you haven’t tried KILZ COMPLETE COAT, it is worth giving it a try!  We were very pleased with the coverage and quality of the paint and even happier with the price, only $20 bucks at Walmart!!  This is a screaming deal for paint!!  If you are on a budget a great price on paint can really make a difference, so be sure to give it a try.

We decided to go with a flat sheen for the fireplace and I am SO glad we did.  We love how if gives the mantel a suede like finish.  It reminds me of a chalk paint, it just feels so rich, somehow, without the shine.

I was really pleased with how well the KILZ COMPLETE COAT painted on.  We could have gotten away with just one coat, but because we put in on in thin layers, we decided to do two coats.

And here is how the mantel looks now that it is painted.

DIY Fireplace Makeover Fireplace Mantel Prime And Paint 1

We are seriously so pleased with the finish!!  We literally had a friend stop by just today and she was so taken with the fireplace and noticed it without any prompting from us, and especially loved the color!  YAY!

Here is a sneak peek of the fireplace with the stone in place!  We can’t wait to show you how to install the stone and show you the staged final mantel!

DIY Fireplace Makeover Fireplace Mantel Prime And Paint 1 (6)

Okay one more… Squeal!  Don’t forget to come back next week to see the tutorial for installing the stone!

See 25+more inspiring fireplace makeovers here.


How To Paint A Wood Mantel The Right Way Why To Prime A Mantel Before Painting #remodelaholic

DIY Mantel Update, Rebuild And Paint A Wood Fireplace Mantel Gray #remodelaholic

Modern Mantel Makeover, How To Prime And Paint A Wood Mantel #remodelaholic

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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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