Here’s our big plans to remodel the outdated 1970s stone fireplace that floats between our living and dining room, and how we deep-cleaned it.
Before we even moved into this house, I knew I wanted to whitewash the giant floating fireplace in the living-dining area. Don’t get me wrong, I love a natural stone fireplace. But not this natural stone fireplace. While it’s a major statement piece of our main living space, it just wasn’t fitting in with our overall design plan for the house.
For starters, the mortar between the stones is gray, and you know how I feel about gray… (if you’re new here, I’m on a mission to remove all the gray from this house. It was more gray than the prison-cell episode of the original Trading Spaces.)
But the real reason isn’t about color or aesthetics at all. The house had sat vacant for quite a while which resulted in some hot and humid temperatures inside. Translation: the fireplace stones had moss, lichen, and various other microorganisms growing on it. That felt super icky to me, and my only two options to really make it feel clean were to whitewash it or seal it. So whitewash it is.
I did a LOT of research on whitewashing and limewashing a natural stone fireplace. Pros and cons, tutorials, comparisons versus solid paint, spraying versus hand-painting; you name it, I researched it. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, and I finally decided on the method I’ll be using.
I plan on doing a true whitewash with 30% paint and 70% water to start. I’ll test it in a small area on the back of the fireplace and see how it covers. If I need to add more paint, I’ll adjust it. You can always add more paint but you can’t take it away. So I’m starting very diluted to be on safe side.
Here’s some images I found online that I’m using a design guide for the look I’m going for:
How I Cleaned And Prepped My Fireplace
I’m going to be real with you…our house was built in 1979 and only had one owner until we moved in last year. It is very clear to us that the fireplace has never been cleaned. Like, never-ever. So we had to take an approach to clean our fireplace that isn’t exactly the recommended route.
So full disclaimer-what I personally did to clean mine is not what you should do unless yours is in the shape mine was. The method we used below can actually damage some types of stones. If your fireplace doesn’t have microorganisms growing on the stone, a gentle cleaning with TSP will be sufficient.
But like I said earlier, there were lichen and moss on 75% of the stones on our fireplace. Those are living organisms that expand and grow in the pores of the stone, and continue to spread if not properly treated. So we had to risk damaging the stone finish in order to ensure our health and lung safety.
I’m not a big fan of chemicals since we have pets in our home, so I opted out of using specific solutions designed to kill lichen and other bacteria/fungus. Instead, I filled a couple of spray bottles with diluted vinegar, which can also kill the organisms.
We sprayed the vinegar mixture onto a few stones at a time, avoiding the mortar as much as we could. We let it soak into the stone for a couple of minutes, then sprayed again.
After the second spray, we used brush cleaning attachments on power drills to buff off all the yucky stuff. This method worked really well, but it was super messy so we had the entire space covered in plastic.
It was also really dusty, dirty, and hazardous to our breathing. We had all the windows and doors open and wore protective painter’s suits, n95 filtered masks, and safety glasses. (Looking back, we should’ve worn safety goggles instead)
The final prep step was to go ahead and paint the firebox. The inside of the firebox was really disgusting, so we cleaned it, too, and painted it with a high-heat black paint. Our fireplace does technically work, but we know we will never use it. I plan on filling it with battery operated remote-controlled flameless candles instead, and that black background will really make them pop.
Part 2: Whitewashing Coming Soon!
The whole process was pretty exhausting, but once we finished, we really could tell a major difference in the cleanliness of the stones. We decided to wait 72 hours to allow the stone to completely dry out so it will soak up the whitewash, and that 72 hours is up today. I’m currently waiting for my husband to get home from work (because this is definitely a two+ person job) and we are going to jump right in and get started.
I’ll share Part 2 of the fireplace makeover with all the whitewashing details next week, so stay tuned!