You guys… I’m getting so fired up over this blog and LIFE. I just want to do all. the. things. So I am! I will tell you though, if you’re an aspiring blogger, this is not the “suggested way” of doing it. The most successful bloggers/influencers focus on one main thing and build their business off that. I’m going to tell you right now that I just can’t roll that way (obviously). There’s just too much going on in my brain/life that brings me joy and I hope that through sharing those things that they bring you joy too. I do understand that maybe I won’t be as “big” but well… I don’t care.
Now that I got that off my chest, I want to share this DIY that I think just might be my proudest to date – our faux brick fireplace. I saw a short tutorial months ago on @the_rusticpallet and thought, “that’s so cool!” and kind of moved on with it. My intention was actually to install real bricks on the existing black slate with my dad (or however he would suggest to do it) and white wash those with joint compound. Then at work last Monday I randomly had a thought… “Maybe I can faux brick the fireplace (as if I needed something else to work on…)?” Two seconds later… “This would be a perfect, inexpensive method to update the black slate”. “Stephen is going to think I’m crazy…” Next thing you know, I’m at Lowe’s with a tub of mortar in one hand and a roll of electrical tape in the other.
I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that my plan to get this done in a few days didn’t quite turn out like I’d hoped. The biggest issue was that I decided to try out using mortar instead of the suggested joint compound. I was worried that something would go wrong since I was doing this around a fireplace. I thought, “What if it all melts over the winter when we use the fire to warm up the house?!” Ironically enough, I didn’t even make it to the winter with the mortar to find out if that would happen. It just popped right off (literally) when I added the primer. It really sucked because I had to do all of the hard part over again but at the same time, I’m thankful that I learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. I picked up some joint compound a couple of hours later, which is much cheaper by the way, and started over again.
“When things go wrong, this is what you should do. Make good art.” Neil Gaiman
With the mortar failure aside, I was able to complete this project for under $30!
Here’s what it looked like to start with the black slate:
What you’ll need:
Joint compound: I used this one but I’ve also seen this one used. I tried to find the DAB version but they didn’t have it in Home Depot when I looked. This one was great and so inexpensive!
Scraper: I used a cheap plastic one that I had on hand.
½” tape: I used both electrical tape and masking tape. I could only find this size of masking tape at Target and when I got home and tried it out, it didn’t stick well to the slate so I resorted to electrical tape and it worked pretty well. It wasn’t perfect and I had to learn how to make it happy but all in all it got the job done. I ended up using the masking tape on the floor because apparently gravity was the issue.
Primer: I used this one which I’ve used for lots and lots of projects.
Chalk Paint: I used this one. It’s inexpensive compared to other chalk paints, it’s easy to find and it works well!
“Brick” colors: I used this paint in the colors dark taupe, khaki, and brown that I found at Michael’s. Really you could use whatever tones you want for this. If you want to have a redder brick, pick colors with more red tones in them, if you want a completely white “bricks” then you don’t need these colors. Don’t forget to use a coupon there!
Brushes: A bristle brush for the primer and chalk paint and a sponge brush for the brick colors worked for me but really you could use anything. I just used what I had on hand.
If you’re doing a space about the size of the fireplace I did, I would suggest getting 2 rolls of electrical tape just so that you don’t run out.
Tape off the top line. If you’re doing a fireplace like I did- tape off the top of your area first. I didn’t do this the first time before the big oopsie with the mortar (which is kind of another good reason that mistake happened so I could fix it the next time). I forgot to consider the width of the tape when measuring off the bricks for every row after the first so the top bricks were all thicker than the rest. You can start with tape first to avoid this problem. Do you see how the top row of “bricks” look larger than all of the rest in the picture below? You don’t HAVE to do this and could fix the problem by moving the tape up so you didn’t have to tape/”caulk” to start but I had already taped everything so taping off the top was a much easier fix for me. If this were real bricks there would not be that caulk line but it doesn’t bother me at all especially since our mantle is white too.
Measure off your bricks. Measure and mark your “bricks” using a level and pencil. I made each brick 7×3 inches. To prevent myself from making measuring mistakes, I would measure, mark, and tape off one row at a time. Then I would move down to the next row, measure, mark, tape off… Move onto the next…
Tape off a line. Like I said, it helped me to do steps 2 and 3 one row at a time before moving onto the next row. When I was taping on the face of the fireplace I learned that the masking tape was not going to stick to the slate and would peel right off so I only used the masking tape on the floor part of the fireplace. You could also use the electrical tape on the floor but I ran out. I even struggled a bit at the beginning with the electrical tape but I eventually learned how best to make it work. Since electrical tape has a good amount of give, I would pull it fairly tight but not too tight. If it was pulled too tight it would just pop right off.
Spread the joint compound. Using your flat edge, spread a thick layer of the joint compound over the entire surface, tape and all. I did not make mine perfectly smooth like I would if I was patching a wall, for example. I wanted it to resemble real bricks as much as possible so I kept mine pretty rugged/imperfect. I did the top part of the fireplace first before moving onto the bottom to visually help me to make sure all of my brick lines “made sense” when taping off the bottom section. Again, see what I’m talking about with the large bricks on top? This was before the mortar popped off and I had to redo it with joint compound (the picture below shows mortar but DO NOT USE THAT!) but it’s the same exact concept.
Peel off the tape. Once the entire surface has been covered with the joint compound, slowly start peeling off the tape. This part is extremely messy which is why I suggest being slow! I would have a place nearby where you can set all of the messy tape (I put a few shopping bags on the floor next to me and then threw the whole thing away when I was done). Let your “bricks” dry overnight!
Prime. Once the joint compound is set, paint over the entire surface with the primer. Let it dry for a minimum of 2 hours. This was after all of the mortar popped off and I had fixed it with joint compound…
Paint your bricks. Now comes the fun part! Use the brown paints and a sponge brush to make your bricks! The best part is that you can make these however you want. If you want a darker brick, use more of the darker tones. If you want a lighter bricks, use the lighter tones. You really can’t screw it up! The way I did it… I put about 1 “squirt” of each color in a paper bowl and then for each brick I’d dip the sponge brush into two colors (it didn’t matter which ones really), paint the brick, add on some of the third, whatever. I just wanted it to look random like real bricks are! Once again… It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’ll be great!
Paint the “mortar lines” and white wash. Grab the chalk paint and paint your ‘mortar’ lines and white wash the bricks. To do this, I used a small bristle brush. I would start by filling in a line and then with the paint leftover on my brush, I would lightly brush over each brick. I wanted the brown tones to show through a good amount but some people love the bricks mostly white. Whatever floats your boat! This is another thing you can’t really mess up. If you end up putting too much white on… Don’t stress! You can just go back with your sponge brush and brown tones and go over the white until it’s the way you want it.
Pat yourself on the back and admire your beautiful work!
Some random notes:
Don’t forget to do the sides of the slate. I forgot to do them at the beginning (you can see it in the above picture) and I only did the front of the slate so after everything was all said and done, I had to go back, remove the trim, paint the bricks in, put the trim back… You get the picture. Just do it all while you’re working on it! The bricks look even more real now that they have multiple sides!
I hope you enjoy this DIY! The best part about this is that it can be done on really anything. I’ve seen people do it as a backsplash, on walls, you name it. It adds the perfect rustic element and dimension in a space and be easily tailored to fit your style. Let me know if you have any questions!