How to modernise your marble fireplace

    To some, a marble fireplace is the epitome of class. Sadly, yours has seen better days. Cracks, stains, and an outdated design can make marble more monstrous than magical.

    What can you do with an old marble fireplace? Thankfully, the answer is plenty! With a fresh coat of paint, beautiful tiles, or some clever decor choices, you can update your hearth. The result is a look that will be the envy of your friends or future home buyers if you decide to sell. 

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    Painting your marble fireplace

    While marble has visual appeal, it can be heavy and expensive to replace. Paint is a good option to give it a contemporary makeover. While you can choose a glossy or latex-based paint, chalk paint is by the far the most popular choice for marble fireplaces. It needs little (if any) preparation or sanding, dries quickly, and can be easily cleaned. 

    Here are the steps for painting your marble fireplace:

    Step 1 Choose your paint: Go online or visit your local paint shop to find a paint type and colour you like. You’ll be losing the natural stone finish of marble so opt for a colour that you truly love.

    Step 2 Prep your area: Lay a protective tarp or drop cloth around your fireplace to prevent paint stains. Another protective measure is to use painter's masking tape. Finally, you should remove any screens, grates, and decor items. 

    Step 3 Start scrubbing: Take time to clean the marble with hot water and a pH-neutral detergent to remove dirt, dust, grease, and other contaminants. 

    Step 4 Patch it up: If your fireplace has any cracks, you can fill them with epoxy filler. This is important as stone damage can show through your paintwork.

    Step 5 Get out the sandpaper: Lightly sand your fireplace to remove the marble’s gloss. This makes it easier for it to take primer and paint. Remember to wipe the dusty surface clean after you’re done. 

    chalk paint


    Step 6 Prime, paint, and seal: Now paint with your preferred choice of primer and paint. Use different brush sizes to get into all angles of your fireplace. If you’re using chalk paint, use a stir stick to get the pigment thoroughly mixed, and take care — it dries quickly. After you’re done painting, be sure to seal your paint for a flawless finish with lasting protection.

    Step 7 Let it dry: After applying your layers or paint as required, wait for at least 24 hours after the final coat has dried before lighting your fire.

    If this is more work than you can manage, seek the services of local painting professionals. They can help you choose the right colour and paint type to transform your marble fireplace. 

    Tiling your marble fireplace

    Another way to modernise your fireplace is by tiling directly on top of it. In this way, you can retain a textured surface while hiding the marble finish. With this method, you’ll need to work hard to adapt the slick marble surface to prevent tiles from falling because of poor adhesion.

    Here are the steps for tiling your marble fireplace:

    Step 1 Pick your tiles: Go online or visit your local tile shop to find a tile type and colour you like. You’ll be losing the natural stone finish of marble so opt for a look that enhances your scheme.

    Step 2 Prep your area: As with painting, you’ll want to lay a protective tarp or drop cloth and remove any items in and around your fireplace. 

    Step 3 Get out the grinder: Using a cup grinding wheel and angle grinder, you should deeply etch your marble to remove any surface seals, polish, and contaminants. This will help your tile mortar bond to the surface. Clean up after you’re finished. 

    Step 4 Consider your layout: Place your tiles out on the floor and think about the pattern or set-up you would like for your fireplace before bonding them. 

    cutting tiles

    Step 5 Start your tiling: First, draw a chalk line so you can set your tiles neatly. Apply your thinset or mastic mixture with a notched trowel, lay your tiles, and use spacers to keep the lines between them uniform. You may need to cut tiles as you work for a perfect fit. Once you’re done, remove the spacers before the mixture sets or you may have trouble extracting them. 

    Step 6 Apply your grout: After placing your tiles, wait for about 24 hours before grouting. Use a rubber float and wet sponge to remove any excess grout from the tiles. Then, allow the grout to set for at least 30 minutes before applying a grout sealer. 

    Once you’re done, you can clean up the mess and polish your tiles to perfection. 

    Decorating your marble fireplace

    What if you don’t have the budget or time to paint or tile? Decorating is another option to modernise your marble fireplace. Your goal should be to camouflage parts you dislike, highlight aspects you do, or complement your fireplace in a way that will give your decor scheme a new lease of life. Here is some inspiration for your home:

    • Wall paint: Choose a complementary colour for your room that works well with the colour and grain of your marble fireplace. Gray, white, black, earthy pinks, greens, and calming blues are all great colours in use today.
    • Flooring: Consider the flooring around your fireplace. Revamping old carpets or switching them for wood or tiles can make for a newer, fresher setting for your fireplace. 
    • Screen: Placing a stylish screen over your fireplace can help you disguise any flaws. Opt for geometric or quirky shapes for a fireplace-forward look. 
    • Decor items: Some well-chosen fireplace knick-knacks such as books, black-and-white photographs, artwork, and candles can give your fireplace a chic appearance. 
    • Greenery: Displaying a large plant or a number of small potted plants in your fireplace can make a vibrant statement while drawing attention away from its surfaces. 
    • Mirrors: Minimalistic mirrors hung over the fireplace or leaned against it will create an appealing juxtaposition. This will also help make your room feel larger. 
    • Lighting: Poor lighting can reduce the beauty of your room, including your fireplace. Choose white fluorescent lights in strategic places to banish any shadows that may be making your fireplace feel aged and grim. 

    With some darling details, you can make your marble fireplace a beautiful space. Don’t be afraid to get creative and contrast contemporary elements with the timeless feel of this natural stone. 

    sleek marble fireplace design

    Get fabulous fireplace ideas

    Seeff’s Homestyle blog is filled with great ideas for revamping your home. You can also chat with one of our expert property practitioners to get advice for a home sale or rental. Whether it’s upgrading that dated marble fireplace or choosing the best material for your kitchen cupboards, we’re here to help.

    Author: Seeff Property Group
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