A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for any part of the house’s exteriors – chimney included. But should you really consider painting your outside chimneys? Or leaving them as it is a better idea?
Painting a chimney is possible and should be done with the right paint color by a professional after getting it inspected to ensure there are no structural issues.
Also, it’s essential to be aware of some risks, especially when planning to paint porous materials such as bricks, cinder blocks, and concrete.
In this post, I will discuss the different factors involved in painting your chimney, such as the paint colors available, along with potential damages and risks associated so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with the project.
Choosing the Paint Color for Chimney
When choosing a paint color for your chimneys, consider whether you want them to contrast with or blend into the house’s exterior.
The desired visual effect will determine the color choice, whether a light, dark, or medium shade.
1- Neutral Colors
Neutral hues (like beige, cream, white, tan, gray, and brown) are among chimneys’ most commonly used paint colors due to their versatility.
These shades fit well with most color schemes to give your chimney a more natural look. These are also suitable for hiding dirt and soot that builds up on the chimneys over time.
You can find these natural colors widely available in all your favorite paint brands, giving you more control over the coatings you want to choose and use.
2- Monochromatic Colors
A monochromatic color scheme means that the house and the chimney you paint are nearly the same shade.
To match the overall look of your home’s exterior, you can choose a chimney color that is a couple of shades lighter or darker. And for a balanced appearance and some contrast, use different shades of the same color for the trim work.
3- Contrasting Complementary Shades
One way to enhance the visual appeal of your chimney is by painting it using contrasting colors. You can achieve this by selecting colors that strongly contrast with the colors of the existing paint while considering your exterior’s color scheme.
For example, choose dark gray or black for the chimney if your home’s exterior wall is light-colored and modern. However, if the outsides are already dark, choose lighter contrasting shades like white, cream, or beige.
To avoid making the exterior too visually overwhelming, it’s recommended to keep the colors muted while adjusting their intensity.
Risks of Painting Exterior Chimneys
Most chimneys built in the US use bricks, cement, mortar, cinder blocks, and stone as standard materials. These materials are breathable and will require specific treatment before painting. If you fail to prepare the surface correctly, it can cause long-term damage due to mildew buildup.
Also, the inside temperature of the chimney is different from the outside surface, causing moisture (steam from a hot shower) to enter the bricks through their pores.
If the chimney has a painted exterior or a pre-existing layer of paint on the bricks, the moisture will not have anywhere to evaporate, leading to water damage and deterioration of the chimney’s structure.
In addition, since the chimneys are consistently exposed to weather conditions, rainwater and snow can accumulate in bricks and mortar. This can result in expansion and contraction, which may cause harm not only to the bricks but also to the paint on them.
Tips for Painting Different Types of Exterior Chimneys
Choosing the right paint for your chimney is crucial because chimneys vary in materials and require special considerations for each. Also, some materials will require more prep work and frequent maintenance.
For example, brick chimneys require thorough cleaning and possibly sandblasting, while metal chimneys require specific rust-resistant paints. In addition, aluminum and iron chimneys demand a primer before painting to ensure the paint adheres properly.
Failure to follow the proper steps can also cause the paint to chip off quickly and decrease the chimney’s lifespan, resulting in costly and challenging future problems. So, here are some tips to consider when painting your exterior chimney:
1- Brick Chimneys
Brick chimneys are porous, so they work well with any kind of paint.
However, latex paint is the best option because it is more flexible and can accommodate the expansion and contraction of the brick. In contrast, oil paints can become brittle and crack over time and are not as resistant to the effects of time. Premium latex paint also dries faster than oil paint, making it a better choice for painting chimneys.
To paint a brick chimney, begin with a block filler. This will fill in any pores or gaps and create a smooth surface, preventing water from entering the bricks.
Once the block filler is dry, apply a high-temperature primer if you live in a hot area. Now you can paint the chimney any color you want.
2- Metal Chimneys
Since metal chimneys tend to get hotter than chimneys made of other materials, selecting a paint rated for high heat, such as high-temperature latex paints, is recommended. These paints are generally safe for temperatures up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and come in brush-on and spray-on forms to be used on factory-built or prefabricated stainless steel chimneys.
Before painting, ensure the metal surface is clean, dry, and rust-free. Rust won’t allow the paint to stick effectively, so use sandpaper or steel wool to remove all the rust if it’s there.
Next, to avoid getting spray paint on unwanted surfaces, use painter’s tape and apply a primer that can also withstand high temperatures. Finally, spray the metal chimney with high-temperature paint while holding the can at a distance of 10 to 12 inches.
Brush-on, high-temperature paints are in liquid form and can be painted on using either a roller or a brush. If you are using them, apply them using even, light strokes, and add more than one coat if necessary. Once painted, allow adequate drying time before using the chimney.
3- Masonry Chimneys
To paint a chimney made of concrete, clay, cinder block, ceramic, or pumice, it’s best to use latex-based primer and paint. High-temperature latex paint is recommended if the chimney is often used, especially in cold areas or with a fireplace. This type of paint is also suitable for occasional use in kitchen chimneys.
Emulsion paints are also breathable and durable, which is ideal for porous masonry surfaces that may contract and expand.
Prepare the masonry chimney for painting by first using a pressure washer to remove any loose surface flakes, dirt, or debris. If there are any cracks or crevices, apply mortar as necessary and fill them in to prevent anything from getting stuck there and to help the paint stick better.
Once the chimney is dry, apply a primer and paint using a roller or brush. Multiple coats may be necessary to get the desired color. Allow sufficient drying time between each coat.
Finally, to protect your paint job and keep it looking fresh for years to come, re-paint every few years or when the paint starts to look chalky or faded.
Alternatives to Painting Exterior Chimney of Your Property?
If you want to change the color of your brick or concrete chimney without paint, you can consider using stain. However, to ensure that your bricks don’t trap moisture, it’s essential to work with a reliable staining company that uses a high-quality stain that allows water vapor to escape enabling bricks to breathe freely.
In case you don’t want the colors, you can consider using a lime whitewash on bricks or a vapor-permeable sealant to protect your chimney from water damage while allowing water vapor to escape. Using a whitewash has the advantage of being easily removable if you don’t like it.
There are other types of paints you can use, but it will be a complex process. Hiring a specialist to do the job might be safer and more cost-effective in those cases.
Another alternative to painting your chimney is installing a decorative metal covering on top of it or installing a faux stone veneer over your existing brick or concrete chimney. This will add a nice touch to your property while protecting the chimney from weathering.
The Bottom line
Above, we discussed the different materials chimneys could be made from and how to paint them according to their unique qualities. So, keep them in mind the next time you want to paint your chimneys.
Although it may seem daunting at first, painting a chimney is actually a simple task. You just need to have the correct tools, paint, and colors. By applying paint correctly, you can safely revamp your chimney and give your home a quick update without a complete renovation.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.