Q: I would appreciate any material available on painting a brick fireplace. It's set on a wall of deep red brick with a rough surface. It's contemporary in style and has a built-in stove. My entire home is white with beige carpet and tones of mauve, gray, blues and sand. Obviously, these other decorating points are major factors that affect a dark dingy wall. - Rita P.
A: Your dark, dingy brick fireplace wall doesn't have to stay that way. But, remember, painting stone is an almost permanent decision. It will take a sandblaster to get it off if you find you have made a bad choice.The rough texture of the brick can be smoothed with a wire wheel attached to an electric drill. Since your look is contemporary, a smoother surface might be a better match.
For the best paint job, start with a masonry block sealer. This is nothing more than a good quality latex primer. When that has dried apply a layer or two of the color of your choice in flat latex paint. This will give a matte-finished look, something like slump stone.
If you really want the job to look rich, after about a week, regrout the newly painted face with a light colored tile grout. Instead of using water to mix the grout, use water and glue (70 percent water, 30 percent white carpenter's glue). Adding the glue to the grout will help it stick to the painted surface. If mixing the grout yourself doesn't sound appealing, try using ready-mixed grout made by Tilepak.
Quite a bit of paint touch-up will have to be done because of the regrouting, but the extra effort will be worth the difference.
It really is very important to thoroughly clean the surface to be painted. Wire brushing and vacuuming is a must.
We wouldn't recommend that you paint the insert. Heat generated by even the smallest fire will damage most finishes that aren't factory-applied.
Q: I read your article about "Flitz." I have never heard of it; however I can submit a way to clean and polish stainless steel sinks. I clean my double sink with Comet cleanser (black comes off), then I rinse and dry thoroughly. Finally, I apply a thin coat of vegetable oil (not too much) with a paper towel. The shine I get is like new. I hope this helps. - Florence B.
A: Over the years many folks have written in with this formula. We have tried it and agree that it works. But we don't recommend the procedure in certain areas. Can you imagine how much salad dressing an ant colony could make with all of that vegetable oil? Mineral oil also works.
For those of you who may have missed the column on Flitz, it's a polish for virtually all metal, fiberglass and painted surfaces, according to its manufacturer.
Q: Please advise which laminate is best for kitchen counter tops and cabinets. Also, advise whether you would recommend the matte or glossy finish. - Iris H.
A: Two of the country's top manufacturers of plastic laminate materials are Formica and Wilsonart (Ralph Wilson Plastics).