Your fireplace grate is what you see when there's no fire roaring the fireplace. Fireplaces are naturally sooty, dirty and hard to keep clean, but a well-maintained fireplace grate can make this space look better and be easier to clean. At the beginning and end of each winter, paint your fireplace grate to keep it looking nice all year.
If you'll be cleaning the grate indoors, begin by laying down plastic tarps or protection for your floor. If you'll be working outside, determine for yourself how much protection you need. Several layers of newspapers or rags may work fine.
Cleaning the Grate
Start by knocking off any chunks of ash with the handle of a wire brush. Then use the wire brush to clean away smaller clumps of ash and debris clinging to the grate. This may take some time depending on the condition of the grate. Use a damp rag or garden hose to rinse away the ash and particles on the metal. Allow the metal to dry completely.
Replace the newspapers or surface protection so you don't stir up the old ash and debris on it. Then, to ensure the best bond possible between metal and paint, prepare the metal surface for painting by using a solvent cleaner such as Acetone. Dirt, oil, grease and other foreign matter clinging to the metal may not be visible to the eye, but a thorough steam or chemical cleaner should remove anything that will inhibit paint from bonding to the surface. Be sure and follow all the manufacturer's warnings on the product you choose.
Finding the Right Paint
Once the grate has been cleaned, and the surface prepared for painting, use a "Heat Resistant Paint" specially formulated to withstand high temperatures. Paints such as "Fireplace paint" or "Stove paint" will work if they are labeled as "Heat-resistant." Look for paint that has been tested to be heat resistant to at least 1200 degrees F (648 degrees C). This paint has been formulated not to flake, discolor or bleach out, and it will restand the repeated thermal cycling of hot and cold found in fireplaces.
Grate paint comes in a variety of colors—from reds to blues to the standard black. Don't be afraid to try adding a touch of color to your fireplace by coloring your grate. If you don't like it, you can always add a second coat of black!
Use either a spray applicator or a brush to apply the paint. You may use a combination of brush and spray paint as well. Rollers tend to leave air bubbles in the paint surface and aren't as effective. Also, many fireplace paints are flammable when in liquid form, so don't paint around an open flame.
Spray the grate lightly, using several coats of paint rather than one heavy application. Allow the paint to dry in between coats—generally a time of 15 to 20 minutes. Use at least 2 coats or whatever you need to evenly cover all the surfaces.
Allow the grate to dry overnight before using, even though it is usually dry to the touch within the hour.
Dispose of all rags, coverings and protection according to directions on the solvents and paint. Now, sit back and enjoy the freshness of your "new" grate.