Dear Angie: We want to paint the outside of the chimney on our house, which is heated by gas. What type of paint should we use? Will r egular exterior paint work? Do we need some type of sealant? — F.J., New York
Dear F.J.: First, I recommend you consult a chimney professional to determine whether painting your chimney is a good idea. Painting a chimney can trap moisture inside the brick. This moisture can expand and contract during each freeze-thaw cycle, potentially compromising the structural integrity of the chimney.
If your chimney contractor gives you the green light and you decide to paint it, the type of paint you will need will depend on the exterior type of your chimney. If it is just a stainless steel flue, a high-quality, high-heat paint — which can be brushed or sprayed on — probably would work best.
However, if it is a brick or stucco surface, your best option might be to prime it with a masonry primer- sealant. This will help prevent the masonry from peeling and will help ensure an even, long-lasting finish. After applying the primer, you'll want to let it dry fully, then paint over it with an acrylic paint. Once you've applied the paint, you should not need any additional sealing.
Another thing to keep in mind is the personal risk you'll take in trying to paint the chimney yourself.
About 136,000 Americans end up in emergency rooms each year due to ladder-related injuries, according to a 2007 study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy. So after you've talked to your chimney professional, but before you climb up to the roof, make sure it's something you have the right equipment for and are physically able to do. You'll want to have someone on the ground watch out for you as long as you're on the roof.
If you're worried or fearful about working at that height, I recommend you call in a professional painter, who is properly insured, has experience working with exterior brick and has the correct equipment and training to do the job safely.