How do I paint my vintage metal Malm or Preway fireplace

Jennifer in Orlando asks:

Hi I have a 1953 home in orlando florida and it has a Malm “Firejester” fire place. I am to understand it is quite rare and in very good condition considering the care of the home. It is terra cotta and quite ugly. I want to paint over it but am to understand this is not possible unless I have it sandblasted and that would do some major damage….help! We have brought back the terrazzo and will be painting the exterior in a retro color and would love to brighten up the living room by painting this fire place! – Jennifer

Out of my league – except to say (1) AWESOME fireplace, (2) Jennifer, you might want to consider living with the terra cotta a while…it might grow on you – I kinda like it and (3) remember readers – these are still for sale new!

Also important: Be cognizant of potential lead paint issues whenever you do renovations: Be sure to see the EPA’s complete website:

Meanwhile, do any readers have advice on how Jennifer might proceed on this one?


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  1. says

    I’ve never painted a fireplace (or cabinets for that matter), but I was a signpainter for ten years and have a friend who does high-end body work, so I know a little and am learning a lot. Although stripping to bare metal is the ultimate, it is not always necessary. Simply “scuffing up” the surface so that new paint can adhere is all you need to do in most cases. This can be achieved with sandpaper or an etching primer. If there is rust — this is the time to take care of it! For a stove, you will need a “high heat” paint. I believe Rustoleum makes it in a spray can — though it may be hard to find an array of colors. Always ALWAYS test test TEST!!! Practice on scap pieces of metal, the back — anything before doing something you regret to your vintage piece! I’m sure there are other options for painting — would love to hear from others on this.

  2. says

    Once the floral tourquise wallpaper border is removed and a new wall color is applied, the fireplace will look quite nice as is. If you want to keep the fireplace, change the color of the walls behind it, not the fireplace itself. much easier!

  3. says

    I own a Preway-style, circa 1969 Sears model (bright orange!), very similar to Malm type fireplaces, and it is porcelain coated, which I believe the Malms are as well…this would require an entirely different type of painting method than simple enamel. Just a thought. It might not be a bad idea to write the people at Malm and ask for their opinions:
    I would encourage Jennifer to keep the Malm; a real classic, and worth changing the room around, in my opinion.

  4. Jennifer Morrison says

    Thanks Giershick!
    I have contacted Malm (again) and hopefully they will provide some guidance. Since this post we have had the unit checked and it is 100%. We painted the wood and the bricks ultra white. We intend to paint the fireplace high gloss black with brushed steel trim.

    • Melissa Arnold says

      Wondering if you ever heard back from Malm about painting your fireplace. I want one and have the opportunity to purchase a used one that is orange but want it to be white. Wondering if I too could change the color.

  5. Patrick says

    You can’t, I’ve tried ……… High heat paint, scuffing, etc …… I have distroyed my preway . Now I’m thinking of covering it in lava rock.

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