How To Remove Paint From Marble Or Granite (without damage!)

We found a black marble fire surround in our guest bedroom!

Painted marble fireplace surround in bedroom

I know it sounds mad to “find” an antique marble fireplace surround but I’d honestly not paid the room much attention. With more pressing renovations to tackle, we ignored the room until we recently had a little mishap while having our wood-burning stove installed in the room below (you can see what happened at the end of this post). 

And now, after a lot of scraping and cleaning our fireplace surround now looks like this! 

How To Strip A Marble Firesurround - After

If you’re lucky enough to find a marble fireplace surround in your home, we’re sharing exactly how to remove paint from marble or granite and restore your fireplace surround to its former glory.

And, if you have a marble surface that’s scratched, we’re also sharing a super easy way to make them disappear, too.

stripped marble fireplace - before and after

What you will need to strip paint off marble or granite

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Things to know before you start removing paint from marble

  1. Stripping paint is messy. Cover and protect the surrounding area with drop cloths and tape off the walls with masking tape and paper. The paint stripper we recommend really works so don’t take the risk of it stripping or damaging things it shouldn’t.
  2. Old paint can contain lead. Always take the necessary safety precautions and test the surface before you start any work. You can read our full guide on how to safely deal with lead paint here.
  3. Even though marble and granite are very durable, they can scratch easily. It’s important to use the right tools and always test a hidden patch to make sure the supplies you’re using work for you. Don’t use metal scrapers or sand the surface and be careful when using anything that contains acid as it can damage the surface. 
  4. If you use your fireplace as a heat source (ours is purely decorative) you’ll obviously not be able to use it for the duration of this project. 
stripped marble fireplace surround

How To Remove Paint From Marble Or Granite

Although stripping paint is messy, it’s always a very satisfying job and it’s very easy to do even as a total DIY beginner. The paint-stripping method we’re sharing works really well for removing old layers of paint from marble surfaces like our fireplace surround or marble kitchen countertops.

We also used almost the exact same method when stripping the cast iron fireplaces in our Edwardian house which turned out beautifully.

Step 1
Protect The Surrounding Area

Cover the floors with drop cloths and tape over any walls to protect them from the paint stripper. Applying the paint stripping paste and, more importantly, removing it is very messy.

Step 2
Apply The Paint Stripper

Use a plastic scraper to cover the whole area you want to strip with a thick layer of the paste and then cover the paste with the blankets that are included. Ensure there are no air bubbles and press the paper blankets firmly against the paste.

removing paint off fireplace with chemical stripper

Don’t forget to wear safety gear when using the paint stripper!

Over the last 10 years of DIYing, we’ve tried more paint removers than I can count. This is the only one that we recommend as it really works. There are different versions of it available depending on the type of paint you’re stripping.

stripping paint of marble fireplace surround

As I mentioned above, be careful when stripping marble and other natural stone as the acid can damage it. Do a test patch and check which stripper is right for your surface before you buy and apply it.

Step 3
Wait For The Paint Stripper To Work & Remove The Paint

Leave the paint stripper to do its magic overnight.

You’ll see the blankets start to change colour as the stripper reacts with the paint. We don’t like to let the stripper get too dry before removing it but you may have to wait up to 24 hours for it to fully work. 

Keep checking and remove it when the paint has softened and it all pulls away from the marble.

paint removal with peel away

Depending on how thick you’ve applied the stripper and how many layers of paint you need to remove you may need to repeat the process. Luckily, we only had a few very stubborn bits of paint left that we were able to scrape off while cleaning off all of the paint stripper residue.

Remove paint stripping residue off black marble surround

Step 4
Clean Everything Thoroughly

The worst bit about using a chemical paint stripper like the peel away paint remover we used is the mess it makes. Get yourself a clean bucket of water and a really good stone cleaner to wipe down the surface. Repeat the process until it’s as clean as possible. 

cleaning black marble surround

If the paint stripper you’re using contains a neutraliser, use it after cleaning the marble as much as possible first. (Check the manufacturer’s recommendations and details on how to use it).

Although our marble surround isn’t very detailed, there was still a lot of paint stripper stuck in the gaps and joins. I ended up picking at it for hours and hours with toothpicks to scrape out as much dirt as possible. 

Paint stripping residue in cracks

Step 5
Apply Colour Intensifier

Although we used a plastic paint scraper to avoid scratches our marble still looked damaged after removing the paint. I assume that’s why it had been painted in the first place. 

applying colour intensifier to marble fireplace surround

The colour intensifier we used works like magic. You can immediately see a big difference when you apply it. The black becomes so much darker and shinier and almost all of the scratches disappear.

treating marble with colour intensifier

Use a cloth to wipe the colour intensifier all over the surface and let it soak into the marble for about 15 minutes. Then wipe off any excess.

treated marble fireplace surround

Step 6
Fill Any Gaps (optional)

Because our fireplace has moved and cracked slightly over the last 100 years, you can see some of the mortar that’s glueing the pieces together in the joins. 

Gap around black marble before filling

This probably won’t be an issue if the marble surround is a lighter colour but as ours is black, the imperfections are very visible. 

I’m sure there are specialist products available but we decided to use black caulk around the joints to hide the gaps. If you look very closely, you can see that it’s a slightly different colour but I think it looks so much better with the gaps filled.

clean caulk lines on black marble