Q)I have a long brick wall with a fireplace in my family room that I would like to paint. A wood stove sits on the hearth. Since I usually use latex paint, I am afraid the heat from the stove will cause the paint to peel and blister. Any suggestions as to the type of paint or treatment I can use to avoid a problem? -- M.L.P.

A)I would not recommend painting the brick. Although there are fire-resistant paints on the market, I do not believe they would prove suitable for this application.

Rather than covering the brick with a solid paint, you might consider an "aged whitewash" finish. This would lighten the brick but remain transparent enough to reveal the natural brick texture, and it would not be susceptible to blistering or peeling.

To give your brick wall this treatment, work in small areas, brushing on an irregular coating (skipping some bricks and portions of others) or thinned white paint. Blot the wet paint with a damp rag, removing all brush marks and lines. Wipe off enough paint to leave an irregular, transparent coating that will lighten the brick and give it a "used brick" look. Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.