Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We have finally moved into our first cottage, hurrah! Boxes are still everywhere but after a week and a heck load of painting, sanding, varnishing and so much sweeping Cinderella would be impressed, it is starting to feel more and more like home. One of the first mammoth tasks was to take the fireplace back from spray-painted white (I know. I can’t even.) to the cast iron black it was destined to be. Armed with rubber gloves, steel wool and Wickes DIY biggest tub of Nitromors, Mum and I set to work.

(Handy tip: use one of those really comfy kneeling down type mats that people use for gardening – I didn’t and my knees are still bruised. BRUISED. The things I’ll do for a Victorian fireplace.) I’d recommend taking regular breaks when stripping the paint as it can make your head feel a little bit off-center. Air is good.

Here is a picture of the fireplace before: 

God only knows why it was white, but I could hear it screaming out to be restored, a bit like that scene in Aladdin when Genie comes out of the lamp for the first time in ages and he’s all like:

I thought if we could get as much of the paintwork off as possible, some of the original details, particularly the flowers and vines would become clearer. This took a lot of layers of Nitromors and lots of steel wool, but the progress was steady and we made good time, getting most of the white paint off the fireplace by the end of day one. The steel wool was cleaned with white spirit and an old rag was also used to keep the areas clean before adding more layers of Nitromors. It’s important not to add water as this can rust the metal (although using a damp cloth won’t hurt, white spirit helps to lift the paint). There were in fact several layers of paint underneath, predominately black, but we were determined to take it right back to the cast iron base so we could keep the surface as smooth as possible.

Some parts came away without much resistance, and other parts, particularly the intricately detailed sections had to be coated in Nitromors then left to soak for a while before going back over it with steel wool and then repeating the process. Admittedly it was tiring work but seeing the original metalwork coming through underneath was very rewarding.

Here is the fireplace back to its old roots: 

We managed to get 99.99% of the paint off and the bits that were left were minuscule and we ensured that they were rubbed down so the surface remained flat in preparation for the black grate polish to be applied.

I used a cloth dabbed in white spirit to clean the fireplace and ensure that all excess bits of dirt and paint flakes had been removed as it’s hard to get these off once the polish is applied.

Applying the black grate polish paste that I picked up from Robert Dyas was the easiest part of the process – we covered the whole fireplace in about 45 minutes and then went over it again to ensure all the nooks and crannies were covered too. We rubbed the paste onto the fireplace with a cloth but were careful not to polish it but rather leave it to dry. If you do decide you want a metallic finish you can polish the paste onto the metal and that adds a metallic shine.

Here is the finished look:

We’re very happy with it and it is a gorgeous centre-piece for our living room. So far we've had a fire burning every evening and it’s not something that is going to grow old anytime soon!

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  1. It looks great! The details underneath have really come through and it looks so much better, and I completely agree, it's a lovely centre-piece. I've always loved original fireplaces. Also, brilliant addition with the Aladdin gif! Loved that! - Tasha

  2. Thank you, I'm really happy with it and it's amazing the difference it's made to the room :)