How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 2

So, we left off with the beginning of elbow grease on the central part of the fireplace. This got me to this stage:

cast iron paint chips

So nearly there

Do you see the tiny chips of paint? To the right of the pic and in amongst the detail? These were the bane of my life! From a distance it was looking great but get up close to My Love and these remained, needing careful chipping off bit by bit. I knew if I didn’t do it meticulously then at the final stage the grate polish wouldn’t cover them.

So, slowly, I continued. I was determined to get the middle bit perfect, to spur me on as I faced the rest of the challenge. And finally after copious buffing, I got this:

cast iron fireplace detail

What a beauty!

Now, if that wouldn’t spur me on, nothing would!!

After all this detailing I thought I’d treat myself to a nice flat surface and thus turned attention to the top of the mantle.

On went the gunk:

Paint stripping on cast iron with peelaway

Smoothing on the PeelAway with the spatuala

It was covered with the special paper, air bubbles ironed out and then left for 48hours. Here it is being peeled away:

Peelaway on cast iron fireplace

In action!

D’ya see all the liquid? That’s what made this such a messy job. I have no idea how someone would manage if the rest of the room didn’t need renovating cos me and my trusty scrubbing brush got it EVERYWHERE.

You see, by the time you get the gunk off you then need to get rid of the liquid and, supposedly, neutralise it – though I never did as I figured I has yet more buffing to do which would get rid of any residue.

It turned out that the paint came off the top super easy:

Just one application!

Just one application!

I realised there were only a couple of layers of paint here (no gharish mutli-colours) and that’s why the PeelAway was so incredibly effective here.

I think someone had in the past decided to strip the paint – hence the thin layers. There’s also (sad) evidence of some rough chiseling on the edge of the mantelpiece. I guess they realised what a mammoth job it was and couldn’t face all the detailing so they just repainted the top and then another couple of coats on the rest of it to make my RSI so much worse….

I carried on down the fireplace and realised that the longer you left the gunk on for, the better the results. So, I tackled a new bit of detailing and left it for 72hours:

You can really see how it worked on the paint layers and, whilst a lot of mess remained, it was worth leaving it on for the extra time. Patience is a virtue and all that.

You can also see the eventual mess it was leaving behind:


It was clear there was going to be a mega wire scrubbing job ahead and little point doing it as I went along so I concentrated on getting all the paint off first.

There was something strangely compelling about watching the changes over the 72hours of leaving the gunk on:

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Now, there is something worth mentioning. PeelAway is pretty friendly stuff. It doesn’t actually have a smell at all and seems fairly innocuous. But then remember what it is capable of. If I got a bit on my skin then within 15 minutes I’d soon begin to feel the prickly burn – but a quick wash off and it was fine.

So, be warned!

You do not want to be this

You do not want people making assumptions

And, do not, whatever you do, decide to wear vinyl gloves when your index fingernail could do with trimming. Because said nail will split the glove, but you’re too busy scrubbing away for an hour before you even notice.

And it’s that smell you’ll notice first. You know, the wretched smell of burning hair? Or burning nail as it turns out. So, you curiously scrape your nail and layers come off like butter, until you panic and plunge it into icey water to stop the burning process. And then you have a repellent yellow nail for WEEKS that you cannot paint over with nail varnish for fear of making the whole thing fall off. So instead your skanky nail suggests you smoke 40+ woodbines a day. Yeah, that. Don’t do that people.

Still, inch by inch I was making my way across the fire place. Across My Love.

Cast iron period fireplace get paint off

Inch by

Cast iron period fireplace get paint off

Inch by inch

Cast iron period fireplace get paint off

Inch by inch by inch

Will we make it? Will we get to the end, buff it up, install a working fire, smear it in grate polish and happily rejoice? There’s only one way to find out……tune in next time for the final installment!

(You’re on the edge of your seat. Go on, admit it.)

Read on to part 3


Filed under Fireplace

14 responses to “How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 2

  1. Jo

    There’s no way you’re not going to finish this gorgeous thing! Too bad it’s not a piece of jewelry you wear around. What room is this in and does it change your wall color choices? Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  2. I am not only on the edge of my seat, I am exhausted and my fingernails are burning!! Make it stop!! Once again, I applaud your patience! πŸ™‚

  3. Such patience and dedication! What an enormous job. Maybe I should be happy I don’t have a fireplace after all… Nope, it would be worth it!

  4. It already look soo amazing! Well worth all of the hard work! Can’t wait to see the reveal! Our Peel Away was really smelly, but it did worked really well and almost removed all paint in one go. I wonder if they’ve changed the formular a bit?

    • Really? Ours didn’t smell at all, it was kind of strange for something so toxic not to smell.

      I have to admit to extreme jealousy at how easily yours seemed to come off compared to ours! I wonder if we had some particularly adhesive lead paint or something? That’s when it smelt, when the paper come off after a couple of days – and it played absolute havoc with my asthma at that point too.

      It’s funny looking back at all the hard work and photos you almost forget all the grief! But, yes, totally worth it!

  5. You informed me the other day that you didn’t have as much to do as us… It certainly doesn’t seem that way!!! I can’t wait to see the finished result! : )

  6. Pingback: How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 1 | Making a house our home

  7. Pingback: How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 3, the reveal! | Making a house our home

  8. Anonymous

    I started my bedroom fireplace today, yak! I’ve nicked ur ‘after’ image as inspiration/motivation. Congratulations on the baby news πŸ™‚

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