Tag Archives: discover

How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 1

It’s probably about time I blogged about our fireplace. There’s a fair bit to say before the reveal, so I’ll split this into parts.

When we bought this house we had no idea we had a stunning original period feature just waiting to be restored.

Original estate agent picture

Original estate agent picture

In fact, it was several months in that we finally clocked that the fireplace that we thought was wooden was cold to the touch, and therefore metal.

Dumb, huh? But seriously – would you have expected that this was an original Edwardian cast iron beauty?

fireplacebefore

Mmmmmmm, sexy.

Ok, ok, you’d have realised sooner, smartypants. In our defence, when we first moved in we spent very little time in this room (the old dining room destined to be our sitting room). And besides, we were totally distracted by the ugly old fire and green tile hearth – circa 1980 public toilets.

However, within 5 minutes of clocking it was indeed metal we excitedly found the Nitromors and several coats, an hour and a room full of toxic stink we managed this:

Cast iron fireplace nitromors

What the Nitromors revealed

Cast iron, with beautiful detailing lost under layers of paint. And there began my absolute obsession with restoring this poor darling to its original splendour. And boy, was that some challenge.

It was clear that Nitromors wasn’t going to cut it – not when you look at the size of the fireplace (it’s 1.5m wide by x 1.2m high if you’re wondering) and not when we considered the vast amount of detail on My Love.

Yes, I am calling it My Love, for it was. For 4 months a day would not pass without me spending quality time with My Love. Even when – ironically – we had no heating in the depths of winter, I wrapped up in scarf and hat and My Love got attention. We spent hours and hours together, quietly and methodically strengthening our bond. He gave me a terrible repetitive sprain injury (insert your own mucky undertones here) that sent me to my workplace physio. And yet I continued, hour upon hour on my knees in front of him (yep, go on again). Anyway……

peelaway1Google is a wonderful thing and after much research it seemed that the wonder product I needed was: PeelAway1. (I have since discovered this wonderful post on the process which I so wish I had seen before I had started on ours!) PeelAway is used by the National Trust, so if it’s good enough for them…..

Armed with the instructions on my reassuringly large tub of PeelAway, some rubber gloves and a massive amount of enthusiasm – in I went, concentrating on the central bit of the fire surround.

I assumed that the more of this stuff I used, the better – right? So I happily squidged on huge amounts, smoothed it with the supplied spatula, put the paper on top (endearingly, the manufacturers call this a “blanket”) and waited. No toxic stink whatsoever – a good start.

I waited 24hours, and tugged at the paper expecting it all to come away in one go. To, erm, “peel away” in fact.

Nope, there was a lot of gungy mess and unexpected liquid. So after cleaning, scraping and moaning I had this:

Peel Away 1 on cast iron

Not quite peeled away

Peelaway1 first use on period cast iron fireplace

Let’s take a closer look

What this had revealed was just how many layers of paint there were to get through and – oh! – check out those colours! There was a particularly striking blue, a green and a burgundy. Apparently, the fashion for painting your fireplace in hideous colours was particularly prevalent in the 1960s, so we were looking at at least 50 odd years of paint.

And what paint it was – God only knows what they put in paint back then (oh yeah, lead) – but it was strong stuff made to last. Oh My Love, what had they done to you?

So, next time I used a little less of the PeelAway gunk, tucked in My Love with a new blanket and, this time, waited 48hours. A little improvement, but not much – though all the green paint had gone. (I neglected to take a photo at this stage – sorry) So I went ahead, more gunk, more tucking in and another 48hours.

After more messy cleaning, I got this:

Cast iron fire detail painted

Oh, hello there fine detail!

I tried Nitromors again on these stubborn bits, but nope, it wasn’t shifting it and was instead just doing terrible things to my asthma.

So there was just one thing for it: wire wool, wire brushes, tiny chisels, elbow grease and stubborn perseverance. And you wonder why I got an RSI.

To be continued….

Read on to part 2

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Fireplace

Strippers

IMG_2283

We have a lot of wall. Here’s the maths:

The ceiling is generally 3m away in most rooms 

+

The total internal sq meterage of the property is 191

=

A lot of wall. Fact.

Every single one of our walls was papered. Some had lining paper too, many had several coats of paint on top of the wallpaper.

Yep, in the last couple of months we’ve done more stripping than a cheap hooker in an Amsterdam window.

IMG_2288

Oly’s brother lends a hand

In some rooms it came off in great long, satisfying strips – like a ready-to-pick knee scab.

The back bedroom was one of the best rooms for this and we also uncovered this curious declaration:

Wilb loves Deev

Love graffiti. Who the hell are Wilb and Deev?!

In other rooms it unveiled impressive cracks:

Bedroom crack

The bedroom crack, also the homepage header. Recognise it?

In some areas it pulled huge wads of crumbling plaster with it:

Ooops.

Ooops.

But most of  all it just stubbornly clung to the walls, impervious to steam. However, we got there in the end and learnt a few things along the way.

  • Anyone who attempts to get wallpaper off without a steamer is, quite frankly, an idiot.
  • Wallpaper is surprisingly heavy when bagged up.
  • You will need a lot of bags and a lot of trips to the tip.
  • The steam is excellent for asthma and also a great mini facial.
  • Steam burns.
  • You will be covered in what we eloquently described as Wallpaper Jizz.

We also had lots of reproduction (cheap) plaster mouldings to contend with and they’ve left a bit of a mess where they’ve been chipped off.

It took two of them to work this out

It took two of them to work this out

And so this is what we’ve been left with and have been living with for weeks.

Kind of a mess? Huh? Our plan had been to get cracking with the plastering on all the walls (and the hideous ceilings) as soon as we could however the electrics threw a major spanner in the works – no point plastering when we needed rewiring and investigation.

However, that’s all now sorted and we can finally begin the plaster work. We have been warned about the total disruption, the mess and the dust but, to be honest, we’re not sure the house can get much worse at the moment. And besides, there’s always whisky.

Come on! Let’s get plastered!!

8 Comments

Filed under Prep

Blooming lovely

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”

Iris Murdoch, author and philosopher

Since the weather has (finally) been getting warmer we’ve been enjoying watching what’s appearing in our garden because, of course, we had no idea what was lurking beneath the soil.

IMG_2492

Peony by the front gate

IMG_2491

The peonies are nestled under a stunning Laburnum tree

IMG_2495

Clematis keeping the rose company outside the front door

IMG_2497

What colour will you be Rosie? (And yes, we shall nuke the bugs)

IMG_2499

There’s plenty of Lily of the Valley in the back garden – it smells divine!

So, to have all these things just bursting into life is great, especially as we’re really not that green fingered. Who knows, maybe when we’ve finished with the house we may discover a new passion…..

1 Comment

Filed under Garden

Serving hatch?

Stripping the wallpaper in the dining room we made a discovery:

IMG_1974

Hello!

The wall in this spot is hollow and, as it backs onto the existing kitchen, we reckon it used to be a serving hatch. We considered reinstating it but His suggestion that She also wore a tabard and a hairnet was quickly rejected.

The plaster mouldings then took a beating.

IMG_2131

Ooooo, isn’t he macho?

Leave a comment

Filed under Prep