Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Fireplace Shake Up

January 2013

Josh and I did some traveling for the holidays and enjoyed relaxing around the house.  We were able to catch up with friends and finally watch some of our favorite tv shows.  But, after two months off I was itching for another project.  I don't know what it is about the holidays but I got the urge to strip some woodwork again.   For Christmas, we had asked my parents for a new fireplace surround.  For those of you who don't remember it looked like this in 2010:

Then in 2012 it looked like this:

Our chimney lacks a damper so we knew we lost a fair amount of our heating through our rattling unsealed brass fireplace surround.  Combine that with its poorly working accordion doors and general sooty appearance and we were ready to break up. As a side rant, do accordion doors work on anything?  Seriously, every house I have ever lived in had some janky accordion closet door that you fought with until you pulled it off it's track.  Poor design.

Our new surround came, looking all fancy and oil rub bronze, but alas there was a good number of things wrong with the fireplace.  The mantel has always made me feel a little let down.  We have a pretty big mantel, which I love, but it lacked the character that I had hoped for.  Taking a cue from our dining room built-in, I thought about stripping the top half.  It would tie the dining room and family room together and hopefully showcase another awesome piece of 80 year old wood that was hiding behind layers and layers of paint.

Josh bought me a heat gun for Christmas and it was all I could do not to remove our stockings and garland and go to town.  I waited, and was excited to get moving.   I started one weekend in the corner and by the end of the day I had stripped the top of the mantel.  I learned alot, mostly, that I am not a huge fan of heat guns. Holding the heat gun and a scrapper is exhausting work.  The place immediately smelled of burning paint which no one in the house was thrilled with.  A side note, I was sure there was probably one coat of lead paint wedged in there so I was wearing a mask and googles. While it was faster then stripper, I found it much more work and potentially more toxic for my family.  After finishing the top I decided to use gel stripper the crown moulding portion. 

This of course doubled the time of the project.  It took three passes to get the mantel completely paint free and each coat took about 24 hours to work.  It was slow, but I got back in my rythmn of coming home each day and scrapping off some paint and then applying more stripper to another section and covering with with plastic wrap.   I was laborious but I think it only took me a full week.   Also based on another awesome blog I read I used stainless pot scrubbers dipped in mineral spirits to remove all the paint that was trapped in the grain.  In the past, I had used a brillo sponge, this was much better and held up great!

Once I sanded the mantel down I went ahead and started applying stain. By now I was pretty good with staining and busted out our old Gunstock stain and my trusty staining clothes.  It went pretty quickly, I did one coat a night with a steel wood sand in between.  It ended up taking 4 coats to completely cover the areas.  There was some paint I could not get out of the tight crown moulding.  I cheated and took a stain colored sharpie (yes they make these) and colored all the paint bits brown and then stained overtop.  It feels cheap and wrong, but honestly, you would never know, and it saved me breaking down to get dental tools out.

At the end of two weeks this is what I had to show:

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