Monday, April 29, 2013

Brick: To Paint? Or Not To Paint?

January 2013

After I finished staining the mantel I spent the week applying the poly protective coats.  It took three coats that I applied with a foam brush.  By Thursday, I knew I could no longer ignore the lower portion of our fireplace.  This was my dilemma: I love brick, heck I am from Virginia.  Our clay soil means we are the biggest producers and users of brick in the US (I just made this fact up, but it could be true).    Our brick had problems- big problems. One, it was not the nicest brick, just kinda of a boring 'I am brown' brick, not that I was going to hold it against it.  Worst, the mortar was pink, yes, pink.  Urgh I hated that mortar.  On top of all of that: the brick was covered with 80 years of soot and general dirty house funk.  Just to remind you what the brick was looking like:      

I had some choices.  I could clean the brick. There were several methods I found online that were home made and involved a lot of elbow grease.  There were also several expensive solutions I could purchase where I slathered some goopy gel on the brick wait a day and then according to the pictures have an amazing before and after moment.  The problem was none of these options would help my pink mortar.  This meant I would have to pay someone to come and repoint my fireplace with more attractive mortar- namely any other sensible color such as gray or tan. Read between the lines: very expensive for little change.

The other option was to paint the brick and mortar and be done with the darn thing.  Gulp.  This was tough, there was no going back, once painted brick would be painted forever. There is no stripper for brick. I liked our rustic living room and painting brick felt modern and cold to me.  The problem was I didn't really want to spend any more money of this fireplace. I looked online and searched painted brick fireplaces. Honestly they did make a huge difference to rooms. Rooms that felt old and tired looked fresh and bright.

On a Saturday, I decided to do a quick clean to brick to see if it made a difference. I cleaned the brick and cleaned and it looked exactly the same: sooty sad brown.  I made the decision- we were painting. 

The next step was what to paint the brick?  We could go with the same brown as the chimney breast or the standard bone white of all of our trim and ceilings.  Josh and I decided since our new surround was dark brown we should paint the brick Bone White to stand out.   I bought masonry primer and with way more confidence then I felt I started painting the bricks. 

It was pretty quick work, one coat of primer on Saturday night, then two coats of bone white acrinamel the next day. Getting in the cracks and mortar lines took a long time.  Luckily, small detailed oriented projects are my jam. The best part was since it was January and I had my Downton Abbey to replay over and over.  I had to make sure I had memorized every scathing Maggie Smith reproach.

By the end of the weekend the fireplace looked like this:

Regret it- no, Love it- maybe not totally?

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:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Christmas 2012

December 2012

Happy Christmas.... in April.  One day this blog will catch up and I won't be posting these in the off-season. Every Christmas I like to document our decorations and general festiveness.  This was our second big Christmas in the house and we made some additions.  Unfortunately, we did not celebrate in the house as both Josh and I were visiting family but I still really enjoyed the decorating.

The mantel got it's fresh cedar garland and poinsettas, I hung our christmas artwork above and broke out our christmas gnomes.   Add some new awesome personalized stockings made by Josh's aunt Connie and it was starting to look legit.

The snow village was back out and wood bead garlands on the chandlier.  We added some small Christmas trees to the hutch and added an Elf on the Shelf to our liquor selection.

We tried a new tree this year, we moved away from our Noble Fir and tried a Blue Spruce.  We loved it, it dropped less needles, it is more open and allowed us to get all of our big ornaments up.  I will give it negative points for the fact that you now can see the wires for our lights, but still I think this might be a new tradition.  My favorite addition this year- this awesome moss covered reindeer I got on a whim at Target- so awesome-sauce. 

Outside, we lit our Mountain Oak, added candles in the windows and even hung icicle lights from our porch gutters.  Add to that my new wreath and we felt our halls were decked!  We spent a wonderful weekend up at our friends beach house in Rockaway and got our Christmas sweaters out- Gus joined in as well.

Merry Christmas!

 and of course, just to prove I am not a true blogger my centerpiece says happy fall.... I can't help it gourds never die.