html> Four Walls: Stripping the first fireplace.

Stripping the first fireplace.

The fireplaces - the ones without ugly carbon monoxide leaking electric fires bolted to the front of them - have been something I've been dying to clean up since we moved in. So a few weeks ago I ordered some Peelaway tester pots to have a peak at what lay under the years of paint. Peelaway is a paint stripping product that you leave on for many hours (depending how much paint there is/material you're applying it to) and you simply peel it away, funnily enough. It claims to peel away up to 32 coats of paint and is environmentally friendly so I liked the sound of it straight away! We spent weeks painfully stripping paint with heat guns at our old flat and I would give a kidney to not have to do that again. Yes, damn right I was excited!

The tester pots with applicators, blankets and neutraliser

I did a few test patches, Peelaway 7 did okay but it would have required a lot longer or a second application, Peelaway 1 however has a bit more about it, and after 24 hours had done the job. Winner.

Once applied to a test patch the blanket is put on top
Peelaway 1 after 24 hours - the paint is reacting nicely
The layers of paint literally come away with the blanket
After one application,  neutralising and a quick clean 

First thing was first before we got cracking on the rest - the metal plate that had been retrofitted to block the fireplace up in an era where people didn't yet see the charm and value of period features had to be removed, and those heavily paint laden screws didn't look like they were going anywhere - I needed a man. Si first attempted to chip away at the clogged paint to gain some purchase, then heat the screws to loosen them, but finally resorted to getting a bloody great bolster and hammer to smack the things off. I had visions of unsightly chewed holes all around the fireplace - at least they were spaced evenly I thought, but part of my mind wandered about the cost of a new fireplace. Luckily, by smashing the things off we've been left with almost flush little filled holes that you can barely notice* at a glance.  It all adds to the charm and history so I don't mind them at all.

*okay, maybe just a little.

Peeling back the metal panel to expose its inner beauty!

There was a small optimistic part of me that thought maybe, just maybe, underneath all of this debris and sand, we might find the original hood and grates tucked inside. That whoever removed it might have had the foresight to think that one day, in a few decades time, someone might like to reinstate the original features. Nope. No such luck. Alas there was no front grate or hood, but the base grate looks great and the intricacy of the iron moulding is truly lovely. We're so happy to have uncovered it, albeit a little colder for it.  Roll on Spring.

50 year old crud
Under the rust and muck is a beauty waiting to shine

Rather amazingly, whilst digging the sand from behind the plate I unearthed a newspaper screwed up in a ball, only to find it dated back 50 years to the very week that we moved in! How strange, to think we have uncovered it bang on half a century later. This one is being framed. I'm loving all these treasured finds!!

50 years to practically the day we moved in!
Almost ready to be peeled

It's taken a lot longer than I had thought, some attacking with wire wool and chipping away with a heat gun at a few stubborn bits of paint. Peelaway worked fantastically well on the downstairs fireplace, that probably had a bit less paint, and maybe I got too excited with peeling this stuff off and should have left it to work its magic a bit longer on the upstairs. But hey, given that we have three more fireplaces to go, I can definitely put these learnings into practice and vouch that this is a great product.

Almost there, but not quite!

All there is left to do for now clean it off with white spirit, sand off the rust and treat this baby to a helping of grate polish, and when we get the room done we'll treat him to a new hood and grate. He'll look so smart.