A DIY story: revise a fireplace in 5 years

A new kind of post for my blog: home improvement. In my Twitter profile, I self-identify as a home improvement enthusiast. I am actually a huge DIY fan. When I moved into my home in January 2007 after having lived for two years + in a one bedroom flat in Washington Heights (NYC), I knew that the green fireplace just had to go first thing. That’s right. Someone had painted the fireplace green. I just love REAL BRICK, not the fake stuff. I wasn’t about to paint it RED BRICK.

Within the first week of moving in, I attempted to remove the paint using a paint removal product called PAINT BE GONE or something like that. I was in a hurry to get this job done because contractors were coming the following week to re-finish the hardwood floors. Movers were coming with all of our furniture and everything else, etc. I was starting work at my new job in just a few weeks. It was a good and exciting kind of pressure that makes you want to get started today 🙂

So, I applied the caustic with a brush to the green fireplace. Then I waited.  An hour or two later, still, nothing happened. The paint did not magically peel or fade away. At all. Oh boy, now the green fireplace has a crusty, thick haze of white frosting. It seemed a lot like glue and it had solidly bonded… Call in the experts? Nope.  Ultimately, with some quick web searching and a hunch, I purchased a high-end respirator and other gear that has come in handy again since then. My tool of choice though? A $45 hand grinder purchased from one of my favorite stores. This made the paint disappear …. very gently…. basically lightly grinding/sanding it off. And, it created a huge dust mess and took hours of careful, precise work. But it worked. Check out the nearly finished project here. 5 years later, it’s time to wrap it up as we Harwoods like to say. It just needs a mantel. That’s it. And it’s done. I tried installing two pre-fabricatated mantel pieces from everyone’s favorite DIY centers, but they were about  3 inches too short on either side to completely span the 6 foot 6 inch brick top. And way too much $ for the custom build. Therefore, this weekend, I’m going to build my own. Nothing fancy. I don’t have time to. In another post, I’ll tell how I repaired other parts of the fireplace including re-pointing the chimney outside.

Note: Anytime you remove old paint, you *really* need to plan well. Check local building codes for recommendations and procedure. If sanding near or over pre-1980s paint, remember to seal everything off in the room with vertically hung plastic tarps. Turn off all HVAC so dust is not moved elsewhere in the house via air ducts if present. Imperative to have a respirator, protective eye gear and work clothes that get thrown away when you’ve finished. Afterwards, clean, clean, clean the room when you’re all done so there is no dust anywhere. Or, just paint over it and call it good.

3 thoughts on “A DIY story: revise a fireplace in 5 years

  1. Nice work on the brick. I still remember helping my parents strip multiple layers of green paint off the stone fireplace in our (then) new (to us) house. Have fun with the mantlepiece.

  2. Hey Ted. Thanks for the comment. What was it about the color green? It’s actually my favorite color but not on a fireplace! Do you have an online pic of yours? Well, I’m off to the store to pick some wood.

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