It took me until 8:00 p.m. Saturday night to get started, but I followed through on my plan to begin stripping the paint off the fireplace. To get the area prepped, I masked off the bookcases on either side of the fireplace with plastic sheeting and removed the mantle trim. Under that trim was some great inspiration for the work ahead– unpainted original brick.
I knew by the painted surface that the brick was highly textured. I thought the fireplace might be identical to the exterior brick which has deep ridges in the surface and is a variety of red and brown. Instead, the fireplace brick is uniformly dark brown and shiny with a flaky looking texture. The look reminds me of mica and it is more beautiful than I dared hope.
I have chosen to use Peel Away 1 for the initial paint stripping. Peel Away is an odorless paste that you apply to the surface to be stripped and then cover with a paper membrane for 24 hours to keep the paste moist and actively softening up to 30 layers of paint. By midnight on Saturday, I had applied an entire bucket of Peel Away, covering exactly half the fireplace.
I was impatient to remove Peel Away all Sunday, but I waited until 8:00 p.m. when our son had gone the sleep and the paste had worked for about 20 hours. Removal is a big mess and I was set up with a tarp on the floor to hold the used paste, paper and paint. I had expected the Peel Away to do as its name suggests and “peel away” from the brick with some/most of the paste and paint clinging to the paper. Perhaps due to the rough brick texture, the paste clung to the brick instead, requiring me to scrape off all the paste with my putty knife.
Once I had removed as much paste as I could, I worked on removing the softened paint with a wire brush and detail scrapers. I eventually discovered that by scrubbing with the wire brush at an angle to the brick surface, I was able to brush a lot of the paint from the cracks and crevices of the brick before using the “dental tool” scrapers.
As of midnight Sunday, I have only removed the paint from a portion of the area I covered with the stripper. There’s a lot of work left to do, but the results so far are promising. Here’s a look at the fireplace at the end of last night:
And here’s a close-up of the brick before and after my work; the painted brick is on the right and the stripped brick is on the left: