Fireplace Finale: Before and After

by Josh on December 13, 2005 · 10 comments

in Fireplace,Living Room,Projects

With just a couple finishing details left to complete, I lit the first fire in the paint-free fireplace last Friday, December 8. Since then, I’ve wrapped up all the finishing. The brick is real and it’s spectacular!

Here’s how I handled the last stripping and finishing details:

  • Last Thursday night I removed the last of the paint from the hearth opening and scrubbed soot from the firebox.
  • Friday afternoon I sprayed the Peel Away neutralizer on all the brick and mortar. This was probably the smelliest part of the Peel Away process. The neutralizer has an odor like vinegar, but it dissipated quickly when applied. The neutralizer removed the chalky/hazy film left by the Peel Away.
  • Friday night we entertained some family from out-of-town. We had a fire going all night and roasted marshmallows for s’mores on metal clothes hangers bent into makeshift skewers.
  • Sunday afternoon I reinstalled the trim on the underside of the mantle
  • Yesterday I sprayed and wiped the brick surface with a 50/50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits. This topped the neutralizer for smelliness, but succeeded in making the color of the mortar more uniform and rich. The effect on the bricks was negligible, the biggest change being an improvement in brick sheen.

And now (drumroll please) the Bungalow ‘23 fireplace before and after comparison:
fireplace before:
Fireplace before
fireplace after:
Fireplace after
brick detail before (in progress):
Brick Detail before
brick detail after:
Brick Detail after

Additional detail pictures of the finished fireplace:
Corner detail:
corner detail
Flue knob detail:
knob detail

It took me exactly two months to complete this paint-stripping project. Along the way, I used 2 1/4 buckets of Peel Away 1, a partial jug of Peel Away Neutralizer, 1 pair of chemical gloves, roughly 10 yards of plastic sheeting, 8 wire brushes (various sizes), 2 sets of clay sculpting tools for detail scraping, 1 spray bottle, a few ounces of mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil, brass antiquing solution, dozens of rags, and gallons of water applied one spray at a time.

My used detail tools:
detail tools
Some of my used wire brushes:
used brushes

I didn’t keep track of my hours on the project, but I think 120 hours total is conservative, especially if time shopping for tools and supplies is included. This works out to just over an hour for each of the 112 bricks in the fireplace. I estimate materials and tools cost me about $250 (fireplace screen not included).

I couldn’t be happier with the result of my fireplace paint stripping project. Now that my work is finished, I’m finding that I can’t pass by the fireplace without glancing to acknowlege it in a mixture of habit and admiration. It’s an inspiring place to pause and consider how to answer the question already posed by family and visitors, “So, what will you work on next?”

living room

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

twilightmama December 13, 2005 at 2:33 pm

The fireplace looks really awesome! You did a great job!



Jim December 29, 2005 at 8:21 am

Wow, what a change! My house doesn’t have a fireplace. I always get jealous when I see one like yours-maybe someday. Great job-


millennium May 9, 2006 at 11:03 am

Looks nice…how did you remove the brass cover/door? Are there just screws holding it into the brick? Thanks!


Josh May 9, 2006 at 11:25 am

Actually the old brass fireplace door frame was not screwed directly into the brick. It was held firmly against the face of the hearth with a clamping action created by four adjustable hooks on the door frame that reached back to the inside edge of the hearth opening. To remove the doors and frame, I just had to loosen the screws that held the hooks taut and the whole unit came out easily.


fred@opc April 6, 2008 at 7:09 am

Wonderful restoration! I hope you’ll link in again for Before and After over at OPC. You’re latest cracked pipe repair would have made a wonderful post as well. Love your blog.

Reply March 18, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Veeeeerrrrryyyy nice! I will be getting myself some of this to work on all my old doors in the house!


Sharon December 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Wow, what beautiful brick you have. You are so lucky! We have a painted fireplace, but when we tried peeking under the paint, the bricks was just a boring light gray. We decided to just repaint it a better color.


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