More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


Refinishing the Fireplace

Here's how we took our fireplace from this:

to this:

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I painted the brick facade with trim paint. I used a 6" fuzzy roller (thin, white, with an orange stripe) and a paintbrush and it took four coats. It still could use some touching up. Before we painted, we thoroughly scrubbed the brick with hot water and one of my castille soap-based cleaners. The keys to painting brick are patience and endurance. It is tough to get into all of those crevices and it just takes coat after coat.

Now, onto the doors (and keep in mind that I don't know the technical terms for things)...

Supplies: ratty fireplace door, soap, water, scrub brush, shop vac, towel, masking tape, newspaper, tarp, high heat spray paint, a paint vapor-blocking mask, 50-90F degree weather with less than 85% humidity and low or no wind, something sturdy to prop the doors open with, paint scraper, more newspaper, vinegar

May need: sandpaper or wire brush, lead paint-blocking mask, screw driver, needle-nose pliers

Look into the fireplace and see how the door frame attaches. For us, a simple metal bracket (attached to the top, rear of the door) hooks under the top of the fireplace's opening. We just had to lift the door a little, then angle it so that the clip was free of the brick, then pull it out. Here is our clip (in bad shape).

Our fireplace doors were thoroughly scratched up. If yours are not, you will need to sand the doors with sandpaper or a wire brush. Be sure to wear a lead blocking mask! Read your mask's specifications very carefully--this will probably be a $25+ mask that looks like something a bio-hazard worker would wear and not one of those little white ones.

Now it is time to clean the doors. This is a very dirty job. Since 50-90 degree weather is a must for spray painting, I took the doors outside to enjoy the nice day while I scrubbed and made lots of icky, black water. Using a scrub brush, I scrubbed the front with hot water and castille soap, then used a shop vac to get the water, crud, soot, animal hair, etc. out of the crevices. Rinse and repeat. Absolute cleanliness is not possible. I didn't stress about cleaning the glass too well at this point.

The back is especially gross. We probably could have replaced the insulation. But,I just tried to lightly vacuum it.

I dried the glass with an old, funky towel which was a good choice because even after all of that washing, loads of black came off. Then, I covered the glass on the front side using masking tape and newspaper. It was tough to make sure that every tiny bit was really covered, but imperative.

Folding the paper to be smaller than the glass (layering it when needed) and letting the tape fill to the edges worked better than cutting the paper to just exact size of the glass. When I could actually tuck the tape under the frame, I did.

I decided to only tape off the front of the glass and not the back. This worked out fine for me, but certainly do tape the back if the thought of scraping off errant paint stresses you out.

Once all the glass is protected and the whole thing is dry, it is time to move on to the painting. I chose RustOleum Specialty High Heat Ultra spray paint in black. It was about $6 at Lowe's. Brown and aged copper are also available in the ultra level which has a semi-gloss finish; green, white, silver, black and almond are available in the regular level which has a more matte finish.

I can't pretend that spray-paint is eco-friendly. It isn't. But, I do think it has value in restoring things to keep them out of landfills. RustOleum also sells a brush-on high-heat paint, which has fewer ingredients but ones that are more decidedly dangerous.

Following the directions on the can (and wearing your vapor-blocking mask), it is time to spray, spray, spray. Once the paint has set (after a few minutes), readjust all moving parts and spray more: prop open the doors (harder than it looks, you'll need something sturdy to hold them open--I used an old food tin), move levers, etc. You can recoat within an hour or after 48 hours. The less than one hour thing worked for me. I waited about 15 minutes in between coats.

Walk around the doors and look at all of the details from every angle, touching up as needed. Don't spray from too close or you will get drips that are no fun to fix (wipe off paint, spray a wide area again, hope it blends in). It will not look perfect no matter how many times you spray. Don't expect it to. Once it is in the room, the little flaws won't matter.

After the paint has set, repeat. Our chainmail curtain (I wonder what it is actually called) was rusted, so I decided to paint that, too. Repeat again if needed, but leave a little paint in your can for touch-ups (I still had plenty of paint left at this point).

Once the paint is dry (more quickly than you'd think), remove the newspaper and tape from the glass. Now it is time to focus on the glass. I cleaned the windows to a shine with a blend of 50% water 50% white vinegar. I let the spray sit (I spray it on but you can also wipe it on) for a few minutes, then I used a paint scraper to get off any chunky yuck (errant paint, wax, mystery goo, etc.) After that, I repeated the vinegar wash and this time I dried the glass with newspaper (no colorful pages). Newspaper is abrasive enough to actually scrub off crud, smoke stains, etc., but gentle enough to not scratch up the new paint job. Repeat as needed. Flip the doors over and repeat on the back of the glass.

Now that everything looks nice on the macro level, take a look at the little details. You may see some small places that need touch-ups--you may need to retape a small bit of the glass to do this. If needed, use needle-nose pliers to fix any loose chainmail links. Use a screw driver to tighten any loose screws. Once everything is sufficiently snazzied up and dry, reverse the removal steps and reinstall the door. Lovely!

P.S Guess what arrived? The new rug!

Here is a new view of the living room with the rug, fireplace doors, and some things moved around:

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At January 24, 2010 at 12:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

it looks great!! Thanks for the tutorial. I need to figure out how to get our cover off, now I know to look inside!! Just waiting for the weather to warm up so we can paint it!

At January 26, 2010 at 10:27 PM , Blogger the fourth door said...

The fireplace looks so nice now! I love how the room looks too, that rug does do a great job of bringing it all together.

At February 2, 2010 at 9:50 AM , Blogger Diana said...

Your room looks wonderful! I love how you combined the blue, tan, and white into it. I saved it as an inspiration picture for my new family room. Thanks!

At February 27, 2010 at 11:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just picked up some rustoleum spray paint to do our fireplace doors this weekend. Luckily we have a heated garage so i don't have to wait any longer now that I know it can be done. I really hate the brass doors.

At August 14, 2010 at 2:20 AM , Anonymous electric fireplaces said...

Now your room looks very nice. we recently refaced both of our red-brick fireplaces with ceramic tile. we love the look.

At September 1, 2010 at 1:02 AM , Anonymous Oriental Rug Cleaning said...

excellent job! I can't help but notice the new carpet. I love it!

At January 24, 2012 at 11:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your fireplace refinish instructions using google and I'm so glad I did. I used your guide to refinish my fireplace doors and they look absolutely outstanding. Thank you so much. You have a really lovely home.


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