During early Victorian England, the fireplace was one of the most important aspects of the home. It provided not only heat, but also decoration and function. This was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a time when the new middle class were lavishing in a lifestyle that was once reserved the high and mighty.
Cast iron was used in order to create a stylish yet affordable heating option that was suitable for the demands of the expanding middle class. The average home owner wanted his home to be warm yet without the added expense. Cast Iron was malleable enough to allow intricate detail to be used in the design, meaning that home owners could indulge in the grandeur of an upper class fireplace yet remain within budget.
Leaping forward a century or two styles and heating requirements had changed significantly. During the 1960’s it became a fashion trend to repaint Victorian cast iron fireplaces with another colour. As different colours came in and out of style, the fireplace would be repainted over and over again.
This is why by the time you get round to restoring a traditional Victorian fireplace to its original beauty you could be working through 50 years of paint.
1. The first thing to do, as always, is to ensure that the surrounding area of your room is thoroughly protected. Make sure you place a large plastic sheet on the floor and cover the walls surrounding the fireplace with newspaper or masking tape. Trust us, you will be glad you took this precaution beforehand.
2. Ensure you have sufficient safety gear, such as gloves, facemask and goggles. It is highly likely that the old 1970s paint contains lead, and the paint stripper contains strong chemicals so it is better to be safe than sorry.
3. Take a paint brush and liberally apply paint stripper to the fireplace. Ensure you cover the entire fireplace; the first few layers of paint should come off quite easily. Leave the stripper to work for a few moments and then use a wire brush to start brushing through the paint.
4. Keep repeating this process, using a pointed object (like a screwdriver) to get into the finer detail. Be warned, this is not a quick job, this is likely to take many hours and each layer of paint will be harder to remove the further you go down.
5. Once this has finished wipe the fireplace down with a methylated spirit to ensure any paint stripper residue is removed. Once you are happy that all the paint is removed you can begin to restore it to its former beauty.
6. With an old paint brush cover the fireplace with a coating of cast iron paste. Ensuring you get into all the detail. Follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions however this usually takes around 7 hours.
7. Once the paste has had time to work you should begin to rub it off with a dry soft cloth. Take your time and rub all of the paste off otherwise you will leave black marks on your hands, clothing and furniture whenever you touch it.
8. Once this is completed you can remove all protective gear and redecorate if needed.