When looking for a brownstone, fireplaces were on our list of must-have features so we were happy when we saw that our house had three. We pictured long cold winter nights sitting by a cozy fire. That was until our bubble burst and we learned (after we made an offer of course) that they were actually not wood burning fireplaces at all but just heating vents that channeled the heat from the once-coal burning heater in the basement. Easy come, easy go. We thought, they may not work (without an expensive conversion) but at least they can look nice. We speculated that there may be marble under all that paint but a contractor looked at them and guessed they were some sort of cement or plaster.
Sigh. We thought we would strip the paint from them anyway and see what they looked like. Since they appeared to have several coats of paint of dubious age, to be safe, we used a product specifically designed to remove lead paint called Lead Out (for instructions on how to use Lead Out see our previous post).
Learning from our last experience, (and that is what this blog is all about) we applied a thick coat to the entire fireplace. The gel started to bubble after a short time. As the paint started to crack we could see that one of the layers of paint was a royal blue. Who would paint a fireplace a bright blue? We recalled the sellers telling us that at some point the two teenage boys in the family had resided in this room in what would have been the 70’s and we think they might be the culprits.
When it was time to remove the Lead Out™, we used a plastic scraper so we would not scratch the surface. I have to say, in the areas where the gel was applied thickly, the paint came off like butter. Low and behold, what is that we see? Marble! After scraping off the paint we took a wet cloth and wiped it down. This removed any of the remaining solution and really got in the nooks and crannies well. Then we followed with Franmar’s EMERGE™ degreaser and a wet cloth to remove any sticky residue.
As the gel continued to work its magic you could see that the center piece had actually been painted a bright red. As the solution continued to work you could see the red emerging through the white. If I was into the supernatural, I would say that it looked like it was bleeding. Note to self—think up a far-fetched story about this house being possessed and make a few million dollars off the book and the movie.
The center grate on the fireplace is made of metal. The piece that surrounds that is not marble and it is much harder to remove the paint. We think it is either wood (which we would need to replace if we refurbished it to a working fireplace) or hopefully metal. These pieces pop out and it should be easier to get the paint off of them if we can lay them flat and coat the gel on thickly. A note of caution, be careful what you get this solution on. Although it is made from soy, it is powerful. Some of it got on the linoleum and it completely stripped it down to its clear plastic bottom layer, ditto for wood floors.