Monday, July 16, 2012

Stripping the Fireplace

I've been looking at this paint job for four years, wondering what beautiful bricks might be beneath the tan, white, maroon and peach layers. 

I like to do my research before tacking a new project, soI've read a few other blog posts about stripping paint from fireplace brick. Checking these posts helps me get pumped up to take on the project! I want to give a special shout out to a few of you:
I went into this project expecting the worst. I expected difficult labor, lots of time, elbow grease, strippers, soda blasters, brushes, drips, stink and a very unhappy husband.

So I gathered some supplies... I am using a few different brands of each product that we have left over in the basement. On the woodwork we've been using Smart Strip, but I wanted to polish off the other cans of product in the basement.

Then I ran some tests. First, applying chemical stripper straight onto the painted brick. A test with stripper applied to the paint:

Stripper alone doesn't cut it. Even two applications didn't get to the first layer of paint. This might be a point where a specific product would be preferred (insert your favorite product here).

In another spot, I tried hitting the paint with the heat gun, scraping off what I could, and then going after it with the chemical stripper. The heat gun made a huge different, as you can see. It really loosened the paint's grip on the brick. It wasn't too impressive though- it felt like trying to comb gum from your hair. Really stick gum. And not your hair, but maybe a teddy bear's hair. But after the heat gun, the stripper worked very well.


The heat gun takes roughly 3-5 minutes per brick, and I use my painter's tool in a chiseling fashion, scraping away some of the paint.

The chemical stripper sits on the brick for about 15 minutes. Then I scrap off some goo with a plastic scraper. Next, I dunk a wire brush or steel wool (I use either and my preference varies as I work) in mineral spirits and scrub off the residue. It takes about 5-6 minutes to scrub each brick and the neighboring mortar.

I haven't used the vinegar to remove the residue yet because when I went to grab it from below the sink, I saw a Magic Eraser and thought that would be an interesting experiment. Of course, the eraser disintegrates quickly, but it definitely did the job. However, it doesn't really get into the crevices well. I'm hoping vinegar and a towel will have better results. But still, not bad. This last picture shows a few bricks that I wiped down with the eraser. You can see a slight change in the color- the flatter gray is residue stained by the mortar. The bricks themselves are a color similar to sidewalk concrete.

I took this picture before finishing for the day. I have about half of this side of the fireplace cleaned down to the brick and it took about half a day. It's really not bad at all. I feel very lucky that it's going this well!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Closing the Doorway

Between the spare room and the bathroom was a doorway. The extra doorway occupied valuable wall space, and went unused for three years in the house. When it came time to close this door for good, we enlisted the help of our amazing neighbor David, who is also a carpenter.

First, remove the trim. We tried to save as much as we could, to reuse when we finish the basement. Our woodwork is easily replaced, so I'm not sure it's entirely worth the effort and having to save a bunch of boards in an already small basement, but oh well.

(This picture doesn't entirely capture how bad that green was. 
We have since painted it, as a temporary solution.)

Then, select straight studs. For this small opening, we needed five total. We measured the opening and  cut the boards accordingly. We couldn't get the 16" on center spread, so we spaced them pretty evenly- I forget the exact measurement. We laid everything out, then nailed it in place (two nails at each junction).

We tapped the frame into place with a hammer, working carefully. We measured how deep the frame set within the wall, to get as close as we could to the depth of the drywall. Then we nailed through the new frame into the existing framing.

We used regular drywall, although looking back I might have selected a specific product that our plastered recommended. I forget the name, but will try to track it down. It's a type of drywall that works best with plaster. But it's the same idea, and our regular drywall worked fine.We used drywall screws roughly every foot down the length of each stud.

Apply a plaster bonding agent to the drywall, and use a lightweight plaster. Spread it over the wall. We liked a product our plastered used- it sets in 20 minutes. That means you've got to work fast and will likely have a big a wasted material, but it sets much faster than some other products we used. Everyone has their own favorites, but we're happy with it.

After working for hours and hours and more hours to make the wall look good, we did eventually hire a plasterer to skim the wall. It took him no time at all, and the finished look is great. We use a bonding primer before painting over plaster. Not sure if that's always necessary, but that's what we're doing.

So there it is! In a nut shell, that's how we removed the doorway, with tremendous help from an experienced neighbor and our plasterer. While I mostly watched the framing process, it's absolutely doable.