Yesterday we finished stripping paint from the fireplace. With no decent light for photos, I didn't post any. So here are a few shots of the finished brickwork:
I checked out Carrie's post about sealing brick and Wendy & Alex's post on repointing. Crumbling is minimal. There is one crack, above the opening. We've decided against repointing at this time. We may revisit that later, or may seal the brick and mortar to prevent further crumbling. Whichever way we go, I know these posts will come in handy.
If you are considering doing this project yourself, I would definitely recommend it. Find some links here and check out those links above. These other blogs have lots of great tips, and gave me a good idea of what I was getting into.
You may remember when we started this project, the first step was softening the first layers of paint with heat guns, and scraping away the gummy residue as much as we could. That took care of roughly three layers (white, red and tan), revealing the first layer of butter colored paint on the brick.
The second (and sometimes third, fourth, fifth...) pass was made by applying chemical stripper, allowing the recommended wait-time, and scrubbing the residue off with wire brushes and steel wool soaked in mineral spirits.
When I figured I removed as much as I possibly could, I walked away. When I came back, I could see the progress. I took some sand paper the a few places where paint still adhered to the mortar, which was much easier than getting the chemicals and brushes back out.
The smell was awful, of course. This is totally a summer project. You'll want the windows open as much as possible. You may also want to consider odorless mineral spirits.
We had to protect the floor from the stripper, and the residue sprayed about while brushing against the brick. We started with a few strips of painter's tape.
Then, metal duct-work tape. I admit that I felt like a big genius for thinking of it. I used paper bags instead of regular rolls of paper to protect the floor. The "puffiness" of the bags kept the wet paper from resting against the floor while it dried. This system worked great, and the floor was not damaged. Plus, I over-save these bags, so we have dozens of them available.
So there it is! The gray brick is really growing on me. It's going to steer our decision on a wall color for this room. I'm thinking something pale- either a taupe, or some other off-white color.
On this side of the project, my two cents is that every one's fireplace is different. For example, the heat guns saved us tons of time, but were completely ineffective for others. I get the same impression when I compare stories with other bloggers on stripping paint from woodwork. So try different methods, and figure out what works best for you. And blog about it. And post pictures. So many pictures :)