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Refacing or restoring a fireplace

QuestionThe floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace in my living room was painted white by previous homeowners. The paint is chipped and stained, and I want to explore my options for refinishing it. I would love to get back to the original brick but understand that it would take a major sandblasting job. Would something else work, for example, covering it with colored cement or stucco? Any suggestions?

AnswerYou could reface the fireplace in stucco, veneer brick, or even tile; however, those products would require a good bonding surface, which means that you would need to get back to the original brick surface.

Sandblasting would be one way to remove the paint to reach the original surface, but I recommend that you first use a stripping product and then sandblast. However, if you are going to do this much work, then I suggest that you actually work toward a restoration of the original brick surface first. If, when you reach it, you are not pleased with what you see, then you can apply an alternative building product to reface the fireplace.

Today's user-friendly stripping products will help to soften the layers of paint so you can scrape them off using a 3- or 4-inch taping knife. Before you use the taping knife, however, round the outside corners on a grinder or with a file to prevent the knife from digging into the brick's surface. When you reach the point where you can’t scrape off any more paint, then it’s time for sandblasting.

Sandblasting is not that difficult. You can rent the equipment from a rental yard including purchasing the sand. Be sure to get a large compressor. If your vehicle has a trailer hitch, you can pick it up yourself; otherwise, have them deliver it.

When sandblasting, it's important to wear full-body protective clothing, including head and hands, face protection, and a mask. You will need to enclose the work area with at least 6-mil plastic that will hang from ceiling to floor including covering the floor as well.

First practice outside on similar bricks (which have also had the paint stripped from them) to get a feel for the gun, i.e., how close to bring the gun to the surface. When you feel comfortable with it, bring the air hose indoors through a window or door (hopefully in the same work area) and begin with one small section at a time, working from the top toward the bottom. Be careful not to spray toward the plastic as the force alone will take the plastic down from the ceiling. I know you can do it—good luck and let me know how it turns out!

Copyright © 2001 & 2005 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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