Top Tips to Renovate a Cast Iron Fireplace

Introduction

Well-renovated cast iron fireplaces adds élan and elegance to the room. The effort behind doing a good job it is well worth the while and cost. Here are some tips on how to go about with the process.

Preparatory Works

Cast iron fireplace

At the onset, remove the fireplace from the wall, if possible. However, restoration work can be done effectively even with the fireplace attached to the wall. As a first step, put on protective sheeting, such as an old shower curtain or a plastic sheet, under the fireplace, as the restoration work can get messy.

Cleaning the Surface

The next step is to start the actual work. Strip off all existing paint and polish from the fireplace, and then scrub and clean it thoroughly. Make sure no residue of any paint, dirt, or grime remains on the surface. The best option is to use a paint stripper, such as Nitromors, for the purpose. Use a nylon paintbrush to apply the paint stripper, and scrub it off with a wooden or plastic scraper. It is likely the chemical stripper will not penetrate all the layers of old paint in one go, so it may be necessary to repeat the process multiple times. The fireplace is likely to have many hard-to-get-to corners, and many stubborn patches. A toothbrush or a stiff nylon brush makes for a handy accessory, to get to such awkward corners and remove stubborn patches. Avoid metal scrapers or wire brushes, to prevent the risk of scratching the surface. Cast iron is a brittle material vulnerable to cracks on experiencing high-temperature differentials, and as such do not use a blowtorch to remove the paint or grime. The old paint may contain lead, releasing toxic fumes, if burnt. Leave the stripper in place as long as possible, but not until it becomes completely dry. Wipe off the residue with a stripping knife and kitchen paper. Next, apply white spirit, using steel wool, to remove the remaining bits of stubborn old paint. Repeat the process of wiping with white spirit, until the surface is thoroughly clean. Finally, smooth down the surface using fine wire wool and a rust remover.

Painting or Polishing the Cast Iron Fireplace

Once the fireplace is completely stripped off all the old coatings, the two options are either to paint it or polish it. There are many choices of paint or polish. The best choice of polish is a stove and grate polish such as Liberon, Hotspot, or Stovax traditional black grate polish, best applied with a rag. Using WD40 gives a burnished look, and also seals the grate polish. If the fireplace is exposed to cold air, apply an additional layer of black lead or iron paste, for effective protection. If painting, apply a coat of red oxide as the first layer, to prevent rusting. Finally, after the coatings dry, apply the desired colour of paint.

Renovating a period cast iron fireplace as a DIY project takes much effort, but is hugely satisfying and rewarding. To get the best results for the effort, it is imperative to go about the work in a systematic way, adhering to the time-tested best practises.