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Brick restoration

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

What do you get when you mix a 92-year-old fireplace, what looked to be roughly 4 layers of caked-on paint, and a non-toxic paint stripper strong enough for masonry?

You get a month-long project. I repeat. A month. Maybe something to add to the equation is that we are two full-time working individuals, but hey, we did what we could. And we learned a lot.

We are not renovation professionals, and some of this many of you may laugh at, but when we ordered Peel Away 7 to restore our brick fireplace, we really thought it would only take the weekend to get done.

Go on, laugh. I'll wait.

After a lot of Google research on paint stripping, especially in a home that was built before 1978 in Florida, we knew that regardless of how we removed the paint, we would assume it could be "lead-based" and proceed with caution. I.e. goggles, wetting the area before any sanding, complete surface coverings and skin protection worn. We didn't have our fireplace professionally tested for lead, so this was our course of action.

When we found Peel Away 7 by Dumond Chemicals, we got really excited, and an urban fireplace inside our home wasn't too far away. Peel away 7 is a solvent-based, non-toxic lead paint removal system that can be used as a heavy-duty paint stripper on virtually all interior and exterior surfaces.

Again, we aren't professionals, but with some safety and determination (and reading carefully the steps below that we took and failed to take that we wish we did lol), you'll feel like a master restorer in no time.

Now first, our before photo.

Let's begin.

1. Prep your fireplace, and apply the stripper paste and laminate paper

After removing the mantel and fireplace screen, Matthew started by applying the paste to the fireplace. The kit includes the laminate paper to be placed over the applied paste, as well as a mortar-like spreader to complete the job.

The key is to get all air bubbles out, like placing a decal on your car, so that the system has enough time before drying to soak into some very porous brick.

2. Wait 12 to 48 hours depending on the surface area of your project!

I mean there is really no description here and it's agonizing.

3. Scrape it all off

Do you get satisfaction from peeling sunburn or popping a zit? This is kinda like that.

Using a flat-edged tool, carefully peel the paper off of the surface, using the tool to pull off the paste that has now turned into like, a wet-paint paperish-consisitency, along with it.

* here is what we did not do - and learned the hard way *

After scraping off all of the paper and paste on the fireplace, and spraying with water and wiping with a wet rag about half of the brick and mortar of the fireplace, I cleared Matthew for trivia night with the boys and I turned on the Bachelor. Read that sentence again.

We only wiped clean half of the fireplace. The rest? It hardened. Scraping isn't enough before you take a break, so make sure to wipe clean as you scrape, and if you've removed all of the laminate paper, don't take a break until you've gotten the paste off. The cliff notes version is, work in small areas from project start to finish (luckily ours wasn't a huge project to begin with).

We had some remaining Peel Away 7 in our container, and I applied that to the hardened sections to reactivate the paint stripper paste that remained.

4. Clean bricky by brick

Depending on how old your brick is, the immediate results may not be perfect. To remove the small spots of paint/hardened paste left behind, Matthew use a brush head on his drill, and sanded each brick as clean as it could come.

5. Refinish if needed

Your brick might need some new mortar, or easier, mortar caulk. We decided to keep it very simple, and brighten up the mortar with paint that was similar in color.

Peel Away 7 will also come with a packet of Citri-Lize, a neutralizer that can be used to balance the pH of the brick post-restoration. I've read that this step isn't necessary, but since our fireplace was indoors, we decided it could hurt (don't need our cats licking acid off a fireplace ya know...)

Voila! Quite the process, but worth it. New white walls, hearth tile and a beam mantel will complete this space's look. I'll make sure to share the final update once it's all finished.

Let me know if you give Peel Away 7 a try!

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