Fireplace Restoration Tips:Victorian & Marble Fireplaces

A working fireplace can make a practical and attractive feature in any home, so consider restoring any old fireplaces in your property – here’s how.

An original fireplace can form an attractive focal point in any room as well as provide a source of heat and light – perfect for cosy winter evenings. Original fireplaces are also a draw for potential home buyers and can add real value and aesthetic appeal to your home,  so if you have one in your property it’s worth spending the time restoring it; here are some tips to help you get started.

How to Restore a Fireplace

Firstly, it’s important with any home improvement project to ask for help if you’re not confident in tackling the work yourself – mistakes can be costly when you have to call in a professional to fix the mess you made. So, if you need help with your fireplace restoration, don’t hesitate to hire a fireplace restoration company to help.

If you do choose to take on a fireplace restoration project yourself, here are some steps to follow to get started on your project:

1) Do you have permission? You may need permission to restore your fireplace so contact your Local Building Authority for advice on this. Like any home improvement project, you’ll need to adhere to building regulations when carrying out fireplace restoration too.

2) Uncover your fireplace – most original fireplaces will have been altered over the years; they may have been painted multiple times, been blocked up or covered over with drywall in an attempt to prevent draughts. If your fireplace is completely covered up you’ll need to remove the drywall; hire a builder to do this if necessary.

3)  Structural safety – once you’ve uncovered your original fireplace, hire a surveyor or builder to establish how structurally sound the fireplace is and determine whether any work needs to be done to stabilise the fireplace and satisfy building regulations.

4) Connect the fireplace – make sure that the fireplace is properly connected to the chimney; it may have been blocked up or shut off over the years. You can test this by lighting a candle under the chimney to see if smoke is sucked up there – always consult a professional if you’re unsure whether the fireplace is connected to the chimney though. If it’s not connected you’ll need a professional to fix this for you.

5)  Look for damage – look over the fireplace for damage and work out what needs to be replaced and what can be repaired.

6)  Check the fireplace surround – the original surround may have been taken out, so you should replace it with materials as close as possible to the original fireplace design. Make sure that the new surround is the correct dimensions for the fireplace according to the size of the hearth; original fireplace surrounds can be found from salvage yards or websites.

7) Strip paint – your fireplace may have been repainted multiple times so it’s likely that you’ll need a paint stripper to get through the layers; be careful not to damage any material while you work. Sand down the surface well before repainting.

See how to remove paint here

8)  Restore tiles – once you’ve striped away paint it’s likely that you’ll find original tiles underneath. Restore tiles by cleaning them thoroughly and repairing cracks with glue, then fix the tiles back in place with tile product. Very badly damaged tiles may need to be professionally repaired and restored. If tiles are too damaged to be repaired, choose new tiles that match the original design or have some bespoke tiles made for you.

Victorian Fireplace Restoration

victorian-fireplace-restorationVictorian fireplace restoration is a popular home improvement project; many period properties still have their original decorative fireplaces intact but they may have been covered up or altered during refurbishment work or just left to deteriorate. If you’re restoring a Victorian fireplace there are a couple of additional points to note:

  • Most Victorian fireplaces had cast-iron surrounds so use this material if you need to replace or fit a new surround. Only use specialist paints on cast-iron and finish by polishing well.
  • Victorian fireplaces were usually decorated with hand-painted ceramic tiles so restore these where possible or fit some new ones designed in the appropriate style.
  • Wooden fireplaces were also popular in the Victorian era.  If you’re restoring a wooden victorian fireplace, start by removing paint and replace any rotted or cracked sections with new timber carved to match the original design; sand the wood down before repainting.

Marble Fireplace Restoration

Marble is a strong, long-lasting material which looks great on fireplace surrounds but if it hasn’t been looked after you’ll need to spend some time cleaning marble to restore it to its former glory.  Use a non-abrasive cleaning product, preferably one specially designed for use on marble. Follow the instructions provided bellow to restore your marble fireplace. 

Step 1 – Clean

You will need a piece of cloth, which shall be dampened in lukewarm water, and then used to wipe the surface completely. After mixing and making a batch of soapy water and surds in a pail. Dip the cloth in the soapy water, then start scouring the marble, in small concentric but overlapping movements. To prevent streaking on the marble, begin from the bottom and gently work your way upwards.

Step 2 – Rinse and Dry

To rinse and dry the fireplace, you have to make use of clear water, with another piece of cloth, and then rinse off the soap meticulously. Make sure you change the water frequently as it gets dirty during the rinse. This is to avoid leaving a film streak on the surface after this process. Use a clean dry absorbent cloth, like pure cotton fabric or a chamois or some other soft and absorbent cloth, to gently dry the surface.

Step 3 – Waxing

For this stage what you will need is a high quality brand of wax and something which is certainly non-yellowing. Brands like marble wax or bees wax even furniture paste wax are satisfactory. After making sure the surface is quite dry and clean. This will then be applied on the fireplace trim making use of a soft piece of cloth to smear and gently spread the wax moderately.

Allow to set, that is harden for about a quarter of an hour. Then using another cloth or an electric buffer, buff it until is gleaming.

Step 4 – Stain Removal with Paste

If perhaps it is a stained marble fireplace that is the problem, and not a dirty one. Then you can get rid of the stain by using a homemade stain removing paste. There are several varieties of stains and as well several types of pastes to use to remove them:

Dirt or Smudge stains – A mixture is made of a quantity of whiting (available in paint stores) and household bleach or a 6 percent hydrogen peroxide solution worked into a paste. A pound of this mixture is used to overlay a square foot of marble.

Smoke stains – A mixture of baking Soda and liquid laundry bleach worked into a paste should do the trick. Rust stains –A mixture of white with some rust removal jell worked into a paste has been known to work wonders. A burlap can be used to rub off the stains. Green stains – A paste made up of a mixture of whiting, ammonia and salammonica or table salt clears this.

Organic stains – A mixture of whiting with 20 percent hydrogen peroxide solution all worked into a paste will clear organic stains.

Oil, grease or fat stains – A paste made up of a mixture of whiting with acetone (please keep away from fire) or mineral spirits will sweep away the oil, grease or fats on the marble surface.

Step 5 – Apply the Paste

Preparation for application includes having your protective rubber gloves, making sure your surface is dry and ensuring there are no open fires nearby. Put on the rubber gloves, before you wet the surface with the liquid left over from making the stain removing paste. Then layer on a ½-inch smear of paste on the stain. Cover that layered place with a plastic wrap, or tarp and then make sure you tape the edge of the plastic wrap all around to the surface prevent the paste from drying.

Then wait 12 to 24 hours, to make for the stain removal process depending on the severity of the stain. Scrape off the paste afterwards with a damp wooden or plastic spatula. Please do not use a metal spatula to reduce the risk of scratching and disfiguring the marble surface

Go on to rinse with clear water. If the stain is not completely removed, then repeat the process. However If you’ve gotten rid of the stain, wipe the surface clean with a cloth and wax the marble accordingly.

Step 6 – Restoring the Lustre

If it’s the shine you’re looking to restore, then rub the marble down with tin oxide powder or aluminium oxide powder. Slightly dampen the clean marble surface, sprinkle the powder onto it in moderate proportion and then rub enthusiastically with overlapping concentric movements with a cloth or electric buffer. When you’ve restored the burnish, wipe down the surface down with a damp cloth, dry it, and wax to taste.

Fireplace Safety

All fireplace restoration work should be carried out in line with government building regulations, ask your Local Building Authority or a professional fireplace restoration company for further details. It’s also important to make sure that all working fireplaces are cleaned by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year to prevent chimney fires and blockages which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

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