Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Light My Fire: Part Two

If you remember last week I showed you the nifty cleaning trick I had found on Pinterest for cleaning the exterior brick on our fireplace. It really did a good job in removing the baked on soot. Now that the outside was feeling clean, it was time for me to tackle the inside, and boy is this part a hot mess.

We're about to get close and personal with the dirty, sooty insert, so make sure you've got your gloves and painters jeans on!

The first step I took in cleaning out  this little nook was removing the log holder and using a small wire brush-- much like a toothbrush. I scraped it down the facade and into the crevices of the mortar to make sure all of the loose dirt and chunks were removed. Make sure you're wearing a mask when doing this job. You don't want to breathe any of that stuff in!

The fireplace had a previous patch job to repair some of the crumbling mortar, but it was not holding very well. In fact, it was peeling right off of the brick. This leads me to believe that they did not use a high temperature rated filler. I scraped and chipped all of these loose crumbly patches off the brick, and did a quick sweep with the little dust broom included in the fireplace kit.

Unfortunately, sweeping didn't seem to get a lot of the soot or dust that remained in the fireplace. After thinking about it for a few minutes, and then some heavy inner debate, I broke out my Dyson and used the wand with brush attachment to suck up all of the dust and little pieces. My vacuum was due for a good cleaning anyway, and this would give me good motivation to get on it!

After scraping away the crumbling pieces of mortar and patch, you can really see how bad of a shape this thing is. That's where the next step comes in: patching.

I made a trip down to our local Ace Hardware before the weekend, and took advantage of a $5 coupon I had received during one of their previous promotions. I love to save a buck (especially when it comes to repairing stuff like this in a place that we rent), and five of them can go a long way. That's like a free can of spray paint! After talking with the friendly staff there, they were awesome in helping me choose the tools and products that I would need for the job. I went with a black furnace cement mixture and a 6-in-one scraping tool that had a hook on the end. I also purchased the wire toothbrushes mentioned above from them. After my coupon, I only spent about $7 out of pocket.

Now the directions on the tub of cement say to stir the mixture, and dampen the surface of the brick you intend to apply it to. I  broke out an old hand towel, a bucket of warm water, and a paint stick. The consistency of the furnace cement is pretty thick. Almost like a black peanut butter. I used my paint stick to make sure it was mixed well, and then used the same 6-in-one tool that I had used to scrape the old mortar from the cracks to help fill them. That tool was a great investment since I could use it as a putty knife to apply the cement. Working my way around the fireplace walls and eventually to the floor, I filled the cracks and scraped the seams clean and even.

The hardest part was definitely the ledge where the brick meets the tile on the floor. Here, there were huge chunks of mortar missing in this area, and it also has a slight incline that creates a smooth transition from tile to brick. After I patched and smoothed everything out as best as I could with my tool, I also used a damp finger to smooth out any rough edges and harsh lines.

Now that the mortar is patched, the container says that it will need to be cured at 500 degrees. The cement is sandable after that step should you choose to do it. At the moment, I haven't any idea as to how I can cure my patch work since the fireplace is still inoperable at this point. After looking up the chimney, I can see lots of soot clinging to the walls, and this will have to be cleaned out before we can even consider using the hearth as it is a huge fire hazard. The soot trap will also need to be cleaned out.

Until then, I am extremely happy with how better everything is already starting to look. I can almost imagine how great it will look once I get the inside painted with a high temperature paint rated for the fireplace.

Until then, I still have the right side of the exterior to clean, as you can see from the picture above. I'll get on it... eventually. :)

Here's what our "To Do" list is looking like for this project:

Scrub the right side of the exterior hearth
Find a way to cure the furnace cement
Inquire about a chimney sweep service
Clean the soot trap (into basement)
Paint the inner hearth
Repair, prime, and paint the hearth log holder.
Paint the "door knob" that operates the flue-- perhaps an ORB to better blend with the hardware

Slowly but surely we'll get this thing going. Until the next update, does anyone have advice on whether or not I have to wait until the cement is cured before applying paint? I don't foresee sanding being a necessity since I pretty much got everything smooth. Any help is appreciated!

Have any big projects you've completed lately? Anyone else looking forward to a warm crackling fire this winter? I can't wait to see how picturesque it will be at Christmas. We've never had a fireplace before, so this is very exciting to us!

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