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Renovation tips for your Victorian fireplace

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

With a little hard work, your fireplace can be good as new

With a little hard work, your fireplace can be good as new

A fireplace makes for a beautiful backdrop or focal point of any living space. Perhaps you?re lucky enough to have a working Victorian fireplace in your home. Or maybe you?ve recently discovered a sealed-up fireplace and you want to restore it to its former glory. Here are some general steps to take to renovate a Victorian fireplace.

Assess the condition

The Victorian Era was from 1837 to 1901, so fireplaces of this style can be quite old. Since the style was popular long after Queen Victoria died, it is essential to correctly date and assess the condition of the fireplace, including the chimney. Have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean the structure. Fix any issues first, since a questionable or unsafe chimney means a fire should not be considered in your fireplace.

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Clean it up

In older homes, the cast iron Victorian fireplace was often covered up with paint, brick, concrete or a mixture of all three as remodeling happened over the years. By removing the brick and concrete, you will get a better idea of the style of your fireplace. 

Removing paint is next. It is tedious, but can be done with a chemical paint stripper and elbow grease. There are a number of products on the market and some of them are very friendly to the environment. Once the stripper is applied, remove it and the dissolved paint with a scraper and paper towels. For removing paint from detailed areas, some people have reported using steel wool dipped in turpentine to remove the sticky paint.


With most of the paint gone, you might find the original encaustic tiles are still in place in the fireplace surround. The paint stripper will work on these tiles, too. Just be sure to use a plastic scraper on the tiles. Metal could scratch and damage them.

When stripping the paint, there are some damaging mistakes you want to avoid. It is important to know that a heat gun shouldn?t be used to strip the paint from an iron fireplace, as the sudden heat change can cause the iron to crack. Since you will use a stripper to avoid cracks, be sure not to rinse off the stripper with water, even if the manufacturer says you can. Water will rust the cast iron.

Polish, polish, polish

Now that you?ve removed all the paint or other debris, it?s time to give that cast iron a good polish with a polish specifically for cast iron. Begin with using turpentine to thoroughly wipe down all the areas and remove any remaining traces of old paint or dirt. Then apply a stove and grate polish, following the manufacturer?s directions. 

Solutions for potential problems

Sometimes, when you dig down deep enough in a project, you find that the best way to restore the fireplace is to replace parts ? or if it?s too far gone ? replace the entire fireplace. Fortunately, fireplace and mantel replacement parts are available. Not only will this give you peace of mind knowing that the fireplace will last for years, it also gives you the ability to customize the fireplace and surround with the style you prefer.

For instance, if the previous mantle was too big for the space, you can opt for something smaller. These are perfect for tight spaces or areas where you?d simply like to have a less imposing mantle. 

If your fireplace has tiles in the surround that are damaged, replace them instead of living with cracked, chipped or missing tiles. This also lets you match the color of the tiles to your d?cor. Add a new set of andirons, a grate or coal basket and you?re sure to be warm and snug all winter long. Protect your carpet or hardwood flooring from sparks with a beautiful Victorian screen and your renovation is complete!


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