How to bring a neglected Victorian fireplace back to life

How to bring a neglected Victorian fireplace back to life

Victoria Fitz-Gerald – @fixing_up_58 

Having completely gutted and transformed our Victorian London terrace along with my wood-working extraordinaire husband (“Mr-58”) we consider ourselves highly experienced DiY-ers. I document our progress alongside publishing step-by-step tutorials on my social media profiles, utilising various #gifted products along the way. I have a love for the old and a passion for reusing and recycling wherever we can, whilst making savings along the way, then sharing those ideas.

That’s why it’s great to work with products like Dulux and Hammerite, the metal cans of which can easily stored for another day or, if empty, easily recycled.

This is one of those jobs that I stupidly put off for far too long… but actually it made the world of difference once it was finished, and it really didn’t require THAT much work. So go on, bring your fireplace back to life just as easily as I did! I did two fireplaces at the same time, so you’ll see two examples as well as the befores and afters… 

Here’s what we used… 

And here’s how we did it… 

STEP 1: Prepare the fireplace 

As you’ll see from the photos our fireplace spruce up was as part of a total redecoration of the room, so I’d be sure to have the walls, woodwork and paintwork surrounding the fireplace finished at the point of tending to your fireplace. We also decided to carpet over the slate hearth… it might seem a little criminal, but it was ten times more practical with a little one, and the hearth was in dreadful condition. So accounting for all of that there are two before versions for our bedroom… 

STEP 2: Fill the holes in the fireplace

Now, zoomed out the above photo may not look too bad, but looking more closely you’ll see there is tissue stuffed into some significant holes in the fireplace, and it is splattered in plaster, rust and paint… The hole wasn’t that big, but a HEAP of dust and chimney mess came out once the tissue was removed as pictured. Filling those holes is essential, and so is protecting your flooring – so get a good dust sheet at the ready. 

victorian fireplace before picture

For the filling we used a combination of products. First, a general-purpose filler in the big holes. Second, a good bit of caulk to fill cracks and coat over the filler. This worked an absolute charm for getting a smoother finish. It’s great because you can paint straight over it and get brilliant coverage.

clean your fireplace first

We used a hot cloth to soak off mess like plaster and any splatters of paint that would come off. The front part of cast iron fireplaces tend to lift out, which really helps you paint in all the nooks and crannies. 

Even if you don’t need to fill any holes make sure you generally clean up all the parts of the fireplace in preparation of painting it. Then ensure the caulk and the whole fireplace is fully dry, and get ready to paint… 

do it with cans - hammerite metal paint

Step 3

The final step in terms of preparation is an absolute must-do… stick masking tape at the bottom of the fireplace where it meets any flooring (tuck it underneath if you can), in our case it was brand new carpet in both bedrooms so they needed properly protecting. The dust sheet can then go on top of the tape, which will protect those bottom parts of the fireplace really nicely.  

Give your Hammerite direct to rust metal paint a good stir and use a small paintbrush to help you get right into the detail. The great thing about this paint is it doesn’t require any primer, and you can paint over all the rust, safe in the knowledge that it will seal the fireplace and you’ll get a lovely smooth finish. 

Apply two coats of the paint, leaving to dry in between as per the instructions on the tin. 

before and after victorian fireplace

HOW satisfying is that?!

STEP 4: Clean up and paint the fire surround

cleaning the other fireplace

For the bigger fireplace we only needed to do some touching up on the paint work, but the smaller fireplace required completely stripping (we used a product called kling strip, a scraper and lots of sandpaper, plus some filling). 

Once you’ve prepared the surround you’ll need to prime it with Dulux wood primer. This is a one coater – my favourite! 

STEP 5: Final steps 

Then, you need to finish it with two coats of Dulux wood paint, leaving the instructed amount of time in between coats for it to dry. I used a paint brush and still managed to get a lovely streak free finish. 

painting fireplace

STEP 6: Dress your fireplace

In terms of dressing Victorian Fireplaces, I always enjoy candles or faux flowers in the grill, but for a children’s nursery you can’t go wrong with a stuffed animal…  

dress your fireplace