Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Caring for antique fireplaces

Richard Billington an antique fireplace and mantelpiece expert working for Westland London gives advice on how to care for antique fireplaces;

Cracked or damaged cheek tiles
Many antique fireplaces have cheeks inset with patterned and painted tiles. If the damage is minor a small crack, for instance you can do a discreet repair by wiping some epoxy glue into the crack and allowing it to dry, then painting it with matching enamel paint if necessary.

Stripping paint from fireplace grates and surrounds
Often, old fireplace mantels and grates were painted over in an attempt to brighten or modernize. If the fireplace surround or grate is of cast iron, you can use a chemical paint stripper safely. Follow the package directions, then wash off any remains of the stripper with warm water. Treat the grate with rust remover, and polish with grate polish.

If the mantelpiece is of wood, use a solvent based stripper and avoid harsh alkalis. Wire wool and stiff brushes can make short work of removing old finish and paint and preparing the wood for new polish and finishing.

Take especial care with fireplaces that seem to be of marble or stone. Many antique fireplaces were finished with faux marble finishes created in paint and enamels by master crafters. Before you attack the job, start with a discreet, small area and the gentlest chemicals. Strip away a small area to be certain that you arent removing the finish itself. Be prepared with neutralizers to halt any damage before it gets too bad.

Cleaning antique fireplaces
The cleaning method used for antique fireplaces varies with the type of materials used in the construction of the fireplace. As noted in the section on stripping paint above, be aware that some marble fireplaces are actually enameled wood or slate. Clean gently until you are certain what you are dealing with.

Wooden antique fireplaces
Clean wooden mantelpieces and surrounds with quality wood cleaner and polish regularly to remove soot and smoke buildup.

Cast iron grates and antique fireplaces
Clean with methylated spirit and soft cloths, applying to a small area at a time and wiping until the cloths come away clean. Buff the grate using black lead or graphite grate polish, following package directions, or give it a thin coat of matte black stove paint and a coating of wax.

Slate fireplace surrounds
Clean smooth slate with a soft cloth and water with washing-up liquid. Be sure to wring the cloth well slate is porous enough to absorb excess fluids. You want to use a damp cloth, and then rinse with a damp cloth and clean water. When its dry, give it a good buff with a soft, dry cloth.

Clean up rough slate with a scrubbing brush and washing-up liquid, and rinse it thoroughly.

Cleaning marble antique fireplaces
Marble requires special care. Keep in mind that marble is porous, and will dissolve if exposed to acids. Wipe up any spills immediately with a soft cloth.

To clean marble, use a soft cloth with soap flakes dissolved in warm water. Wring the cloth well, and give the marble a good scrub, then wipe with a clean, damp cloth. Polish it up with a dry cloth, or use an oil-based marble finish.

Antique fireplaces dont require a lot of care, but if you tend to the few needs they do have regularly, theyll go on gleaming and accenting your home with their beauty for generations.

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