Restoring a Cast Iron Fireplace

Our house has been stripped off all its original features – shocking, I know. But not uncommon in many period homes these days. There was a trend many years back to remove features such as cornice, ceiling roses and fireplaces in favour of new, more modern interiors. I saved this fireplace from a skip. It came from a small victorian cottage and was original, so I knew it would suit the front room of our house. It possibly might have been easier to get it dipped or sandblasted, but we are on a really tight budget on this renovation, so I decided to try restoring it myself. It was straight forward enough and all you really need is a few products, your time and a bit of elbow grease!


Over the years this fireplace has received several coats of black paint. So much so, a lot of the detail was lost on it. It might have looked fine, but I knew underneath the paint there was a lot more detail to be found. If your fireplace is in situ, the make sure you have plenty of plastic to hand and are not to precious about the wall paint, as this is kinda messy! 

You can make out some detail but it really wasn’t that clear. I did a lot of research online and eventually through a work colleague was recommended a product called Peelaway 1.

Unfortunately this product wasn’t available in Ireland, so I went online and had it shipped in from a company called Wood Finishes Direct. I ordered the 5kg tub, which was plenty for what I required. Top tip if you are ordering from Ireland, use Parcel Motel to have it delivered as it will work out much cheaper. When it arrived, I followed the instructions on the tub. Wear heavy duty gloves cause this stuff can burn!!

Clean down the fireplace and use the spatula to put a layer of paste over your fireplace. Ensure all the fireplace is covered. I worked outside, as the fireplace had not been fitted in our living room. Try to ensure that you spread the paste as evenly as possible. Next use the paper provided and cover the putty on the fireplace.

Place it writing side out and smooth it over with your hands or a sponge, making sure there are no air bubbles if possible. The air bubbles can stop the product from doing it’s job, so spend a bit of time on this. Use a scissors to cut the paper to the shape you require so as not to waste anything.

When you have the entire fireplace covered, leave it for 48 hours. As this fireplace was outside, I covered it with heavy duty plastic. I actually left it for a bit longer, but the white paper should turn a colour like this…..

It looks disgusting but if the paper turns this colour it means it is doing its job. Then comes the really exciting bit. Wearing gloves, peel away the paper. In some places it will leave a sticky glue type substance, which you can scrape away using the plastic spatula. In other places like the areas with a lot of detail, the layers of paint should come away with the paper. It’s like magic.

Once you have removed all of the paper and scraped off the remaining putty, give the fireplace a wipe down with a damp cloth until it is clean. You can then use the neutraliser you got with the putty to clean it down.

Unfortunately in my case, some bright spark must have plastered a wall over the fireplace years ago so there was plaster lodged into a few areas of the fireplace. I used a small screwdriver to remove this, which took ages. I had to be really careful, because cast iron can break or crack if any force is used on it. They are more fragile than they look.

This was worth the effort in the end. I didn’t take every piece out as I was happy with the fireplace not looking 100% brand new. At this stage I used a wire brush to clean it down and gave it a light sand with some sand paper.

Now that the fireplace was paint free and clean, it was time to apply a polish to it. There were lots of differing opinions as to what to use at this stage when I researched online. How you choose to finish your fireplace should depend on how you are going to use it in your room. If it is decorative you could use a paint spray, or paint it again. I used a product called Zebraline, which I purchased in my local hardware shop. We intend on lighting fires in the fireplace, so knew this was safe as I have used it before.

You could research a fire resistant spray paint either. I just did not have the heart to paint it again, given all the work I invested in stripping paint off.

I used an old toothbrush to apply the paste to the detailed areas and a soft cloth on the other parts. This takes a while, so stick in the headphones and keep with it. Once a layer of polish was added, I left it for about 20 minutes. I then rubbed the entire fireplace down with a clean, cotton cloth. This takes away any excess polish and gives it a little bit of shine.

You will start to see a difference straight away. The detail becomes much more obvious. I spent a few evenings doing this, section by section. It is really rewarding as you see progress immediately.

When you are done covering the fireplace in polish, leave it for a few hours and then rub it down with a soft clean dry cloth. This removes any excess polish and gives it a nice shine. Then stand back and admire your hard work!

I can’t wait to fit this fireplace into our living room when it gets plastered and see a big log fire burning in it. I have to purchase a slate hearth for it, so am on the hunt for one. I will post some photos when it is in situ in it’s new home. I am really glad I could rescue such a beautiful fireplace from a skip. It now has plenty more years to give, in it’s new victorian home.


I hope you find this post useful. Let me know if you have have any other tips or advice when you did your own Cast Iron Fireplace Restoration.

A Recap On Things You Need:

Peelaway 1 – 5KG Tub
Rubber Gloves
Wire Brush
Time & Patience

Best of luck with your project and thanks for reading 🙂

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