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My Salvaged Fireplace Mantle

First, thank you so much for all of the positive feedback in regards last weeks post Even though I have not been posting consistently, it makes my heart happy to know that you still care and like to read my blog.  In my last post, I forgot about my salvaged fireplace mantle that we installed in my office last year.  It was a project that required a little more patience and ingenuity than the norm, but the results were totally worth it.

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My husband owns a tree service, and sometimes he will use his bucket truck to help tear down a chimney when a house is getting demolished. Two years ago, when he was asked to remove a chimney, the demo company gave him permission to look thru the house first and take anything he wanted.  (You know I was more than happy to tag along.)  We removed 2 fireplace mantles, this one and a marble one, a few solid oak panel doors, a claw foot tub and a few old windows.

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Everything went into our storage unit, and I completely forgot about it. We use a wood burning stove to heat our home, and we didn’t need a mantle for it, so using the salvaged mantle in any other way never really occurred to me.

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Until one day I was flipping thru Architectural Digest while sitting at my kids Karate class.

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I already painted my office walls white and was wanting something to make the room a little extra special.  I was inspired by the white on white fireplace, remembered the one we saved and immediately called my husband to drag the ugly brown mantle out of our storage unit……perfect!

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Just use your imagination.

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I debated for a while if sanding off the peeling paint, then repainting over it would give me a nice finish or if stripping off the old finish would be a better option.   In the end, I decided to strip it, but to say I had second thoughts would be an understatement.

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Any time you plan to strip a piece, make sure you do it outside, wear proper gloves made for chemicals and always buy a little extra than what you think you need, because no one wants to run to the store for supplies right in the middle of a messy project.

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The product I used was a gel, and you brush it on, wait a while, then scrape it off.  Make sure to read the instructions, the length of time varies from product to product.

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It’s actually fascinating to watch, but not so much fun to scrape off.

The product I used was a gel, and you just brush it on, wait a while, then scrape it off. Sounds easy right? WRONG!

At this point I was extremely frustrated, there were multiple layers of paint on this fireplace mantle.  Brown, white, and a layer of black, which I think was either oil base paint, or a thick layer of residue from whatever the previous owners burned.  It was like tar.

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So gross right?! Does anyone else think it is ironic that someone who is constantly painting things is writing a post on removing it? Lol.

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I don’t remember how many coats of stripper I used to get to this stage. I just kept going until most of the wood was exposed.  It took me all day.

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Eventually, I sprayed the whole thing down with a de-greaser, and scrubbed it to death….I don’t normally recommend turning the garden hose on a project, especially when it is wood. But in this case, it was already warped, and I was desperate to get it finished.

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It was threatening rain all day, and I was able to get it done just in time.  I left it outside under a tarp for a day until some of the fumes evaporated.

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After bringing it inside, and I waited a few more days to make sure it was really dry before moving onto the next step, fixing the warping issue.  I couldn’t install this in my office if it wasn’t going to lay flush on the wall.

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The fireplace was warped and coming apart before I started stripping it, and it got much worse during the process. This is one reason why I second guess my choice of stripping over just sanding.  When you use as much stripper and chemicals as I did, some of the “glue” that hold the piece together is also going to be removed.

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This is where my husband came to my rescue.  Armed with wood glue, clamps, scrap wood, and a nail gun, he was able to solve all my warped fireplace mantle problems. 🙂

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He filled every gap with wood glue.

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He used pieces of scrap wood to help flatten out the mantle, then used a clamp to hold it in place.

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He did this all the way around the fireplace mantle.

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At the same time, he went around with the nail gun and nailed the edges and any other pieces that were separating.

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So much better.

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I then went around with wood filler and filled all of the holes and gaps.

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Once the filler was dry, I sanded the whole mantle with coarse sandpaper, to remove any old finish that was left.

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And started to apply my favorite primer, Sherwin Williams All Purpose Primer.  This is the point where you might be thinking, why strip it just to paint it again, EXACTLY!!!!!!  There was so much work involved with removing the paint, it would have been easier and cheaper to just sand well and paint over the existing finish.  However, so much of the paint was chipped, I am not confident that sanding alone would have been enough to get a smooth painted finish.  So I guess I am happy that I stripped it, because the paint job turned out fantastic, but I wish it was so much easier!

This is where I must go, I haven’t had time to shoot after pictures,  I have a Jujitsu tournament this weekend and I have been using most of my free time to prepare for it.  Next week I will share them, I promise!!

Wish me Luck!!

 

 

 

 

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