It’s unavoidable that the finish on an oak fireplace may cling to grime and smoke. The finish becomes irreparably cluttered, dries out, cracks and flakes away. As awful as it may seem, It’s not the end of the world. Don’t even think about spending hours using a sanding block in your own hand. It’s not hard to strip oak fireplaces using chemical strippers. With a minimum of sanding, your fireplace is ready for staining and finishing.
Never Reduce the List
Collect a few supplies and tools before stripping. A drop cloth is on top of the list — you will be creating a mess. Set safety glasses and rubber gloves on the list next. It’s also a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and a hat. Insert masking tape for the walls, or anyplace else required to shield areas you don’t need stripped. Get an assortment of paintbrushes for the stripper, and a few little wire brushes along with an old toothbrush for inside cracks. Collect some arbitrary flat sticks for complete removal, a putty knife, a few small screwdrivers and assorted dowels and sandpaper. Add rags, steel wool, a bucket for cleanup to the list. And remember to douse dirty rags with water to avoid spontaneous combustion before disposing of them.
Nothing matches the efficiency of chemical strippers for removing old finishes. They work to soften the finish into a gel which you may scrape off easily. Dip a paintbrush to an open can of stripper and brush it straight onto the old finish. If the fireplace is simple and plain, brush it on like paint. When it’s carved or thorough with moldings, work the stripper to the details using the brush. Allow a few minutes for the stripper to perform its work and use sticks or flat tools to scrape on the gelled finish away. Use pointed sticks, brushes or coarse-grit steel wool to find the gelled finish out of tight spaces and corners, and interior carvings, dips or profile lines. After the finish is gone, sand everything together with 100-grit sandpaper. Roll the sandpaper around dowels to sand inside curved spots or dips. Fold the sandpaper into thirds and use the sharp edge to sand interior corners and edges.
Oil stain is actually the best choice for oak fireplaces. Oil stain penetrates deep to pull out grain lines from oak. It requires drying times of around 72 hours, but it’s worth it. Oil stain additionally provides suppleness to older wood, deep-feeding it to avoid splits and cracks. It’s typically available in three colours: light, light and dark. If you’re not certain what colour you need, apply stain samples into concealed corners, then at the foundation or under the mantel where it’s not highly visible, to confirm the shade and make your selection. Some of the popular oil stains are marketed as Danish oil, which is what you’re looking for.
Sponge, Wipe, Repeat
Start by dipping a staining sponge to an open can of stain. Liberally apply a wet coat of stain into the oak fireplace. Smash the sponge against seams, scrolls or lines to deposit the stain to tight spaces. When what is wet, immediately wipe off the stain using a dry cloth. If the stain starts to dry until you get everything wet, stop applying stain and start wiping it away. Oil stain will darken using repeated applications. If you would like a darker shade after you finish, apply another coat and permit it to remain on the timber for a lengthier period of time to darken it. If still not dark enough, repeat the process. When one section is complete, start the stain application again. It’s nice if it overlaps the previously stained place.
Finish Things Off
Nothing works better than lacquer for interior finishing. Back in the day, most mantels were finished with shellac or varnish. That was fine back then, but they take too much time to dry and never get as hard as lacquer. Spray on a single first coat of lacquer. After the lacquer is dry, then sand everything with 180-grit sandpaper. Spray on a single or two layers to seal and protect your investment.