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Old Coal Fireplace

We have an old coal fireplace in house and want to open it up.  It is very smutty inside and would like to remove some bricks and resurface or clean up the existing bricks and maybe add gas logs or just decorative non-burning logs...what is the least expensive way to do this without having to call a brick mason?

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Posted 2012-07-23T14:30:51+0000  by Mary_Burch Mary_Burch


Hello Mary_Burch and thank you for joining our How-to-Community.


Mary how smutty is that smutty fireplace?


I'm asking because I think your least expensive option would be cleaning it.


Did you try using TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)?


If you didn’t, than you should try it. You don’t need much to start. A bucket, rubber gloves, stiff nylon brush and some TSP should do it. You will need some old clothes too, ideally something with long sleeves so it can protect your skin from TSP.TSP are caustic and can burn skin and eyes, protect yourself.

You should also protect your floors too by putting down some plastic drop cloth.


Another option is to seek for the good sandblasting company. Yes it can be done inside. Depending on the type of brick (texture) sometimes they can restore it to almost its original condition.


You mention you'd like to replace some bricks ...may I ask why? Keep in mind you may not be able to find the same brick again.


Last option... if the old brick cannot be cleaned to your satisfaction and you're 100% positive you won’t be using it again as a wood burning fireplace than you also have an option of "gluing" a thin brick veneer over the old brick.


Hope this helps,








Posted 2012-07-23T18:36:52+0000  by George_HD_CHI

Good advice, thanks!

Posted 2012-07-23T19:10:38+0000  by Mary_Burch

One other question -- if we need to remove some of the bricks to make it a little larger to accomodate gas logs or just some decorative logs (not to burn), can we just chip some of them out to make it the size we want?  Will it be necessary to seal or put some type of mortar back in places to be sure its sealed tight in between all the bricks?

Posted 2012-07-23T19:15:52+0000  by Mary_Burch



Do you have any kind of appliance connected to the chimney that same fireplace is connected to?

Reason I’m asking is because it is common for furnace or water heater to exhaust thru the chimney and if you were to chip some of the bricks (firebox) I’m afraid you could open up a passage for the exhaust fumes to travel inside the house.





Posted 2012-07-23T20:01:41+0000  by George_HD_CHI

No, nothing else is connected to this fireplace.  Another old coal fireplace adjoins this fireplace in another room, but we don't use that fireplace.

Posted 2012-07-24T20:05:09+0000  by Mary_Burch

Well if you don’t intending on using it and nothing else is connected to it I suppose you could remove some of the side firebox  bricks  to fit in the insert.


But to be definite …do you think you can post a picture of it here? Is it that narrow?


I’m thinking missing bricks may be an issue if you ever plan on marketing your house in the future…


I would opt for a different solution.



Posted 2012-07-24T20:20:18+0000  by George_HD_CHI
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