Restoring a brick fireplace is within most homeowners' capabilities, if they have the proper materials and preparation. Most often, the restoration is in three areas: soot removal, broken bricks and/or cracked mortar. Wear and tear over a period of years causes all these, and proper sealing can prevent damage after the restoration of the fireplace. Making these repairs will add beauty and value to any home. Let a masonry or chimney sweep contractor handle more extensive restorations, especially those of a structural nature, to ensure safety.
Clean the area completely with a wire brush and water to remove all surface dirt. Using a thick paste made of equal parts dish liquid and table salt, cover the soot-covered brick and mortar. Work the paste into the surface with small circular strokes. After drying for 10 minutes, scrub away the paste with the wire brush and more water and wipe clean with a towel.
Thoroughly examine the fireplace and evaluate the type of restoration necessary. If the only problem is cracked or missing mortar, it is a simple tuck-pointing job. However, if a brick is cracked, chipped or broken, the repair will include both a brick replacement and mortar repair.
Use a masonry chisel and hammer to remove any loose mortar. For tuck-pointing only, remove the broken mortar to a depth of at least 18 mm (3/4 inch). When replacing a brick, remove all of the mortar surrounding the broken brick.
Mix the mortar per package directions. For tuck-pointing, apply the mortar to the seam with a trowel and contour with the end of the trowel handle. When replacing a brick, apply mortar to all sides of the brick, except those that face out. Firmly place the brick, remove excess mortar with the trowel and contour the seams with the end of the trowel handle. Check for level using the bubble level.
Apply sealant to the entire surface according to manufacturer's instructions, once the mortar is fully cured.