Authoritative Answers, Fun, & Aloha -- no cost, no passwords, no popups
(as an eBay Partner & Amazon Affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases)

Home /
Site 🔍
pub     mobile?
Metal finishing Q&As since 1989


How to refinish cast iron and cast bronze fireplace surrounds

Q. I found this thread and have some good leads on cleaning my fireplace surround. My question is:

What type of metal is my fireplace insert/opening?


It is magnetic so I'm thinking cast iron, but then why do parts of it look brass/bronze?


Caleb Sarsot
- Salt Lake City
April 25, 2024

A. Hi Caleb.
It looks like there is noticeable rusting along the bottom, as additional reason to think it's ferrous material (iron or steel). But I suspect it's stamped and fabricated steel rather than cast iron. A view of the inside would clarify it --because if it's stamped, the protuberances on the front would be matched by indentations in the back; if it's cast, the inside and outside surfaces would be independent of each other.

Steel parts would be of thin material, probably 1/16" or less; cast iron would usually be much thicker and heavier, more like 1/4" thick, and over 100 pounds.

It appears to have an oil rubbed finish. There are some slightly different ways this can be done (you can search the site for "oil rubbed bronze"), but basically it was copper plated, then a blackening stain applied.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up sign Thanks Ted! I just checked the back and the stamping is consistent. I'd say it weighs about 30-40 lbs. And the thickness is slightly less than a quarter inch. Here's a picture of the inside.

8937-5a   8937-5b

There are markings that are "L5 4 24" across the top.

Caleb Sarsot
- Salt Lake City
April 25, 2024

A. Hi. Sorry, the markings don't mean anything to me, but it is doubtless steel stampings, and probably copper plated then blackened. Good luck with the restoration.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

⇩ Related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. I recently came across your fascinating home page,, and have a question that I am hoping you can answer. We would like to refinish the fireplace surround shown in the attached pictures.


It is cast-iron, made in the late 1800's. As you can see, it has a slight bronze finish on it already, which may be some sort of overlay, and is in poor condition. Overall, the piece measures 30"x20". We would like it to have a more rich bronze look to it, and possibly an overlying clear coat that can resist heat.

Any suggestions?


Adam Landsman
- Chicago, Illinois

A. Hi Adam,

If you want to do it yourself, let me know. If you can't find a job shop in the's directory that will do it, let me know. Have fun and good luck.

Jake Koch
G. J. Nikolas &Co.,Inc.
supporting advertiser
Bellwood, Illinois
nikolas banner ad

A. Hello. Last year I stripped paint from and refinished a cast iron fireplace and grille with a bronze finish. After stripping the paint, I used a very fine #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] to clean residue (the bronze is fragile) and then used dentil picks to clean the nooks and crannies. A good metal polish (I used Maas metal polish [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] ) really cleaned the bronze and when polished it looked great. Mine was made by Sharp & Sons in 1890. Like many I've seen with bronze accents, they are applied in "patches" and are circular in shape. I wouldn't try to do anything further than remove any rust or paint and let its natural finish shine through. I used a clear spray-on sealer from Rustoleum. They make products specifically for grills, ovens, stoves, etc. that are heat resistant. It make take a few trips to find a store that carries what you need. Good luck.

Aimee Hamby
- Neosho, Missouri

Multiple threads merged: please forgive chronology errors :-)

Patina for bright brass fireplace surround

Q. I have a bright brass (presumably lacquered) fireplace surround. I would like to create a patina finish. As it is obviously subjected to high heat, is there a particular product or process you would recommend?

Theresa Mooney
- Christina Lake, BC, Canada

Q. Looking for a chemical that will allow a slight to moderate change to the brass fireplace finish- making it antique brass. The surround is solid brass with a coating, I believe.

thank you

Carolynn F Sasso
homeowner - Neshanic Station, New Jersey, United States

A. Brass tarnishes, so if it is still shiny it is because it is coated. Hopefully the coating is brass lacquer which can be removed with lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)]. Then the brass will slowly tarnish as you probably wish over time. If you have solid brass, you can apply a brass darkening solution [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)], but the manufacturers don't recommend it for plated brass. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

"Raven Black Stove Polish"
on eBay or


(affil links)

Q. I have just sandblasted a wrought iron (cast-iron) fireplace surround. It looks great but I was a little surprised at the result, a very matte grey. I plan to finish the surround with "Williams" black semi-paste stove polish [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] ] to give it the black lustrous finish I am looking for. (It's made from graphite and carbon black pigment). Is this polish considered a primer, does it replace the primer, or should I prime, then stove polish black? If I need to buy a primer is it readily available?

Thanks very much.

Andrew B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Jersey City, New Jersey.

A. I just dropped by their website, it says to only apply their product to UNPROTECTED surfaces to allow for good penetration. So slather it on without primer you might want to take some rough grade steel wool [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] to it first to make sure that there is no residual oxidation on it.

Marc Banks
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina

A. Right, Marc. Stove polish is an alternative to paint; it's neither a primer nor a finish coat, closer to a wax :-)

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I have beautiful brass fireplace doors and and changed my decor in the room that I want to tone it down or make it a rustic look. Is this possible or will I have to replace them?

Susan Lapour
Retired - Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

A. Hi Susan,
If they are real brass (solid brass), then brass darkening solution [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] is probably what you'll want. If they are brass plated steel (test with a magnet), the brass darkening solution approach is less assured.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I am a homeowner who is tired of looking at my dated brass-plated fireplace insert. There is nothing wrong with the insert other than the outdated look hence my desire to refinish it as opposed to replace it. This is a gas fireplace that has rarely been used since gas prices have risen so high but I can't rule out future use of the fireplace. Is it possible to refinish this surface so that it will have an updated look and still be fireplace friendly? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Kay Bammert
Consumer - Marquette, Michigan

A. Hi Kay. Fashion comes and goes and I'm slow. Give me a clue what you would consider an 'updated look' and we can talk about how to get there :-)

Luck & Regards,

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I have a large piece of hot rolled steel I intend to use as a fireplace surround. After fabricating, there are greasy fingerprints and smudges along the edges / sides that I haven't been able to remove. we used lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)], which cleaned it up nicely, except for the greasy smudges. I intend to put a clear-coat finish after I get it cleaned. Please advise.

Anne Larson
- Victor Idaho
November 18, 2012

Powdered Pumice
eBay or


(affil links)

A. Hi Anne.

Powdered pumice [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] in water, with a bit of detergent and a scrub brush [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] is the safe and sure way. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Problem refinishing cast iron fireplace surround

Q. I'm stripping and polishing a cast iron fireplace surround from the late 1800's in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Some of the underlying finish is irregular, shiny and brown compared to the rest. Is it a variation in the cast iron itself? No amount of grinding with a drill-mounted wire brush seems to change it at all. Thanks for your help.

8937-2a   8937-2b

Carolyn Rogers
DIY restorer - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
October 19, 2019

Q. Hey there, my name is Michael and I am an avid woodwork and furniture maker.

I have read several of the comments / feedback to folks at I do a fair amount of woodworking and understand finishes for wood but I am not as educated when it comes to metals. I am building a new fireplace in our 1907 house and using an 1895 historic metal surround for a water vapor fireplace. The water vapor fireplace module produces a very realistic flame. This fireplace produces vapor just as a ultrasonic vaporizer does. Because of this minimal vapor I want to ensure that I protect the surround from rusting while keeping the beautiful patina and matte finish. Several of the finishing options look like they add a shine to the finish, which I am trying to avoid.

I was impressed with your level of knowledge and detail in all your comments.

8937-3a   8937-3b   8937-3c   8937-3d  

I was hoping that someone could offer some advice on how to seal this from the moisture while accommodating for some heat. Is does not get nearly as hot as a regular fireplace as there will be an electric heater install in the roof of the fireplace and that will blow out the front under the protruding lip.

I greatly appreciate your opinion on this project and thank you for any insight you can give.

Respectfully written,

Michael Johnson
- Chicago, Illinois
December 9, 2020

A. Hi Michael. Your fireplace surround looks like it's cast brass rather than cast iron. You probably should check it with a magnet because it's important to know.

Assuming it is brass, I would suggest trying #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] dry and also wet with Bon Ami [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] on the back to get a feel for what happens, so you can be more confident about cleaning corroded or discolored areas of the front if necessary without removing the patina you like. I don't know that it's necessary, but there is also bronze wool [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] available, to prevent any steel particles from embedding and rusting. You may find that you can clean it without losing any of the look.

Assuming it is brass, I don't think I'd coat it at all. But let's see if anyone else has comments first :-)

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

(No "dead threads" here! If this page isn't currently on the Hotline your Q, A, or Comment will restore it)

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread -or- Start a NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
& Software

About/Contact  -  Privacy Policy  -  ©1995-2024, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA  -  about "affil links"