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How to reopen sealed fireplaces?

I just joined this forum so I could pose this question of the community. I've been looking everywhere and so far haven't found any good info, so here goes hoping you guys can help.

I own a circa 1900 wood frame home in Church Hill, an Old & Historic District located in Richmond, Virginia. A lot of renovation work has been done to houses in the neighborhood over the last decade or two, but I've noticed that most people skip over the fireplaces. Ours are completely sealed off, and I've noticed that a ton of other houses have the same situation (whether "flipped" or owner renovated). How do we reopen the fireplaces?

We have four fireplaces that are complete with mantles in great condition and the iron fireplace surrounds. It looks like concrete was used to seal them up. We've already repaired the chimneys above the roof line (original horse hair mortar had deteriorated) and know we'll need to get them relined for use. However, first off I'd like to just get them open and looking better.

Does anyone have experience doing this kind of work? What tools should I use and how should I go about it? Can I just swing a sledgehammer to start breaking it up? I imagine it will get pretty dirty with the soot, so I am anticipating that much but otherwise have no idea how difficult the work will actually be. Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

I have photos but can't post them since I'm a new member. Feel free to shoot questions to me and I'll post a photo as soon as I'm able. Thanks!

Re: How to reopen sealed fireplaces?

Boz, if you e-mail me the pictures I will post them for you.

Generally you can just sledge out the seal, it may be brick, block, or just drywall. And yes it is messy. If it had been sealed for a long time it may be full of soot and debris. I built a temporary wall around the fireplace with 2 X 4's and covered with plastic. Just leaving enough room to work. Wear a dust mask, and if possible a fan to blow the dust out a window.


Re: How to reopen sealed fireplaces?

I am about to start my own little project, thanks for sharing all the helpful info, I'll definitely need it.

Re: How to reopen sealed fireplaces?

Thanks Jack. I'm not sure how to email you directly from here so I'll just keep posting until I'm granted photo privileges. I'm kind of excited to start on this project and see what I uncover once I break through the cement. The iron surrounds look like they are just caulked in place so I'm sure I'll have quite a bit of learning to do to get these things back to operational.

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