crumbling brickwork on fireplace

we have a old brickfire place whicj is no longer used but we are very reluctant to remove it the problem is the bricks are very soft and powdery you only have to brush them to get a nice collection of red dust has any one got any ideas on what could be used to seal them but still keep a nice look to them i have thought about a watered down solution of pva and more ideas ?
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powdery
IME Thomsons Waterseal changes the colour a lot less than pva.
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dale hammond wrote:

floor-tile sealant would give a nice dull sheen, and bind the surface.
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On Sat, 28 May 2005 09:45:38 +0000 (UTC), "dale hammond"

If they are that crubmley, if you stick the outer 5 mm together with some form of glue, won't the next bit in just give way, so large lips fall off ?
Rick
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