Wed. May 29th, 2024

I realized tonight that every single thing we’ve done to the house so far – the electrical, the hardwood – has only made the house look worse. We haven’t actually done anything to make the house look better. And this realization came after starting our fireplace renovation project.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I really don’t like the dark red brick that covers the original brick of our fireplace. It was a necessary addition to the once coal-burning fireplace and recent wood-burning fireplace, but the two tone look is tacky.

Here’s what our fireplace originally looked like:

Then we took off the mantle (it was a bit too big…) and hearth (it was a bit too pink…) and ended up with this:

But I really didn’t like the brick extension piece. And I don’t really let things go…

Our fireplace reno consists of two major parts: the first is removing the brick and existing firebox base (the stone stuff on the ground). The second is fixing up the brick (since who knows what’s behind there…) and putting in a new concrete hearth.

Tonight we started the first part.

Removing the Original Hearth

The stone tiles in the firebox came out relatively easily. After about 30 minutes of chiselling away, I was able to bring up all of the stone tiles.

I’m not sure what this is yet, but there’s a weird collection of crap (some sort of pipe, a wire maybe, newspaper) under the grout. Once we finish dealing with the rest of the brick, I might have to clean this out a bit better… but that’s a problem for future Angela.

At this point we had removed enough of the hearth so that the brick extension was on its own and would hopefully come away from the wall without damaging what was behind it. Luckily (I guess) the extension piece was already pulling away from the wall, so removing it shouldn’t have been too bad…

Removing the Brick

We took a deep breath and started removing the dark red brick.

I thought it might have come off in one piece, but it broke into a few smaller, but still very heavy pieces. And despite the disastrous mess we made, no toes were hurt in the process.

Brick is surprisingly heavy. Like, you know it’s going to weigh a lot, but not as much as it does.

It turns out that the brick underneath was in decent shape, although missing a couple of bricks at the front. It kind of looks like it’s missing its front tooth.

There’s a lot going on here. First, that hood-looking thing is the existing damper. Basically, it keeps cold air and critters out of the house. We’ll take it out as soon as we have something to shove inside the chimney to basically plug it. Once we get the woodstove, we won’t need the damper or our makeshift plug.

The second issue is the damaged brick. It’s not too severe; the damper was larger than the fireplace opening, so the installer cut grooves in the brick to make room. We can likely use some mortar to even this out a bit. See? No biggy.

The biggy part will be finding a solution for the missing brick. Eventually I’d like a clean, rectangle opening and this isn’t going to cut it. I don’t want our fireplace to look like someone punched it in the face.

After we figure out what to do with the old brick, my thought is that we can have someone come and remove and make the hole slightly higher by removing bricks instead of replacing the missing piece. It seems pretty straightforward, but I’m sure it’s not. Hopefully we can get this thing looking the way we want for under $200…. But that might be a pipe dream. I hear masons are expensive.

All in all, I’m happy that we removed the brick, despite the condition of the original brick. I think the end result will be great. We just need to get there…

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