Fireplace reset

So after finishing the kitchen cabinets, I decided my next project would be a redo of the fireplace and the wall it’s in. It hadn’t been updated since the house was built, and it desperately needed… something. I wasn’t quite sure I would get what it really needed, but I had to do something.

Step one was to remove the old mantle and posts – which turned out to be one large decorative piece. After it was gone, it was quite evident that the still-completely-useless power switch had initially been placed too low:

image-02So far, though, no major issues – the bottom of the drywall seemed a little strange having an obviously patched hole, but whatever. Next, let’s take off the slate slabs that surround the firebox:

image-03As a friend who has done plenty of construction told me, the philosophy is “Don’t waste all that mud! Just a little bit will do the job!” Okay, whatever – it did the job, I can’t really argue with that, but my OCD went haywire. Finally, remove the slate hearth so we can put down some nice new tile:

image-05The metal bit there? I was pleasantly surprised to find it, though I probably shouldn’t have been. It’s not all that thick, but it protected the plywood subfloor from excess heat should any burning things have spilled out of the fireplace quite well. After cutting the carpet so the new tile would stretch the length of that wall, I started putting down hardiboard for a tile substrate. I used two layers of overlapped 1/4″ hardiboard so that there wasn’t an inflection point at the seam:

image-07 image-08 image-09Ok, so now that the substrate is down, we can mix up some thinset and start setting tiles. If you ever use thinset, take whatever amount of water you think you’ll need and halve it. Seriously, it doesn’t take much water at all to get it to the right consistency, and if you start with too much water, you’re gonna make way more mud than you need.

image-12Give the tiles about 48 hours before doing anything else – the thinset has to fully cure or you’re going to be really upset at yourself for screwing up a great tiling job. I know from previous experience. Seriously. 48 hours. Minimum. Once that’s done, go buy some grout, and follow the instructions to grout the tile, being careful not to slop any grout all over the carpet:

image-13Once the grout has set (another 48 hours), use caulk of the same color to finish out to the carpet. I had initially wanted to do the floor last, since mess from the wall would fall down to the floor and possibly mess up my beautiful new tile job, but I realized I had to have the tile in place in order to get the right height on the first course of stone on the wall, or there would possibly be not enough space or way too much space along the bottom. Oh well, tile’s done, let’s start putting stone on the wall.

It’s actually fake stone, very lightweight and almost insanely easy to put up. The biggest pain was making sure the layers were even across the firebox opening. Fortunately, I have a 4-foot level and the opening is somewhat less than 3 1/2 feet wide. So, here we go:

image-14 image-15 image-16 image-17Hang on a moment here – we need to get some wall anchors in place and leave space for attachment bolts for the ledger board for the new mantle. Once we do that, keep going up, and up, and up:

image-18 image-20The most awesome thing about this? There is no gap between the top layer of stone and the ceiling. I had thought there would be about 1/4″ gap, which is easily hideable with that grout caulk I spoke of earlier, but it turns out I didn’t need it. The height worked out to be exact to within 1/64″, which is, in my opinion, freaking amazing.

So now we have the finished wall and the ledger board in place. Well, I realized I should have a 6 inch ledger board, not a 4 inch, so I replaced it, which was very easy to do at this point, then I started building out the mantle:

image-21 image-23 image-24The leaves sticking out are secured with pocket-hole screws, they’re used to attach the bottom and front panels. the side panels will attach to the ledger and bottom panel, with the front panel extending over the sides. It’s nothing but placing and gluing/screwing/nailing at this point, so here’s the finished product:

image-25 image-26Sorry about the crookedness – I had a bit of trouble holding the iPhone straight to take these two pictures.

Oh, and the best part (IMHO) of the new mantle? I debated keeping this to myself, but decided I’d go ahead and show it off.

It’s got three secret compartments for hidden storage!image-27