Monday, July 22, 2013

Fireplace Redo

My mom has been saying for a while that she wants a new mantle for her fireplace.  I offered to make one for her and actually put it down as one of my goals for the year, but as it got closer, I convinced her that a total fireplace makeover was probably in order.  Here's what the fireplace has looked like for about 36 years:
My dad built it for them back in 1976, I think?  And it was pretty awesome then.  But several decades later, it needed a little updating.  So, I started surfing Pinterest and the DIY blogs for inspiration.  I think I got most of my information and courage from John and Sherry at Young House Love with this post on how they redid their fireplace.  I figured it couldn't be that hard, right?  And I loved how they just built the new face over the top of the old one.  So, I gathered my supplies last week and headed to my parents' house.

The first problem was that the rock that was currently on the face was really uneven.  I couldn't get a level enough surface to attach the 1/4" concrete backerboard.  It was also thicker than I had figured and made the new surface stand out too far for the tile trim I wanted to use.  After much heckling from my father, I finally decided the only way to get the finish I wanted was to chip off the old rock where I wanted my tile to go.  So, about 6 hours and several blisters in the making later, I had chipped about 6" of rock off around the inside portion of the fireplace surround.  I'm telling you what, I was sweating buckets during this stage of the process.  My parents have no A/C, it's been a super hot summer, and swinging a hammer and a chisel was tough work.  And the rocks weren't actual rocks.  They were something called z-rock, which is a composite material, and it kind of just chipped all over in pieces instead of coming off in whole pieces.  I was kind of cursing in my head a little, but it was too late to turn back, so I kept at it.  Once I got the rock off, I used masonry screws to attach the concrete backerboard around the opening.
The tile I picked would be about 4 1/2 inches wide, so I cut 6 inch strips of the backerboard and just stuck it right up to the edge of the surround.  Then, I started tiling.  I was lucky and only had to make a couple of cuts with a tile saw, and I used some premixed adhesive/grout, so that saved some time and effort as well.

I should also mention that I totally forgot to bring my nice camera, so I was snapping all of these photos with my phone.  Oops.  The tile went up quickly, and then I had to wait 24 hours to grout, so I got to work building the wood surround.  I used some particle board I had at my house, along with some trim pieces to build it all out.  Wood glue and a nail gun were my friend. Before I actually stuck the wood surround up and attached it to the wall, I grouted the tile using the same premixed adhesive/grout that I used to attach the tile.  It was pretty easy and straight forward to use, although I didn't have an actual grout float, so I improvised with one of my mom's spatulas from her kitchen.
I attached the surround with big long screws into the old surround, and then covered the screw heads with trim.  I used some matching tile trim pieces to cover the backerboard and tile edges on the inside of the tile.  I used grout like glue and taped the pieces along the top while they dried.  For the mantle, I just started wrapping pieces of trim around the top of the surround, then put a piece of crown molding up last.
Once the crown went up, my dad helped me stick some extra wood up top for the mantle piece to drill into near the wall, and then I attached the mantle board.  Then I used hole filler to patch the nail holes and caulked the seams.
Then I left it for a few days while the grout/nail filler/caulk cured.  Today I came back and painted.  So, all told, it was three pretty solid days of manual labor, but I really love the final result.  It's probably my most difficult and rewarding DIY project to date.  Here are the official before and after photos:

So, there it is.  Not the most thorough of tutorials, but if you have any questions, just let me know.  It was labor intensive, but not terribly technical.  I was a little nervous going in, because I've never done anything like this before.  But, like I said, aside from some serious sweating, it wasn't unmanageable.  

My mom is happy, and that's the most important thing for me on this project.  And I learned a lot and gained some confidence in the home improvement area, so that's a win-win as far as I'm concerned. :)

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