06 October 2010

fireplace preview part deux: construction

Like with most home renovation decisions, we (okay, really I) have waffled and changed my mind a few times before actually biting the bullet and making something happen. Regular readers may recall my long-ago yearnings for a prettier fireplace, and how blah and boring the fireplace was even after we pumped up the living room color scheme. Somehow I never got around to blogging about how I even got bids from carpenters on building us a nice wood surround and mantel, but when they came back between $900 and $2000, we decided we didn't have the stomach for that.

But as I mentioned two weeks ago, we finally bit the bullet and ripped out the old surround. And now I'll show you how we're putting it all back together.

Starting from a blank slate, we first wanted to pretty up the old fireplace box itself. Those ugly old broken logs had to go, and a little high heat Rustoleum did the trick to clean up those discolorations on the box.

A little orange spray foam insulation also helped keep it all nice and safe.

Next, the frame for the new surround. That meant a trip to the Home Depot.

Fortunately, building materials are cheap. Eight bucks for the drywall, and twelve for the wood furring strips. Awesome. Or course, fitting it all in the car was another story, and involved some improvising in the parking lot (i.e. Mark chopping up the drywall sheet into pieces that would fit in the car using a bare razor blade and a dirty gym sock from the trunk over his hand to protect himself from the blade... that was good comedy).

Before we could build, we had to do a lot of planning, which involved a lot of math. Stay in school, kids. All that geometry and algebra has actual, real-life uses! We had to account for the thickness of the tile and drywall, guesstimate the depth of the thinset for the different types of tile, and make it all square, level and plumb. (And did I mention that nothing in our condo is square, level or plumb?)

And then we laid out the tile to confirm the dimensions and to plan our cuts. 

As for the building, Mark did everything, since he's very, very good at being the man of the house. Although I did find a way to get straight cuts on the wood furring strips without a circular saw (hint: you can do a lot with a jigsaw and an orbital sander, so long as you have a couple of good clamps).

Isn't that impressive? His full head of hair, I mean. Oh, and the framing.

Not to worry, that duct tape didn't stay in for the final framing. Lots more little supports went in between the bottom beams. And next came the drywall, in 1/4 inch thickness.

So pretty. We almost didn't want to put tile over it. But then we remembered it was only pretty to us because we'd never done this before, and just thought we could do it because Eric Stromer convinced us we could handle it.

It felt great to have the frame and backer for the tile all built, at least until I looked around and saw the mess created when you cut drywall in the house.

Up next, how a broom (and maybe a little tile too) helped the place clean up nice.

Update: To see how it all turned out, click here.

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  1. You guys are so ambitious! I'm impressed... even if you did create a mess. :)

  2. Thanks! It's easy to be ambitious if you don't let yourselves ask the question, "What happens if we screw it up and damage our home?" Blind optimism is a lovely force for action. :-)

  3. I feel your pain on the drywall mess. Our finished basement flooded in August and the drywall cut and re-place left the basement in horrible shape. I'm still not recovered!

  4. I continue to be impressed by your innovation and determination! Amazing!

  5. Thanks, Em!

    And Lori -- give yourself a break before you start any other renovations! It's essential to have some clean house time in between, or we'll all go crazy.

  6. Spray Foam Roofing is a common word used in the building industry, but still not as readily used in our market. There are typically 2 types of spray foam used today. One is an open cell foam insulation and the other is a closed cell foam insulation.

  7. Very nice explanation of the blog. thanks for sharing.


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