I’ve been waiting for this day for over two years. Our fireplace is finally getting the makeover it so desperately needs! I’m tackling this project all by myself, which is a little intimidating. I’ll be doing the demolition, building up and tiling the hearth and surround, adding new trim, and fixing the mantel. Whew! I’m taking it step by step, solving problems that pop up along the way. You can find all the posts for my fireplace remodel series here. But before I can make it beautiful, it’s time for some fireplace demolition! Smashy smashy!
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Our house was built in 1946, and the last update was sometime in the 80’s. I banished that decade from the kitchen with paint and new hardware, but the fireplace isn’t that easy. I can handle spray painting the brass on the gas insert, and I’ve done trim before. But I’ve never tiled anything, and I usually leave demolition to the pros. Good thing I have my dad on speed dial!
Before I tear the fireplace apart, let’s take a little tour so you can see why I’m so excited to get out the sledgehammer!
This is the brass and peach marble monstrosity I stare at as I write blog posts on the couch every day. Not exactly inspiring! Note the wood quarter round trim around the hearth, and the weird mantel within a mantel thing going on.
Speaking of the mantel, see these bumps where it meets the wall? Those are the brackets holding the mantel to the wall, which were hastily plastered over. I’ve kept a vase and candles on either side of the mantel to hide these unsightly lumps.
Now let’s get smashing!
If you’re planning to do your own fireplace demolition, here’s the list of tools I used. I made what seemed like a dozen trips to the store over the course of this fireplace remodel to pick up something I didn’t know I needed. Hopefully this saves you a few steps!
Tools Needed for Fireplace Demolition
I started with the hearth, because I was curious how it was raised up underneath. When I removed the wooden quarter round trim with a pry bar, it was easy to get a chisel under the tile. I pulled up the first piece of tile in one piece, and discovered…more ugly tile!
This must be the original 1946 tile. It was pretty loose, which would explain the cracks in the marble tile above it. A single whack would remove the entire tile from the floor in one piece!
Demolition of the hearth was pretty quick, and I was getting more confident with every swing of the hammer. The mortar above the subfloor was in remarkably good shape, except for one crack that’s probably the result of an earthquake. I’ll be covering it up with thinset and backer board, so I didn’t think it was necessary to chip it all away.
Removing the mantel within a mantel trim was also easy. It didn’t even have caulk around the edges! I planned to keep the top mantel, but wanted to update the crown moulding underneath. I scored the caulk between the top mantel and the trim with a utility knife, then pried the whole thing off in one piece. Apparently this house was pretty groovy in the 60’s, because one side of the fireplace was once green and the other orange!
There were big gaps between the tile and the surface of the fireplace, with gobs of mortar holding the tile in place. I could wedge the entire chisel behind the tile, so I was optimistic about removing this tile as fast as the hearth.
That tile was stuck on there with what appeared to be industrial strength mortar, and was almost half an inch thick in spots. Instead of coming up in whole pieces like the hearth, I was lucky to chip off a chunk more than an inch big. After working for half an hour on one corner, this is as far as I got.
In a frantic phone call to my dad, he said I had two options. Keep chipping away, or repair the chipped out corner with mortar and retile over the old tile. I strongly considered the second option, but in the end I decided to suck it up and keep chiseling.
Many, many hours later…
It look like a complete mess, but I was so excited to get all that tile off! I found that working with a smaller chisel with a hand guard worked best. Trust me on that hand guard! The soundtrack of our fireplace demolition went something like “clink – clink – clink – thunk – clink.” That thunk could be your hand (followed by your choice of curse) or the hand guard. You decide! 🙂
To remove the leftover thinset on the old brick, I used the wider chisel. The loose stuff came off easily with a wire brush. I finished up by vacuuming the entire surface, then wiping it down with a large sponge to remove any lingering dust.
It looks like a mess now, but it’s progress! My next step is to build back up the hearth, so check back next week to see how it’s going!
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