DIY, Lifestyle

Extreme Fireplace Makeover

Once Upon a Time all homes had fireplaces. The fireplace was a necessity in early America. It was usually the center of the home. A burning hearth provided heat, housed fires for cooking and baking, and served as the center of family gatherings.

The home that we are remodeling is no exception. Built in the late 1800s with three different additions through the ages it is in need of a whole house extreme make-over.

A family tradition in our home remodeling projects is the practice of taking a piece of nostalgia from the property and working it into our new remodel to preserve the history of the property.

With that quest in mind we searched over the property and decided to preserve some large hand cut rocks found partially buried along the foundation of the house. I imagined that they were once part of the homes foundation or porch, but there was no way to know for sure. The other thing this property has is a centuries old barn that is severely decomposing and unsafe for use. We will be dismantling it in the future to salvage the wood to incorporate into our remodel.

A  hand hewn beam would serve nicely as a mantel piece.

The internal parts of the fireplace is a Rumford style wood burning fireplace. It is always wise to have a fireplace inspected before you spend a lot of money on a remodel. Often they are not safe and need to have cracks repaired. Our inspection revealed that it did not have a flue-damper of any kind. We purchased a cast iron fireplace damper to fit and installed it properly with heat resistant fireplace mortar. These are necessary to stop heat loss in winter and direct smoke up the chimney.  We also did not have any fire bricks on the floor of the fireplace pit nor a chimney cap that we also added for safety.  Before we began the remodel we lit a fire to make sure it had a good smoke draw.

Testing the fireplace. Here you can see the cracked concrete floor where we added firebricks with heat resistant fireplace mortar for safety.

Once we determined that the fireplace was indeed safe and the smoke exited correctly, we proceeded with the inside remodel. We dug out the hand chiseled stones and laid them out in a pattern that would work for our space before we hauled them inside. The stones were extremely heavy and had to be moved with a dolly. I also cleaned them outside with a scrub brush.

We built a form and installed angle iron to hold the weight of the stones and cemented them in place. A little retrofitting was needed, so we carefully chiseled them to make them fit. Once the cement was dry a barn beam was added from the falling barn that was built in the late 1800s. We cleaned the wood beam with TSP cleaner and later sealed it with a mixture of boiled linseed oil and thinner.  Follow the mixing directions on the oil packaging. This gives the barn wood an old world patina. Adding electricity in the mantel is a good idea, so work it into your plan in advance. Then the stones were mortared in place. We also added a cement hearth. To finish off this project we found a mid century brass-n-glass fireplace door at a second hand store that we spray painted with heat-resistant black paint

Adding character back into your homes remodel isn’t hard to do if you think about it in advance.

Look around the entire property searching for items that can be salvaged and worked into your property remodel. Try to envision the completed project. If done properly can add resale value to your home as well as curb appeal which are important factors when you go to sell your property.


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