DIY Project Profile: Brick Hearth and Built-In Cabinets

When we bought our house nearly 4 years ago, there was a small free-standing natural gas stove in the northwest corner of the living room. It was nice, and produced good heat, and gave us the ambiance of having a fireplace. But it was never quite right. It sat directly on the hardwood floor, and was tucked off in an awkward corner right next to an exterior door. As Matt would say, you could not really curl up around it.

Upon embarking on our massive remodel, the fireplace was never really in the scope. However, after taking down some walls, and deciding that we would refinish all the hardwood floors, we knew we needed to address the fireplace. It was a now or never kind of project.

The south wall of our living room actually used to have a large fireplace. Probably brick, but we will never know. The house was built in 1925, then barged to the island and re-erected in 1978. Our best guess is that this heavy, crubly fireplace did not make the move, and was just wiped from the house. The siding is cut in a way that showed us where this historical fireplace footprint was, and the flooring did not match the rest of the room. Opportunity to restore some old vintage charm!

It was last July (agh!) when we starting blocking out a vision for a new hearth and mantle to surround our little gas stove. We started with blue painters tape to determine scale and size, which was a great way to tweak little measurements until it “fit” correctly in the room. There are some odd considerations to take into account (as typically comes with remodeling an old house) like the unevenly spaced windows and the fact that the old fireplace was not actually centered in the room. We would later realize that the windows are not even the same HEIGHT from the floor (agh!) but that was a recent development.

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Matt built a frame for the new hearth and mantle, and then the project sat idle for a while when we were traveling and focused on exterior projects.

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Finally, in December he was back to some nitty gritty details like running the new gas line and chimney. Thankfully our stove was compatible with a direct vent system so we could go straight out the back rather than have a big pipe in the living room. Win! I found some very helpful chimney supply places online that allowed us to cobble together all the right pieces that are no longer made. Hooray for not having to buy a whole new stove.

Once the gas and chimney were in, we stated on the hearth again. We had considered reclaimed sliced brick, but in the end went with a thin brick veneer (real brick, just thin and can be worked with similar to tile) that we found at Home Depot. We over ordered and mixed the boxes together (very important to mix color batches!!!) and Matt started designing. We got a mix of flat and corner pieces to mirror a true full-size brick look as much as possible. We also planned ahead and added custom forged cast iron hooks anchored behind the backerboard so they would be secure and poke through the finished brick. The brick was attached with the Old Mill Brick adhesive.

The end result is stunning. We choose to grout with a sanded grout in a medium grey shade (Dolorean Gray) and it looks great paired with the slightly grayish hued brick we selected (Castle Gate mix). Since we over ordered we were able to return a full box of each flat bricks and corners, allowing us to pick the ones that we really wanted. I was very impressed that only 1-2 bricks of the whole order were broken upon arrival!

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While the brick cures in prep for sealing, Matt has stared on building our built in bookcases. Old houses have built ins and we desperately wanted to add them back to ours. There was never a clear place until this fireplace remodel came about! Win win!

We are building these bookcases using another new tool and technique, a pocket hole jig! With so many cabinet building projects on the horizon it was worth it to learn the stronger holding cabinet technique. And it looks great! Paired with the new compound miter saw Matt is far more efficient in assembling these designs. The bookcases will have beadboard backs and more trim on the front to build up their profiles.

Once the bookcases are built we will move them out of the way and finish laying the hardwood floors, paint the cabinets and install them. The fireplace is coming together!

 

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