There was nothing redeeming about the house I bought when I was single, and still own today, save for the walk-in closets in the bedrooms (what shoe-loving girl wouldn’t love that)!
Once of the worst features was the fireplace. Don’t you just hate corner fireplaces? I don’t understand why builders install them. Here’s how our fireplace looked before we bought the house:
One day when I was at work, hubs enlisted a friend to make it over. They started by busting out the hearth. Luckily the former owner had left a box of tiles for just such an occasion.
As you can see from the picture above, the brick is just awful; the builder used the same rough brick that was on the exterior of the house. To combat the lint trap, we refaced the brick with cement board to smooth it out.
Since the brick was so uneven, shims and cement were used to fill the gaps and provide a level surface for the cement board. The board was set into the wet cement and then screwed into the brick with masonry screws to hold it securely.
Hubs and his friend did a beautiful job of skim coating over the entire surface after the board was up but forgot about the tape. It’s not necessary to skim coat the whole surface, but don’t be tempted to skip the tape and mud because the seams will crack and ruin your final finish. I only discovered that little known fact about the missing tape a few weeks later when my beautifully applied venetian plaster developed cracks! I had to tape over the seams and start the whole mudding and finishing process all over again. I guess that’s what happens when a women isn’t there to supervise 🙂
Moving right along, I tackled the disgusting firebox which was covered with years of soot. I started off with soap and water, but had to resort to a chemical cleaner. It was better after scrubbing but still showed the telltale signs of neglect.
Right after that is when I applied the venetian plaster – the first time!
After a few layers, letting it dry in between, I then sanded it to a smooth lustrous finish:
Now I had to tackle patching the floor tile.
Demolition is my favourite part; I smashed out areas of half tile so I could add full pieces back in. Before taking a hammer to the tile though, it’s a good idea to cover the edges of the tile you want to keep with masking tape to protect them. You also need remove the grout along the outer perimeter of the tiles you’ll be removing. That’s so the pounding of the hammer won’t radiate and crack the tile you want to keep – an important step if you don’t what to make more work for yourself! There are power tools for this, but you can also buy hand held scrapers. There’s a great new article at The Spruce on grout removal tools to buy in 2018.
Once the area was cleaned of debris, I started the process of re-tiling. I built the underlay up to the same height as the rest of the floor by inserting a piece of leftover cement board over the plywood.
I filled in the field tiles.
As I measured the ones that had to be cut, hubs cut those for me as I went. We make a great team!
I let the thinset dry for a day. The picture below is just before I grouted the tile.
You couldn’t even tell the floor was repaired after it was grouted!
Here’s how the fireplace looked for a few years before we got tired of it and moved onto phase II of our makeover:
Here’s another reminder of the before:
Now, it’s so cozy at night when it’s lit:
The installation of a new gas fireplace is a welcome addition for the warmth (and now I don’t have to look at soot residue either)!
Looking back on pictures of how the house looked when I first bought it, it has come such a long way. I’m sure the previous owner wouldn’t even recognize it now.
Like so many of our other updates, cosmetic changes can have a big impact.Covering up the ugly brick took the fireplace from dated to modern and was well worth the effort!
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Here are a few other recent DIYs you may have missed on Birdz of a Feather if you’re not yet a subscriber:
- Remove a Living Room Wall – Dining Room Transformation
- Remodel a Laundry Room – Add a Countertop
- Build and Decoupage a Medicine Cabinet
You might also be interested in our new craft category – Craft Rehab – where we just posted a tutorial and video for this duct tape portrait which you can find here.