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The Fireplace

The following is a brief description and photo collection of my recent project to upgrade my fireplace. All pictures can be "clicked" for a larger version.

Ever since moving into my house I've been wanting to use the fireplace. Unfortunately as part of the remodeling that took place prior to me moving in, the entire fireplace had been painted with a brownish latex paint. I knew that before I did anything, that paint was going to have to go. In addition to the paint, one of my concerns was the safety of building a fire in the fireplace. There was very little separating the firebox from the hard wood floors, and the idea of what to do with the fire once I wanted to go to bed or had to run to the store was never appealing.

Based on my concerns, I decided the best approach would be some sort of a fireplace insert that would still let me burn regular wood and see the fire, but at the same time would totally contain the fire so I wouldn't have to worry about the safety side of things so much. With this idea in mind, I took detailed measurements of the fireplace and started making phone calls. I soon found a place that had 4 different models that would fit in my fireplace. I headed to the store to see them in person and quickly settled on my favorite. The first install date they had was about a week out.

Now I was on a tight schedule to get the fireplace ready. Here was the fireplace as it sat at the beginning of the project:

I tried several techniques for removing the paint. Heat gun and scraping, wire brush on a drill, paint stripper, and even using a torch to burn the paint off. The wire brush worked pretty well on the tiles, but nothing worked on the bricks inside the fireplace. The only thing I did learn for sure was that the underlying tile on the hearth and all around the fireplace was pink, and that has to go...

Once I made the decision to remove the tile all together, out came the air compressor and the air chisel. I can't even imagine what this project would have been like using other tools. The air chisel made pretty quick work of the tiles, and over the course of about 5 hours spanning 3 days, all the tile was removed

Next came the task of selecting new tile. I went to Home Depot, and looked at many different styles. I really didn't like any of the normal tiles, and after talking to one of the flooring experts, decided that natural stone was probably the best bet from a durability and heat resistant standpoint. The samples I got from left to right were red slate, beige marble, dark slate, and brown marble. I was torn between the dark slate and brown marble. I decided the red slate blended into the floor too much and that the beige marble was too light of a color to look good

After much deliberation and input from friends, chose the dark slate. I went back to Home Depot, and bought a lot of tiles. I figured I needed about 15 square feet, but bought 20 just to make sure I had enough. Then with the help of my friend Dave, I was ready to start placing the tiles. The cover for the insert I bought was only 30.5 inches high, and the opening of the fireplace was about 32 inches high. I had to artificially lower the opening by hanging the tiles over the lip. In order to support the tiles that were hanging, I had to use a board bolted to the cement until the adhesive set up.

Next came the hearth area

And then finally the sides. I didn't have to cover the sides completely since the cover for the insert was already going to be covering most of the sides.

After letting everything dry for 2 days, it was time to grout. I chose a color that was similar to the tiles so that it wouldn't stand out by being to dark or light. I wanted the tiles to stand out more than the grout. The process of applying the grout and then cleaning off the excess was actually easier than I thought it would be (again, special thanks to my friend Dave for showing me the ropes). To grout the entire area took about 2 hours.

Once the grout was finished, and everything was cleaned up it was ready for the insert. The grout lines are still a bit dark in this picture since it had not fully dried yet.

I can't take much credit for the installation of the actual insert as that part was done by the professionals from Country Fireside. It took them most of the morning to assemble and install the insert. I couldn't be happier with the final results though!