When we started talking about vacation to Costa Rica this year, we knew that a contracted project needed to be culled from our 2013 list. There was not a chance that either of us wanted the task of removing all that dirt and damaged wood from the deck project. Painting a three-story hallway was out of the question (especially for this particular blogger who is terrified of ladders). The fireplace was the next “big” project on the list — which included demolition (fun!), drywall and sanding (fuck that dust), tiling and trim… more painting, sealing off the chinney, and the biggie: finding an old mantel and installing to the wall and our uneven floor.

This is what the fireplace area looked like when we were house hunting:
Orange. ORANGE.

After a fresh coat (or two) of paint:

sherwin williams paint gray living room

The color is Mink from Sherwin Williams

Unfortunately, I was out of town for the demolition. The boyfriend claimed that there were pieces of the old mantel behind the wall, but didn’t want to take the whole thing down just to see it (it wasn’t in any condition to recover anyway).
This is the picture he sent me:
fireplace demo

So. much. work. You can kind of see here what we were dealing with: an original firebox that is NOT centered in the wall. And yes, we decided early on to have the fireplace be decorative, not functioning (not in the budget. maybe some day).

Trim taken down and new drywall (oh, so much dust… so. much. dust):
fireplace demo

Craigslist find — only $250:



New tiled hearth (marble tile from The Tile Shop) and more paint!
new tiled hearth

When all said-and-done, we DID hire a contractor for sealing off the chimney and removing the pipe from the oven. This would also be the first hire that DIDN’T COST A PENNY. In fact, we made money, which happens… never (the contractor bought the old cast iron stove from us). Bizarro world, this project.

Now you see the pipe:
mantel up

Now you don’t!
black slate mantel fireplace living room

AND THERE’S STILL MORE: the inside brick needs to be painted (we’re going with black), and there’s some baseboard that I want removed to “balance” out the wall better. Also, the boyfriend forgot wood caulk to finish up the trim. We can’t do much about our old house being mostly non-square and uneven (basically everywhere), so there are some parts of the mantel that are not perfect. But we are both just SO PLEASED with how it turned out. Not only that, but the addition of a mantel added character back INTO the house — and that’s what renovating an old house is all about.

Kind of a finished living room angle (before the trim was placed. and before the piano messed up my decorating):
living room with fireplace

Overall, the project cost us around $800 (mantel, tile, materials; we already had the paint. borrowing of neighbor help and supplies, not included). If we had hired a contractor for the entire project, we were estimated around $3,500 (not including the price of the mantel). Who knows what that really would have included at the end of the day; but we also had two different contractors come for estimates and NEVER RETURN OUR CALLS. One of the guys even broke a hole in the wall to give us an estimate and basically dropped off the face of the earth.

Whew. What a project to complete. But… DONE.
Also, yes, I’ve totally rearranged the mantel decorations like 832 times!

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  • themoderngal

    Very, very, very nice job! It makes a huuuuge difference in the space, and way to save some money with DIY.

    And WTF is it with contractors being allergic to the phone? Especially the ones who start either an estimate or a project and then disappear into an oblivion? I don’t think I’m a PITA customer. At least I hope not.