Introduction: Fireplace Remove & Rebuild
In this Instructable I'll show you how I completely removed and re-did my fireplace in my front room, before I decorated the rest of it.
When I bought my house I inherited a gas fire and the fireplace around it installed in my front room. At the time I just painted the surround and decorated the chimney breast to smarten it up quickly so I could get carpets and furniture in.
However I never liked the actual look and style of the fireplace and the gas fire was worse than useless, so before Christmas arrived hopefully I decided to update it.
The actual gas fire I removed previously and chucked it away, as I thought there was a bird trapped behind, so for 3 months before this build I just had a hole with some Perspex over to block the hole, not the best look.
Anyway the plan was to widen the fire place right up ready to install an electric stove.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
To complete the fireplace and front room I used all sorts of equipment and materials probably most of the stuff in my garage. I've tried to list as much as I can remember below, but they'll be no doubt things I've missed:
- Saws - Table, Chop, Cicular, Exakt, Hand, Japanese
- Sanders - Belt, Random Orbit
- Routers - 1/2", 1/4" palm
- Drills - Cordless, Electric
- Impact Driver
- Mash Hammer
- Cold Chisel
- Wood Chisels
- Paint Brushes/Rollers
- Stanley Knife
- Tape Measure
- Dowel Markers
- Pipe Cutter
- Blow Torch
- Wire Wool
- Wire Strippers
- Spirit Levels
- Cement Board
- Wallpaper Paste
- Danish Oil
- Clear Wax
- Timber - Teak, Oak, Yew, Pine batons
- Copper pipe
- Copper/Brass fittings
- Adhesive - Glue, Grab Adhesive
- Electrical Sockets
- Light Bulbs
- Masking Tape
- Floor Protection Sheets
Step 2: Out With the Old
Before I began doing anything I first emptied my entire lounge of all the furniture, as I was going to redecorate the entire room not just the fireplace. With the room empty I then put down carpet protectors which is a roll of sticky plastic you roll out over the top, this was a bit of a nightmare at first as its hard to get a good fix to the carpet and it likes sticking to everything else instead. A little perseverance though and I managed to get it done and I was ready to crack on.
Before I could start putting my nice new fire place together however, I first had to strip out the old.
I'd briefly tried to remove the fire surround before when I first moved in hoping to install a new one back then, but I couldn't figure out how it was attached, normally they're either screwed in or hooked over hidden brackets attached to the wall behind .
No such luck in this case, so instead I adopted the force it and see approach putting a large flat screwdriver behind, between the surround and the wall and prying it off the wall enough to get my hands in to really give it a pull.
Pulling it back off the wall it turned out it was solely secured to the floor using large L brackets hidden under the hearth which I could in no way of got access to as they were completely hidden, I've still no idea how it was even fitted like this let alone how you would go about removing it sensibly, still brute force managed to get it off the wall then it was just a case of removing a few screws still left in the brackets and lifting up the marble hearth and back surround which were only stuck down with silicone sealant.
With the fire surround now completely off I could see what I was left with and turn my attention to the brick work underneath.
Step 3: Demolition Man
With all the surround removed I was just left with a wooden sub frame the hearth was stood on, which I decided to keep to stand my new hearth on and a hole in the wall where the old gas fire had sat.
Sticking my head in, the actual chimney opening size was about 2 and a half times bigger than this hole, it had just been bricked up either side to fit around the old gas fire. The plan was to knock out these bricks and return the fire place to its original size giving me more space to work with.
To begin I first measured how far the bricks went back from the opening to the internal wall of the chimney on either side. With these measurements I could then draw a line on the outer wall where the internal part of the chimney began. Similarly I measured up to the first row of bricks inside the chimney above the opening and transferred this to the outer wall also.
Marking the lines out gave me an 'n' shape if you like around my opening indicating the size of the original opening, with this marked I then used a diamond cutting blade in my angle grinder to go around these lines separating the bricks from the wall allowing me to knock them out.
To try and minimise the dust cloud whilst cutting I taped my vacuum hose to the grinders handle in an attempt to catch most of the debris, unfortunately this wasn't very effective, but luckily the draught of the chimney did pull some up out my way.
With the bricks cut away with the grinder it was now just a case of knocking them out with a small mash hammer and cold chisel to reveal the full size of my fireplace. Opening up the fireplace it became evident that whoever fitted the gas fire had just concreted a base for that and not poured a full slab right the way across inside the opening, something I'd have to address later.
Removing all the bricks and looking up the chimney I could also see the old brick arch of the fireplace which supports the chimney above the opening of the fire, below this arch were some more bricks that had been put in to fill the curve of the arch and give a level edge to which the old gas fire was sat against.
At this point I decided that I would remove these filler bricks back to the arch as nothing was supporting them now I'd widened the opening and that I'd then put a lintel across instead. To allow for the lintel to recess into the chimney and support the above brickwork I cut away two holes either side of the opening using my grinder to cut the bricks and finished off with a cold chisel and mash hammer to remove the last few stubborn pieces of brick and mortar.
With all the debris cleared out the way I could now begin to rebuild.
Step 4: We Will Rebuild
With the rubble cleared I could now get on with installing my lintel. The brick arch would probably have been sufficient to support the chimney, it had been all these years, but with all the banging and cutting and vibration some old mortar had fallen out, so for the sake of a tenner for the lintel I thought it best to be on the safe side.
I'd already cut my holes on either side for the lintel to slide into, so it was just a case of lining it up and sliding it into place. With the lintel fitting securely in place and its level checked I could now mix up some mortar to hold it in place.
I simply made the mortar using building sand and cement at a ratio of around 4 parts sand : 1 part cement mixing in water to my desired consistency. With this mixed I could then fill in around the lintel and patch up some of the holes created during demolition. I also cut some of the old bricks I'd taken out to fit between the lintel and the arch to fill this gap and provide further support.
The excess mortar I had left over I used to fill the voids between my wooden hearth frame and the holes either side of the chimney opening. Before pouring the mortar in a first put in a layer of hardcore made up from the bricks and render I'd just removed, this meant I needed less mortar and gave a stronger base to ultimately lay my hearth on. I could then pour the mortar on top of this hardcore and smooth it over level, leaving it to dry overnight.
Step 5: Blocking Off the Stack
Now that my mortar had set I needed to line the inside of my chimney, blocking off the shaft and straightening up the walls. To do this I opted to use cement board, or tile backer board as its also known. This stuff is strong and heat and moisture resistant so was perfect for what I needed. Also after blocking off the shaft I wanted to install some insulation to reduce heat loss up the chimney, the insulation I chose was just polyurethane board 50mm thick.
To attach the cement board to the inside of chimney I used wooden batons made from pressure treated timer, roofing batons basically. To work out where my first baton would go I started by measuring from the bottom edge of the lintel up inside the chimney, the measurement I needed was the thickness of my cement board (12mm) plus the thickness of my insulation (50mm) plus the thickness of my finished facia material (6mm ply in this case). So altogether I needed to measure up 68mm from the bottom of my lintel and mark a horizontal line across the inside of the chimney breast, using my level to get it straight. This line would be where the bottom edge of my first baton would sit.
With the line drawn I measured the internal width of the chimney at that point and cut a baton the same length, before drilling 3 pilot holes through it. I then positioned the baton in place along my scribed line and using a masonry bit in my cordless drill, drilled though the pilot holes to mark the brickwork behind. I could now remove the baton and drill out larger 7mm holes where the pilot marks on the bricks were to take wall plugs and screws. With all 3 holes drilled I could now insert the plugs, position my baton and screw it to the wall.
Now that the first one was in place I cut a second baton the same length, drilled 3 holes like before and held it up on the opposite wall inside the chimney. Using my level underneath the baton spanning from my fixed one to this second one, I could raise/lower the second baton until it showed level. Once I had the correct position I held it in place and could drill the pilot marks like before to insert my plugs and screw the second baton to the wall.
I now had the front and back batons in place and it was just a matter of measuring between the two at either end to cut 2 more side batons to go on the left and right sides of the chimney. Once cut I drilled, marked and screwed them as before. The side batons turned out to be different lengths as my chimney isn't quite the same size on both sides, going further back on the right side.
After realising this I now needed to cut a piece of cement board that would screw to my batons to block up the chimney. As it was an irregular shape I decided the easiest thing would be to make a template and to do this I used some lining paper I had lying around.
I roughly cut a piece slightly bigger than the opening and placed one corner of it inside the chimney at a corner where my batons met, using my staple gun I then fixed this in place. Next I ran the straight edge of the paper along the baton fixed to the back of the chimney and when I got to the other end stapled it in place there too. I could now roll the paper across the side batons to the one on the front of the chimney above the lintel covering over the hole. Using my pencil I then drew around the inside edge of the breast marking the paper with the exact shape of the hole. I could now remove the staples and the paper and cut along my pencil lines to give me my template.
The template was then placed over my cement board and I drew around it to mark out the shape. With the shape marked I then used my Exakt saw (a little electric plunge saw) fitted with a ceramic cutting blade to cut along the lines and give me my board. I could then mark the width of my batons all around the edges and drill holes through to allow me to fix it in place inside the chimney breast using screws.
With my cement board in place I then used the same template to mark and cut my insulation board with a hand saw, this then also slid up the chimney snugly until it sat flush against the cement board. The next stage was now the back and sides of the chimney.
Step 6: Lining the Walls
Starting with the back I measured the height of the exposed wall from the floor up to my insulation and cut two batons the same size, drilling 3 pilot holes in each like before. I then positioned them against the wall making sure they were level and drilled through to mark the bricks, before widening the holes, inserting 7mm plugs and screwing the batons to the wall.
Checking across the batons at this point they were not level because as I said the right side goes back further than the left. To make sure that when my cement board was in place it was square and level I screwed another baton on top of the baton already fixed to the wall on the right side, this made up enough space to ensure the board would sit flat and straight across the back of the chimney breast.
Next job was to cut the board to screw to the batons. Here I simply measured the width and height of the back wall and transferred that onto another piece of cement board cutting it out using my Exakt saw again. Before inserting the board however I marked on the floor and the insulation up in the breast the positions of the batons inside the chimney, then once I inserted the board I could line a straight edge up between these marks and draw a line between them on the cement board, this gave me the position of the baton underneath and told me where to screw through to ensure the board would fix to the batons. Drilling some pilot holes along theses lines I then used my impact driver to screw the board firmly to the wall.
When I'd finished the chimney the plan was to have an electric stove in the newly refurbed chimney breast. To power this and not have cables running out the chimney round skirting boards I put a single socket in the back of the chimney, this meant cutting a hole in my back board to allow for a socket box. To do this I positioned the box where I wanted it and simply drew around it, cutting out a hole slightly larger with my drywall saw by hand.
Positioning the box in the hole I marked and drilled holes through into the brickwork behind so that I could secure the box in place later on.
On to lining the sides I again used the same method as I used to fix the back board on, except this time I positioned the batons horizontally so that I could hide my power cable behind without having to feed through batons ect. Unfortunately on the sides there were some differences between top and bottom, so the baton on the top left side did need packing out wider than the baton on the bottom left, so that when the board was in place it stood straight and level. I prepared and fixed the batons exactly the same as before, cutting, marking, drilling, plugging and screwing them to the wall. Only difference was I used thinner 12mm batons packed with 6mm ply where required.
With side batons in place I needed to cut two side pieces of cement board to fit over them. Measuring the height and depth of the opening on both sides I marked up two cement boards and cut out the side pieces with my Exakt again, offering them up to the chimney once cut to ensure they'd fit correctly. I again marked the baton positions at either end and drew lines across the cement board once in place for pilot hole positions for screws.
Before finally fixing in place though I needed to finish off my electrics so I could hide the cables behind the boards.
Step 7: Electrics
With all my lining just about done I needed to wire in my socket before fitting the final board.
To get power to the chimney I planned to tap into a nearby socket positioned in the left of my living room on the back wall above the skirting board. To run a cable from that socket to the inside chimney I decided to chase out the wall along the top of the skirting board and hide the cable inside that.
To begin cutting the chase I used my Exakt saw again with the depth of cut set at 10mm and ran the saw along the top edge of the skirting cutting a slot all the way along the wall around 12mm above the line of the skirting. With the slot cut I could then remove the plaster and brick between the slot and the top of the skirting using my cold chisel and mash hammer. This gave me a channel running all the way round the wall from the socket to the inside of the chimney wide enough to house my power cable, I now just had to feed it in to the wall starting at my live socket end.
To get the power I needed I had to wire into my existing socket, so turning the power off first I removed the screws holding the socket in place and pulled it away from the wall revealing two sets of wires, as this socket drew power from another socket and also transferred power out to another socket. Since this socket was very old and was the one I use to power all my games consoles, TV, sky boxes ect I decided to upgrade it and put in a new socket complete with USB power outlets.
To remove the old socket was just a matter of undoing the screws and pulling out the cables, I could now feed my new cable up through the back box mounted in the wall and strip the end of the cable with wire strippers to reveal the copper cores inside. The cable I used for my new fireplace socket was 2.5mm twin and earth cable the minimum spec recommended for electrical sockets. With the cores exposed it was now just a matter of getting 3 cables into the back of each terminal on the back of the socket, brown for live, blue for neutral and yellow/green for earth. As my cables were quite thick due to being for power it was a bit of a juggling match to get all the cables in the terminals and screwed in place tight, but after some twisting and turning I managed to get them all in and could screw my new USB socket to the back box on the wall.
I could now feed my cable from the socket into my channel in the wall running it round behind the cement board up through the hole I cut for the new back box and through a hole in the back box. At this point I could now screw the back box to the wall using wall plugs inserted in the holes I'd drilled out earlier, so that the cable end was poking out through it and strip the cables back to their cores again using my strippers.
For this end in the chimney I opted for a single socket with USB outlets again as I liked the idea of some USB powered lighting inside the chimney when I'd finished.
Now I simply just had to screw each wire in its corresponding terminal on the socket (brown for live, blue for neutral and yellow/green for earth) this end was easier as I only had one cable to screw in rather than the three I had at the other end. With all the cables secure all that was left to do was screw the socket to the back box, screw my last piece of cement board to its batons to hide the cable, turn the power back on and test the socket. Thankfully with everything back on both new sockets worked perfectly and I now had power inside the chimney breast.
Step 8: Levelling
So I'd finished my lining of the walls but the floor still needed some attention.
I had left in place an old hardwood frame the old fire place hearth sat on so I could sit my new hearth on it, as it was in good condition and was flat and strong, however the concrete slab that the old fire had been sat on inside the chimney was around 18-20mm higher than this hardwood frame base, so rather than try and knock out or lower the concrete slab I made up the wooden frame using some of the left over roofing batons instead, which happened to be about the correct size to make up the height difference.
I just cut batons the same length as the original frame and screwed them over the top putting a couple more in the middle for extra strength.
With the hearth area now the same level as the existing slab I mixed up some more mortar to level across the whole thing. I poured the mortar into my new framed area first then filled in around the inside of the fireplace round my cement boards, flattening out the surface using my concrete float. After the area looked fairly flat and level I ran my spirit level back and forth across the surface of the mortar in a sawing motion, using my wooden frame as a guide to keep the level flat and ensure a flat surface once the mortar dried. This sawing motion gathered up any high spots of mortar and I could remove this and put it back in the bucket. Sawing back and forth a few times I was happy the surface was flat ready for a hearth, so I left it to dry.
Using my leftover mortar I filled in some holes still remaining around the fireplace and cement boards where old render had fallen out.
I then mixed up some plaster with water and used this to fill in the channel where I'd ran my power cable for the socket, hiding it all in the wall out of sight.
Step 9: Stripping
With the fire place prepped ready to put my hearth down I now needed to strip all the old wallpaper off the chimney breast. I decided to do this now rather than fit the hearth so I wasn't getting old paper and paste all over the hearth and possibly damage it manoeuvring ladders round it.
The wallpaper on the chimney I'd fitted when we first moved in so it was only around 5-6 years old. To remove it I used a long bladed scraper, the blade is sharp and it quickly removes the top layer of wallpaper with the pattern on without having to wet or score it.
I started at the bottom of the chimney scraping off the top layer of paper working my way round before moving up some step ladders to remove the paper round the top of the stack.
The scraper does leave behind the under layer of the paper in places however, which is kind of a furry texture and pasted to the wall. To get this off I used a sponge and warm water, running the wet sponge allover the remaining paper, soaking it. The paper absorbs the water and after a minute or two the old paste dissolved and I went back over with my scraper all the way round which easily removed the rest of the paper.
With all the paper off I could give the breast a brush down to remove any final bits of loose paper and debris giving me a clean surface to re-paper onto later on.
After removing all the paper I also found some old writing in pencil on the breast, what looked like an old list from when the house was first built. I couldn't make out what it all said, I recognised the words bedroom and kitchen along side what seems to be prices or costs in old English money. It was interesting to see, a piece of history from whoever lived here decades ago.
Step 10: Everything Else
At this point I had the chimney breast stripped of wallpaper, internally lined, blocked off, electrics in and ready for the hearth.
However I wasn't only renovating the chimney and fireplace I was redecorating the whole room, so here I turned my attention to getting everything else done, painting and alike. It made no sense to continue with the fire when I'd be painting, sanding and generally making a mess possibly messing up my newly installed hearth etc.
I'm not going to go in to much detail of the rest of the room renovation here as this instructable is about the fireplace mainly, but basically I sanded all my woodwork, skirting boards, coving and window boards :( I then re-painted the ceiling using white emulsion and a roller on an extension pole to reach without having to use ladders, going up and down constantly. I gave this two coats to build the colour, before re-painting all the woodwork in white water based gloss a couple of times.
I then masked off my newly painted woodwork so that I could emulsion the walls a light grey colour, this time using a normal roller and ladders (up and down constantly :( ) Using a brush to cut in round my coving and skirting. I gave the grey two coats, again to make sure none of the previous wall colour was showing through and when dry removed all my masking.
With the paint dry I replaced all of my old electrical sockets with new ones. It was just a matter of unscrewing the old face plates, removing the wires from the back and inserting the wires into the back of the new face plates in the correct terminals, before screwing them tight to the wall. Obviously I isolated the power to these sockets before hand so as not to die whilst replacing them. I fitted 5 double sockets in all, some with USB ports where phones/tablets/computers would charge, some regular and a smart wireless socket to control via my Alexa for hard to reach lamps, Christmas lights etc.
Last on my list I installed new lights, two on the wall either side of the chimney breast where old outdated ones had sat before, these pretty much fit straight where the old ones had come from as they had adjustable brackets for fixing, all I had to do was wire them up matching the correct cables in the wall to the terminals on my lights, again making sure the power was off before starting.
I also had a ceiling light to replace, but here instead of a standard off the shelf light I decided to make my own from copper pipe to give something different and add some interest.
I used 22mm copper, bought all the fittings and soldered them together using a blowtorch to the shape I wanted, before wiring up the bulb holders. I used a combination of vintage Edison and LED bulbs to both give bright light and a interesting look. Once finished I connected it to the power supply in the ceiling and screwed it in place.
With the light up the rest of the room was just about finished and I could turn my attention back to finishing the fireplace.
Step 11: Hearth
The material I chose to make the hearth from was 30mm thick slate which came from old snooker tables. I had several pieces lying around and had used some previously in another room for a hearth in there.
Unfortunately all the pieces were irregular shapes and I didn't have one long enough to cover the whole length of the hearth, so I chose one that would fit the right width and decided I'd make up the rest of the hearth with timber later.
Now this slate is extremely heavy, as you can imagine and moving it is no easy feat. The piece I'd chosen was basically a rectangular shape with one of the corners cut off. Unfortunately I've not many pictures here as I was more consumed with just moving the thing around that I forgot to take any photos.
I began by measuring the size the slate needed to be, which was the internal size of my fireplace plus the width of the wooden frame away from the wall. As I said it wasn't long enough to cover the length I needed but I could get a little bit either side If I cut it right.
The shape the slate needed to be resembled a big T and luckily after measuring the fireplace the slate was actually the correct width already, I just had to cut out the T shape so it slid into place around the corners of the wall.
Using a little sack barrow and brute force I managed to get the slate outside and laying it flat across two timber battens to raise it off the floor. I marked a line across the slate with a scribe where the pointy end with the corner missing was. Using my angle grinder with a diamond cutting disc in I followed this line to cut away the irregular shaped end so that I was left with a rectangular piece of slate.
I could now mark out and scribe my T shape on the slate using my measurements from earlier. I only needed to cut away two little bits of slate around 50mm x 350mm from either side, but I still needed to get it right and the amount of dust generated by the grinder when cutting made it difficult to see my lines. To try and reduce this I wet the slate before each cut, it helped but it was still a very messy process, full dust mask and goggles were definitely required.
With the slate now hopefully the right size I lugged it back in the front room to check, sliding it in place before moving it down into my garage, (slightly easier as there was now less of it, but still extremely heavy) so that I could sand and polish the slate as it had a lot of scratches and marks on it from being stored outside for years.
To remove all the marks I used a resin stone polishing/sanding pad in my orbital sander to work over the surface of the slate sanding it smooth, because slate is a relatively soft material this didn't take long and I got a good finish quickly, using a 100 grit pad.
Unfortunately the piece of slate I'd chosen had a corner missing where it'd been damaged removing it from the snooker table years ago. I'd managed to cut around the majority of the damage when shaping the slate and I hoped once in place it wouldn't be noticeable, but after test fitting if I left it, it'd be obvious once in place on the fire.
To make the repair I used epoxy putty (Milliput) this is a two part putty that you combine together and it then sets rock hard over a few hours curing. As my slate is grey I used both black and white Milliput mixed together to form a shade of grey. I firstly mixed each colour separately, mixing all the black putty and around a third of the white into separate balls. Once the hardener and the putties were thoroughly combined I had two balls of putty, one black, one white. I then mixed the two colours together kneading thoroughly until all the putty was a uniform grey colour. Mixing these was a messy process, I just used my hands and a granite chopping board wetting each slightly so as the putty wouldn't stick making it easier to handle, kneading the putties until each was a solid colour indicating the hardener was completely mixed in.
Now that I had my grey putty I applied it to the damaged corner of my slate using timber offcuts to form a corner shape and give the putty something to form round. Once I had the putty in place I left it overnight to cure hard, before returning the next day sanding and polishing it smooth level with the rest of the slate.
I could now move the slate, again back to the front room ready to position it in place.
Step 12: Hearth Install
With my slate cut, polished and ready to go in I mixed up some mortar to put inside the fireplace to bed the slate down onto.
I used an old piece of hardboard on my garage floor and poured out building sand and cement on top to a ratio of around 3:1. Using a spade I then combined these two materials until they were one colour and all the sand was mixed in. I then transferred this dry mix to a bucket so I could add water and make up the mortar to the right consistency, mixing it together with my spade.
With enough mortar mixed I took it to the fireplace and poured it out on the concrete base and timber frame where the hearth was to sit, levelling it out across the whole area with a float and trowel.
I then picked up the slate and lowered it into position on top of the mortar, pushing it back into the fire place once flat so it made contact with the back piece of cement board. I gave the whole hearth a gentle tap down with a rubber mallet, so it contacted the mortar underneath and checked its level both left to right and front to back, making adjustments with the mallet as required to lower it if needed.
Happy that the slate was level I filled in around the edges with mortar so there were no gaps then wiped the slate clean using a sponge and clean water. I then left it and allowed the mortar to set for a couple of days.
Step 13: Tiling
To finish off the cement board inside the fireplace surrounding the hearth I decided to tile it. I chose grey metro tiles 100 x 200mm in size. The area inside the fire place is just over a meter square so I calculated I'd need around 54 tiles to cover it.
I bought the tiles along with 3mm tile spacers to give me a good sized gap between each tile.
As I made sure my hearth was laid level I could start laying the tiles at the bottom right corner on the back wall of the fireplace, as I knew that first row would be level so I could then build on top of that up the wall.
Using my 6mm notched float I applied some ready made tile adhesive to the wall, starting in the bottom corner dragging the material upwards. The comb on the float ensures even material distribution and allows the tile to sit flat to the wall.
With material on the wall I positioned the first tile ensuring it was sat flat to my slate and up tight to the wall on the right, pushing it into the wall so the adhesive behind spread evenly and gave a good hold. I could now position my next tile to the left of the first, placing spacers between them to give me an even gap and ensure the next tile was in the correct position.
I continued laying tiles this way until I reached the electric socket I'd installed, here I had to make cuts so the next tile would fit round the back box. I measured round the box and transferred my measurements to a tile, marking where I needed to cut with a permanent marker.
To cut the tiles I used an electric tile cutter with a diamond disc and a water bath underneath to help keep the tile cool whilst cutting. Lining up my marks on the tile I cut along my lines removing the scrap pieces of tile so that it would fit round my back box.
With the tile cut I needed to position it round the box, because of the awkward position getting the adhesive on the wall was difficult, so instead I applied it directly to the back of the tile then pushed the tile into place around the socket. I could now fit my final tile of the row, which was again a tile that would need to be cut. This time it was just a straight cut though to line up flush with the wall, so I measured and marked the tile before cutting it and positioning it in place.
I now had my first row complete and could make a start on the next. The second row however would be offset from the first as I was tiling in a brick pattern, so the first tile of the second row needed to be half its length away from the wall where the first tile on the first row was, so that the middle of the tile sat directly above a vertical grout line from the row below. Basically I measured in 11.5mm from the wall (10mm for the tile and 3mm / 2 for the spacer) and drew a line, this was where my first tile would sit and I would then cut and place a half tile to the right of it up against the wall.
The next row would be the same as the first, the fourth row the same as the second and so on until I reached the top of the wall. I continued placing, cutting and spacing tiles until the whole back wall was done. The top row wasn't a full tiles height, so for each one I had to cut them horizontally to fit as well as vertically for any halves needed. As space was limited the more tiles I laid, rather than put adhesive to the wall I found it easier to just place it on individual tiles then push them to the wall until level with the rest.
I could now move on to the sides of the fireplace, applying the tiles in the same way. Each row here only needed 2 tiles, however as the wall was only 350mm wide I had to cut down on each row, this was easier than the back wall though as I could lay a full one, mark and cut the next and repeat up each side spacing them in between with spacers.
With the whole wall tiled I wiped off any excess adhesive with a cloth and left them to sit overnight so I didn't disturb them when grouting.
The next day with the tiles set in place I removed all the spacers and cleaned off any adhesive on the tile faces I'd missed. I then used the same adhesive (it was a dual formula adhesive & grout mix) along with a grout spreader to apply grout in between the joints of each tile, starting on the left wall working my way round to the right, ensuring every void was filled, including the corners where the walls met.
Leaving the grout to dry for 10-15 minutes I then went over the whole area with a wet sponge to remove excess grout and clean up the tiles giving it its final finish. Finally all cleaned off I left the tiles and grout to dry.
Step 14: Wallpaper
Whilst my grout was drying on the tiles, I turned my attention to re-papering the chimney breast. I'd bought some more paper to go with the updated décor it was now just a matter of hanging it.
In order to have the best chance of an easy life whilst hanging the wallpaper and getting the paper straight, I began by marking a vertical line all the way down the centre of my chimney breast using a spirit level to make sure the line was level.
I next mixed up some wallpaper paste, I bough a sachet of powdered formula that you simply add to cold water and mix until it forms a paste like consistency.
I could now measure the height the paper would need to cover using a tape measure by measuring between the bottom of my coving and the floor/top of the skirting board.
With the first piece measured it needed to be around 2.8m long, so I rolled out my paper along the floor, as I don't have a table that big and marked the length on the reverse side, cutting it across with scissors. Weighing each end of the paper down to stop it rolling back up I used an old hand brush to liberally apply my paste to the back of the wallpaper making sure to cover all edges and corners as well as both ends. I then folded the ends in on each other and allowed the paste to soak in a minute or so.
After a minute I took hold of the end of the paper that would go at ceiling level and climbing up stepladders next to the wall, unfolded the paper to its full length before placing it to the wall, lining up the right hand side of the paper to my line that I'd previously drawn to ensure that it was straight.
Next using a wallpaper brush I smoothed over the surface of the paper to flatten it to the wall and remove any air bubbles. I also found my grout spreader was a good tool to use here to flatten the paper thanks to its flexible rubber blade. With the paper in position I could now mark the top and bottom of the paper with a pen where it met my woodwork and cut the excess away with scissors along the lines, ensuring the paper sat along my coving and skirting board flush.
A quick rub over the paper with a damp sponge to remover any excess paste and I was ready for the next piece.
As my paper was patterned and it repeats within a certain distance I needed to make sure my next piece was cut longer so I could line up the pattern without being short at the top or bottom. Keeping this in mind I added 200mm to my next sheet to allow for this, then cut, marked and applied adhesive to it in the same way as before.
Holding it up to the wall I slid the paper up to my previously laid piece, lining up the pattern of the paper ensuring there was enough overhang top and bottom to cover the full run. Once the pattern was aligned I could use my brush/spreader to smooth the paper to the wall and again mark and cut it off round the coving and skirting.
I repeated this process for each piece of paper that I needed until I'd covered the whole chimney breast. I gave the whole surface a wipe over with the sponge to remove any dirt and paste and just clean off the paper and left it to dry overnight.
Step 15: Mantelpiece
To make the mantelpiece for the fireplace I used a piece of live edged Yew. It had two live edged sides and since I wanted it to sit flush to my chimney breast I had to cut one side off straight.
To do this I used my table saw, but to ensure I got a straight cut along my Yew I needed a guide, as simply using my saw fence and the live edge of the Yew would result in an uneven cut.
The guide was made using a piece of plywood screwed to the underside of my Yew that would pass between the blade and the fence. I then attached the Yew to the blade side of the ply ensuring it was overhanging slightly, so when I ran the plywood along the table saw between the fence and blade this overhang would be cut off and I would be left with a straight edge on my Yew matching the plywood underneath.
First on the underside I marked each end of my Yew where the live edge stopped and solid timber began, from these marks I could then line up one edge of my plywood so it was running between the marks and one side of the Yew was overhanging the plywood. I could then screw the ply to the Yew ensuring the screw heads were flush so they wouldn't catch on the saw table whilst cutting.
My Yew was around 220mm at its widest point, so I used a piece of a ply around 240mm wide allowing me enough of an overhang to cut away one side of the Yew, but leaving enough plywood the other side to run against my saw fence without the other live edged side catching.
With the plywood secured to the Yew I turned it over and rested the end of the plywood on my table saw between the blade and the fence. Starting the saw I then gently fed the board through the blade so that it began cutting away the live edge from my mantelpiece. The Yew was around 60mm thick so I fed it fairly slowly into the blade so I wasn't overworking the saw.
Once it passed all the way through I was left with a piece of Yew with one straight edge and one live. I removed the plywood guide from underneath and began to sand down the whole piece to remove all the saw marks.
I started with my belt sander and 40 grit paper to get all the heavy markings out, moving up to 120 grit shortly after to get a smoother surface. Once both sides and the straight edge were at the 120 I turned the Yew on its side and used a wire wheel in my cordless drill to clean up the live edge, removing all the dirt and any loose bark still attached.
With the live edge cleaned I switched to my random orbit sander and 240 grit paper to give the Yew a final sand allover and get a smooth finish ready for oil.
The oil I chose was Danish oil and I applied it with a paintbrush all over the Yew, making sure to get in to all the cracks and natural voids in the wood. Once the whole piece was covered I left it to soak in for 10-15 minutes before rubbing the whole piece down using an old rag, removing any excess oil and buffing it to a shine.
I then left it to one side to dry fully overnight whilst I sorted out brackets to hang it on the wall.
Step 16: Mantelpiece Brackets
In order to hold my new mantelpiece to the wall I opted to use brackets that would screw to my chimney breast. However I was going to make these brackets as I couldn't find any others readymade that I liked.
To make the brackets I used 22mm copper pipe and other fittings to form a right angled shaped so one end would screw to the wall and the other to the Yew mantel.
Each bracket was made from:
- x2 cast iron flanges 3/4" thread
- x2 copper end feed 45 degree elbows 22mm
- x2 brass 3/4" male thread to 22mm compression fitting
- x3 22mm copper pipe sections 35mm long
With all my pieces laid out on the table the first thing to do was cut the 35mm copper pipe sections to length from a larger 1m section. These would attach all the other bits together and all needed to be the same length so at the end both brackets matched one another.
To cut the pipe I first marked 35mm from one end of the 1m section then used a small pipe cutter with a single cutting wheel, the pipe simply sits between two jaws, one with a cutting wheel and one with two roller bearings and the cutter adjusts to the pipes diameter using a thumb screw.
Tightening the cutter to the pipe I rotated the cutter round the pipe a few times before tightening the thumb screw again and repeating. After rotating and tightening 3-4 times the cutter eventually gets through the pipe and a 35mm piece falls away from the cutter. I repeat this process another 2 times so I end up with 3 sections of pipe 35mm long.
The next stage is to now join all the copper pieces together and because the elbows are end feed this means soldering them. Before I get to that however I first need to clean everything up so the solder will stick, this is done using wire wool to rub each end of the pipe sections and inside the ends of each elbow. With the pieces clean I could now mock up what the final bracket will look like.
After checking that all the pieces will fit together I next secure an elbow in my vice, I apply some flux to the end and inside the elbow and do the same for a section of 35mm pipe before inserting the pipe into the joint.
I next apply heat to the joint using a blow torch, heating all the way round to try and heat the joint as evenly as possible. After a couple of minutes heating I introduce some solder to the joint which melts with the heat and flows round the joint where the flux is applied, getting between the pipe and elbow securing them together.
With one joint secure I repeat for the other end and then join these ends together using a piece of pipe in the middle between them. To join both ends together I sit the pipes on top of the vice ensuring both elbows are aligned with one another so the brackets are straight once on the wall. I then flux the final piece of pipe and slide the two elbow pieces over either end. Using the torch again I heat the joints in the middle and once hot enough apply the solder again so that it runs into the joints and secures all the pieces together.
Now that I had one copper bracket piece made I repeated the process again to make a second, matching one.
With all the pieces joined and two bracket pieces complete the pipework is extremely hot, so I plunge it into cold water to allow me to continue working on it. After soldering and cooling the pipes are a mess with all the heat, flux and some excess solder, so I used my wire wheel in the drill and some more wire wool to clean them up and get them back to a shine. I also polished the cast iron flanges as these were a dull grey colour and I wanted them bright to match the rest of the copper and brass. With everything polished I applied a coat of clear wax to protect the metal and stop it tarnishing.
After polishing the flanges I inserted the brass fittings, screwing the 3/4" threads down until the brass sat flush with the top of the flange, tightening them up with a spanner. I could then insert my copper brackets into the brass fittings, placing the screw cap end and an olive over the pipe before tightening each end down on to a flange.
With everything tightened up I had two complete brackets ready to hold my mantelpiece.
Step 17: Attaching the Mantelpiece
To fix the mantel brackets to the wall I measured up from the hearth and in from the edge of the chimney on each side to get the brackets positioned where I wanted them. I could then mark the hole positions in the flanges on to the wall indicating where I would need to drill.
After marking both side I used the hammer function on my cordless drill to drill 7mm holes in to the wall where I'd marked. I then inserted 7mm wall plugs and screwed each bracket to the wall ensuring it was firmly attached.
I could now sit my Yew mantel on top of my brackets ensuring it was flush to the wall before drilling pilot holes underneath where the holes in the flanges were. Using my impact driver I then fastened the brackets to the mantel securing it to the wall and that was it attached.
Step 18: Hearth Surround
The next big job was constructing a surround for my hearth. As I'd built it up fairly high due to the existing concrete slab the surround would need to be quite tall.
After rooting around in my garage I found some old Teak that was wide enough to give me the height I needed without having to glue something up, so I decided to use that and began measuring up.
The Teak I was using had originally been fire station doors opened to let the engines out, so the pieces I was using had a few holes in, mouldings where the glass would have been and old joints still intact, so before I could begin I need to sort these things out and get the timber ready.
I used 3 pieces of Teak for the surround and began preparing the sides first. These pieces were made from cross members of the old doors so had moulding on them and the old tenons at either end. I began by cutting off each tenon on my chop saw so I had flush ends on both pieces I then ran each piece through my table saw to remove the moulding from each side and give me flat edges to work with.
To ensure a straight edge I screwed a piece of plywood to the underside allowing an overhang where the mouldings were, exactly the same as how I cut my mantel, this allowed the blade to follow the straight edge of the plywood against the saw fence and remove the overhanging moulding parallel to it, giving me a completely straight edge which I could then use against the fence to remove the moulding on the other side.
Next I moved on to the larger front piece for my surround, this came from an upright on the old doors and was pretty straight it just had some old screws in I needed to remove so I didn't damage my tools. With these removed I used my plywood sheet again to run this piece through the table saw and get flat level edges. Next to make sure all the pieces were the same width I used my front piece to set the table saw width as the side pieces were wider. With the saw and fence set I could then run the side pieces back through to cut away the excess and match the sides to the front.
With all 3 pieces having straight cut sides I set up my router sled to flatten all my pieces out, running the router across each face of the Teak pieces to give me a flat level surface and remove the top layer of old built up dirt and marks. Each piece of teak had survived pretty well and was already fairly flat it was more a case of getting to clean timber underneath and making all the pieces the same thickness.
After routing each piece up I used my belt sander to get rid of the routing marks so each piece was smooth and in semi finished condition.
The next stage was now cutting the pieces to fit the hearth and I began with the sides first. To attach these to the hearth I planned to fix them to the timber frame making up the hearth. I wanted to sit the teak on top of this frame and use dowels to hold each side in place.
This meant cutting away a section in the bottom of each side, wide enough to accommodate a 10mm dowel and as high as the frame on each side. I measured the height of the hearth frame and began by setting up my table saw to cut the width first. I set my fence to the height of the frame, around 40mm from the blade and I set the blades height at 20mm allowing me plenty of room for a 10mm dowel. I then passed each side piece through the saw so I hat a groove cut in each piece 20mm deep.
I then moved the fence to 20mm from the blade and increased the blade height to 40mm turning the Teak sides 90 degrees from the last cut so I was cutting the adjacent side and passed it through the saw. This removed a strip of timber from each side piece around 20x40mm in size and left me with two 'L' shaped sides that I could now sit over the top of my frame marking the length the sides needed to be by running a pencil along the front edge of the frame
Removing the side pieces I extended these marks across the face of the sides and marked a 45 mitre on each piece. I then used my chop saw with the blade set at 45 degrees to cut along these marks giving me the mitres to line up with the front piece of Teak once cut and ready.
I then drilled two 10mm holes in each side piece where I'd cut away the timber to form the 'L' deep enough to hold dowel markers so I could mark the corresponding holes on my hearth frame.
To mark the frame I laid painters tape over the timber, this let me see the marks more easily once made. I then inserted the dowel markers into the holes in the Teak sides and laid each side in position over the frame, pushing down firmly so the tip of the marker pushed into the tape underneath. Removing the sides each strip of tape now had two marks on it where I could drill out 10mm holes for the dowels to a depth half the length of a dowel, I also drilled out the holes in the Teak sides to the same depth. Now I could place dowels in to the holes in the hearth frame and sit the sides over the top tapping them down flush over the dowels securing them in place whilst I turned my attention to the front piece.
The slate hearth I'd laid overhung slightly and I wanted my Teak surround to sit over this overhang and hide the rough cut edge of the slate, this meant cutting a slot in the back of the Teak to accommodate this. To mark where I need the slot I placed the large front piece of Teak in position along the front of the fireplace and drew around my piece of slate on to the back of the Teak to show where it would sit. With the area marked out I could clamp a straight edge to the Teak by lining up a cutting head in my palm router with my marks then marking the width of the routers base along one side, doing this at both ends of my markings I could run the straight edge between these marks before using a slot cutting bit in my palm router to rout out a channel to the same depth as the slate overhung my fireplace.
After routing I positioned my piece back in place to check the fit, making sure the Teak would butt up tight against the timber support frame that the slate was sat on.
I now needed to mark the length of the front section so measured between the tip of each side piece then transferred this measurement to my front piece giving me its overall length. From my marks I could then mark the corresponding mitres at each end and again use my chop saw set at 45 degrees to make the cuts. With each end cut I offered the front piece up to the hearth sliding the mitres in place and ensuring my slate sat in the slot cut in to the back.
Before moving on to the side boards I next cut a large circular plug to fit in the hole in the middle of the front piece, it was around 40mm in diameter and I cut the plug slightly larger from some offcuts to match so it was a tight fit and tapped it into place with a mallet, sanding it smooth to the surface of the Teak.
With all 3 pieces in place I now needed to cut some boards to hide the spaces between the slate and sides of the Teak surround. To save time I decided to use some Oak board I had previously router planed for another project which was the correct width to cover the spaces and thin enough to sit below the top surface of the teak surround once in place. To prepare the Oak I gave it a quick sand with my belt sander and then orbital sander so it was smooth and flat.
The Oak would sit on top of the slate (again to hide my rough cut uneven edges) and then sit in a channel cut in the back of the Teak surround. To mark the channel in the Teak I used a steel ruler sat flat on top of the slate with the end extending over the space touching the back of the surround. I could then mark this point as the base of my channel, move the ruler to the next piece and mark again, repeating for each end of each piece of Teak.
Now I had the marks I removed my surround pieces and drew a line between the marks on each piece this gave me the bottom edges of my channel, it would run full length on both side pieces and they'd be one at either end of the front piece.
To mark the top of the channel I drew a parallel line up from the bottom line the same distance as the thickness of the Oak board. Next using my palm router again with the slot cut bit in I could line up a straight edge and cut the slots in the back of each piece of Teak to around 10mm depth, checking the fit of the oak after each cut.
With all the slots cut, I cut my Oak to length measuring from the wall to the face of the slot in the front piece of the fire surround. I then chamfered one edge on each piece of oak using my router, so I didn't just have a square edge where the Oak sat on top of the slate.
I now re-fitted all the pieces to the fireplace to make sure everything would fit correctly. Unfortunately on each side where the Oak would butt up to the wall the skirting board was blocking my slot, so I marked the skirting board where it was blocking me and used my vibrating multi tool to chop away a small piece of skirting on either side, allowing my oak to slide up flush to the wall.
Everything now fit correctly and looked good in place, however I didn't like the squareness of the surround so decided to chamfer the edge to give a more pleasing look. To remove the square edges and cut a wide chamfer I used my table saw, setting the blade at a wide angle to remove the front corner of each piece of Teak.
To check the cut and make sure I'd be happy with it before committing to cut the actual surround, I used one of my side offcuts instead to set the saw up and make a cut. Happy with the result I proceed to cut the actual Teak surround.
After everything was cut and chamfered I gave each piece of the surround a sand down with my belt and orbital sanders to get rid of all the saw and scorch marks, sanding it back to a smooth 240 grit finish. I could now install the whole surround to the fire place, sitting my sides over their dowels, before sliding in the Oak boards and finally placing the front piece over the slate. I held the front in place by gluing and screwing it into my side pieces, hiding the screws behind some plugs cut from the offcuts. I also cut a large plug here to go in a large hole in the centre of my front piece, I made it a tight fit and just tapped it in before sanding it flush. After the glue dried and the plugs were in I gave the whole thing a final sanding in place to remove the excess glue and get the surround ready for finish.
Step 19: Mini Tile Surround
To finish off the fireplace the last job was to cut some trim to go around the opening of the fire place to cover the edge where the tiles were and I'd cut off the wallpaper.
To make the trim I used some smaller bits of teak to match the main surround cut from a larger piece. I wanted the trim to sit flat on the wall and go round the corner to hide the tile edge.
To achieve this I again used my table saw to create an 'L' shape, using the exact same process I did when cutting the sides of the fire surround. Cutting a slot in one face of the timber around halfway through before cutting the adjacent edge to the height of this slot to remove a section of timber.
With three pieces cut to an 'L' shape I measured the height each side piece needed to be and cut them across with my chop saw. The top piece would then sit on top of these pieces, but I would need to remove a section at each end where the side bits sat against the wall.
These pieces were the same length as the side pieces were wide and I just needed to remove the bottom edge. To do this I marked the widths of the sides at each end of the top piece then used my Japanese saw to remove the small sections flush with the back of the trim.
With everything cut I routed matching chamfers on the edge of each piece before sanding them all smooth and gluing them in place on the fire using a high strength grab adhesive, making sure each piece was level before pushing it in place to the wall.
Step 20: Finishing
Now that the tile surround was finished all that was left to do was finish the whole fireplace off by applying some Danish oil to my timber to protect it.
I simply painted it on with a brush, left it to soak in a few minutes then buffed it off with a cloth to give a smooth, bright finish to the timber.
I also applied some clear wax to my slate hearth to protect that and bring out the deep grey colour, applying with a cloth before buffing off to get a clean smooth finish.
That's it done, all I need to do now is buy a fire to go in it!
It took 5/6 weeks to complete all told, but that was for the whole front room and I was mainly doing it on a evening after work, otherwise it would have been finished quicker.
As with everything in my house I had a few unexpected issues and things I had to fix before I could start to improve, but I got there in the end and the finished room is so much better, just waiting on new sofas to arrive now.
Thanks for trawling through all the wordy bit as usual if you managed it, see you on the next project.
Second Prize in the
Home Decor Contest