Friday, September 5, 2014

Guest Post: Embrace the Useless Fireplace!

Today we are so lucky to have one of my dear friends share a wonderful fireplace makeover with us!  Make sure you show Brandy some love!  She is a very talented DIY girl and I love seeing her before and afters!  Prepare to be amazed!  :)

Hi DIYers!  I was honored when Heather asked if I would guest post on her little corner of the internet!  When I'm not getting my hands dirty, I'm busy dreaming of my next project.  DIY is my idea of a good time and I love a good before & after!  I've spent the last seven years upgrading my 1930 bungalow when time and money allows.  Some projects required me to save all my pennies for a long time.  But this project?  She came in at $300.  Grab a cup of coffee.  This is a long post!
Happy DIY'ing, friends!

Back in 2007, I bought a fixer-upper. On inspection day, the living room looked like this:

Do you see that brick fixture? After we painted the walls and pulled back the carpet to discover original hardwood floors (yippee!), that brick fixture looked like this:
At one point it was connected to an old wood stove.  When the stove was removed, the flue was covered by this interesting piece of... art?... then duct-taped to cover the opening.

For a while, we worked around it.
The cost of turning this into an actual fireplace or demolishing the thing was too high since we would have to replace a section of the foundation, an exterior wall, and the roof.  So we decided to embrace this useless fireplace.
This is the result:

How do you turn that ugly faux-brick eyesore into the thing I can’t stop staring at?

First, convince your husband, Charlie, that this is a good idea even though you can’t find anything online that resembles the rough Photoshop picture you’ve presented.

Build a wood frame using 2x4’s, mdf, and anchor the frame to your concrete hearth.
Build a mold for the concrete bench using 2x4’s, mdf, corner round, and duct tape, if needed. (There are lots of great mold-building tutorials online for concrete benches. We tried to use what we had on hand.)

Ask your friend, Eric, to help because he knows concrete better than anyone you know. Mix the concrete, pour it into the mold, while causing a vibration to get out all the bubbles. I used a small sander on the 2x4’s while Charlie tapped a hammer around the frame to cause the vibration.

Smooth the concrete very well. Make sure it is safe from the rain, and then let it cure for a week.

Once your concrete bench has cured, you can remove the mold and smooth any rough edges. We chiseled a few irregular corners and sanded all the edges.

Bribe Eric to come over again. Take pictures while strong men carry a heavy concrete bench and place it on the wood frame. Use Carnuba wax to protect the concrete.

*Did you notice the photoshop image is hanging on the old mantel? That picture saved my sanity as we worked on this project in our spare time over several weeks. Instead of explaining to every single person who entered our home, (“I know it looks weird now but it will look great! It’s already better than it used to be!”) our “inspiration” was posted for all to see.

Build a new rustic mantel using reclaimed wood. We were able to pick out a few pieces of lovely cedar from Locust Lumber’s discard pile. Total cost was less than $20. Learn from my mistake: Stain and poly your mantel before you apply Airstone. I love the character of the wood.

Now you get to have some fun with Airstone! If you are unfamiliar with this product, check out the
display at your favorite Lowe's. There are lots of great Airstone ideas online, too! This product is very
easy to use and the instructions are simple. A few tips, though:

  • If you need to use more than one box, open all the boxes and mix the colors well.
  • Allow the Airstone to acclimate at least 24 hours.
  • Be sure to lay the stone in a horizontal line. You may be tempted to do all the corners first. Don’t.
The instructions say to only use a hacksaw to cut pieces to size. We found a $3 Miter Masonry blade that worked perfectly. Just be sure to account for the width of the blade when you cut.  This is a fun and fairly easy job. But it is very dusty.

The back corners of the concrete bench flowed beautifully into the stone.

Make sure the dog approves.

I’m thrilled with the end result! In the future, I might dress up the concrete bench with plants or candles. But for now, we like to use it as extra seating for our family game nights. Next project: sew some cute pillows for the bench.

Well now I need a new project to work on!  I just love how Brandy & Charlie made this strange brick fireplace into something so beautiful!  It makes the room look complete!  Great job guys!

Do you have any strange places in your home that need a creative solution?  If so I would love to hear about them and see your before and after pictures! 

Have fun!

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