Wednesday, April 18, 2012

To be prepared is half the victory

* Long post alert

Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory (Miguel de Cervantes) - we failed on that one - miserably. 

You remember our fireplace we discussed here? The one you saw more pictures of here? Well, after a lot of back and forth and other priorities coming along, we (or should I say I?) decided to bite the bullet and tackle the fireplace. Hubby has always been apprehensive about this project, figuring it would be much harder than we could ever imagine. I kept insisting that the existing tile was not in keeping with our house and had to go and the most cost effective way to address the issue was to take the tile off and try to get back the original white brick - the cost would be our time and a couple of new tiles for the hearth. Makes sense, no?

Well, it all started very promising. While hubby was away with the kids for two days, I tackled phase one and removed the existing tile. First the metal surround was removed and then I popped the tiles off with a crowbar. The tougher ones were cracked with a chisel so the crowbar could get some leverage.This was really easy and except for a couple of scrapes (those tile pieces are sharp) and the rubble I had to remove, this job was done in an hour. Yayyy!

On day one I was left with a fireplace that no longer had ugly tile, but was covered in mortar and grout lines. I would tackle that job the next day.

The next day, I took out the grinder which my husband kindly put out with all the other tools. I expected the mortar to come off in big chunks once the blade hit, but instead it disintegrated into dust. I attempted this for about 20 minutes, looked around me and pulled the emergency brake! This was not going according to plan - I was expecting rubble - not dust! 20 minutes of grinding created so much dust that I spent the next 3 hours cleaning my living room - every surface had to be vacuumed and wiped down. What a pain and disappointment. 

Once hubby returned, I told him about it and he suggested that he attempt it with the larger grinder while I went out with the kids. He would protect the area with a plastic tent and we'd be just fine - we've done a lot of drywall work in our house, we should be fine, right? Sure, the tent would do it, I thought as well, but trust me honey - it really creates a ton of dust I say as I leave the house!

Here is where you come to the conclusion that we are idiots, know-it-alls, could have told you that, etc., etc., and yes, we hold our head down in shame, because hubby entered his plastic bubble around the fireplace and ground for 1.5 hours straight - he emerged and his heart dropped - the dust had not only escaped the bubble, but it had migrated across the house - the kitchen was covered, every floor, the toys in the playroom, each window - you can't possibly imagine the mess we had in our house. There were tears and words exchanged and then we buckled down and cleaned. We removed everything and put it in the garage and then cleaned for days. The fireplace was now halfway done - what to do?

Give up and drywall over? My grandfather smiled wisely and said:' You think the dust doesn't have anywhere to go? it will find a way - you need something to extract the air' - aehhm, yes, we did not prepare properly and we paid dearly for it, but we decided that we went through hell already so we were going to finish this s*#!*r! 

And this time we prepared: First we removed everything in the room except for the table, couch base and yellow cabinet. We wrapped all of those in plastic. We covered each doorway from both sides with plastic, we covered the front hall closet with plastic, the other entrance to the kitchen with plastic and taped every air return and heating vent (those were our down-fall in moving dust around the house). We then opened the window and added a high-power fan we rented at HD.

Next step was to use a large chisel and remove as much of the mortar as possible with the chisel, allowing for large chunks to fall down. Lastly, three hours with the large grinder (which I can't even lift) finished the job. The job was done, the living room had dust, but nothing compared to before and none of the other rooms were affected. We left the plastic up for two days to allow the dust to settle and cleaned the floors, walls and surfaces multiple times over the weekend.

We ate dinner in the playroom (kids thought it was great!) and spent our days outdoors or in the playroom. Three days later, I'm slowly putting things back - making sure that everything is cleaned before it goes back in its spot.

We still have to clean all the windows from the outside and I'm sure we'll continue to find dusty things going forward, but right now we are happy we got the hard part done. 

Next is cleaning the actual brick, painting it, and re-tiling the hearth - still a substantial job ahead of us, but nowhere near as dirty as the job just completed.

What did we learn with this project? Well, the more time you spend preparing, the more successful you will be - and once it hits the fan, push on through and make the bad go away. As Budda said: There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. (Yes, I'm using quotes to make us feel better)

I do like the fireplace better already though - much brighter, although I think hubby at this point would have lived happily ever after with the existing tile!

Any major reno disaster that happened to you? Did you know that stone dust is so much worse than drywall dust?


  1. Oh dear ... all that dust! Yes, there would have been "words" in our house too. LOL! It sure is going to be gorgeous when it's done though :)

  2. wow, you guys are troopers. There would have been WORDS exchanged and fingers pointed at our house :) ha ha. It does look so much better already. You both deserve a large stiff drink :)

  3. Wow - what a job ...butit's clearly worth it!! You guys are really brave - well done!!


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