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kejoni 01-23-2008 10:03 AM

huge wall fireplace -- need help
Hi! We have an enormous wall fireplace with a raised hearth. The total length is 13 feet -- we loose SO much floor space! This is vintage 1960's - 1970's & I absolutely hate it!

What I want to do is make it smaller -- take it down to about 74 inches total - that gives 12 inches on each side of the fireplace door. I really don't mind the color & really like having the raised hearth. Is there a way my husband & I can do this (if so please let me know the process) or do we have to hire someone to do it?

Here's the picture of the fireplace.

Thanks for all your suggestions & help!

glennjanie 01-23-2008 12:24 PM

Welcome Kejoni:
First I would do some checking on the brick. There is a product called Brickeets that are only 3/8" thick. They are glued to the wall or whatever and a decorator's squeeze bag is used to put the mortar in. If that is your case, a masonry saw could be used to cut a line where you want it, tear out the unwanted part and replace the drywall.
If it is real brick you have a lotof work to do! But, it can be done.

kejoni 01-24-2008 11:42 AM

How do we figure out if it's actual brick or the Brickeets? Do we just take a brick or two off of a corner on the wall?


guyod 01-24-2008 12:39 PM

The most crucial part of this project is to get a clean cut from where you want to keep the fireplace. if you have brickeets you might be able to cut it with a masonry blade for a circular saw. if it is real brick you should rent one of those big concrete saws with the 10 or 12in blade.. make plenty of practice cuts.
you should be able to tell by looking at the end edge and look how thick it is. or you can just break so off you riping it down anyway.

CraigFL 01-24-2008 01:36 PM

Looking at the picture, I suspect you have regular brick. I can see the edge of the brick both on the LH side of the firebox behind the screen and along the front hearth edge. Now me, I prefer to remove regular brick because I would just get out my 10# sledge hammer and tap the bricks to break the morter joint. I'll bet they come loose pretty easily....

kejoni 01-24-2008 04:36 PM

I think we'll try using the hammer and go brick by brick.

When we get it to the size we want how do we finish the edges? Should we try to keep the old half-size bricks to morter into place? And what about the hearth box -- just save the old bricks to use for the sides?

Thanks for everyone's help and advice!!! You guys are great!!!

guyod 01-26-2008 10:42 PM

That why i was talking about using a saw just for the finished edge. that way you dont have to worry about mortering. the heath is going to be the hardest part. Just use your old bricks and cover the sides as simple or complex as you feel up to.

ToolGuy 01-26-2008 11:20 PM

I can assure you those are real bricks and not veneer bricks as mentioned above. :)

However, there is no way of knowing what is inside the hearth, what is the core material. I doubt they used brick to build it up to that size. More likely, there is cement block or some other material in the center. The only way to find out is by taking it apart. The best way to dismantle it brick by brick is with an SDS rotary hammer set to chisel mode (not spinning) and using a wide masonry bit. If you can't get your hands on one you could use a small sledge hammer and 2" wide cold chisel. Regular hammer would work okay, but a small sledge hammer costs about $12 and will make the job go a lot quicker.

By working the mortar joints evenly all the way around each brick you're not likely to break very many of them. You can also use the wide cold chisel to cut the bricks in half. Lay a brick on the ground (dirt or sand is best to absorb the shock) and chisel at the middle (or where ever you want the cut) all around the brick until it separates into two pieces. It may take a couple of bricks to get the hang of it, but it goes pretty fast after that.

I use a dry diamond blade in my 4-1/2" angle grinder or a similar blade in my 7-1/4" circular saw. A wet saw also works well. Oh, so many options. But with a hammer and a 2" cold chisel you can remove and cut the bricks as needed.

Gloves are recommended. Safety glasses are a must! ;)

Daryl in Nanoose 01-27-2008 09:07 AM

Well you certainly have your hands full,
to start off with cutting the brick face with a angle grinder with mason blade or is a very good choice but be forewarned, there will be lots of dust and small chips SO "PLEASE" wear all the protective gear you can and mask off the area to help keep the dust out of the house. Wetting the bricks as you work will also help. I would attach a nice straight X to the bricks on the side your taking off, this will give you a nice straight line. I would start the cut at the top second brick down directly under a motor joint since a round blade can not get into the corner and it will keep you away from the ceiling. I dought very much you will end up with a good enough edge to keep but you can always finish the edge with mortar or even a pillar in fact if you made a pillar out of wood to match your mantle you could put a light in them.

Now the hearth could of been constructed many ways and heres a few I have come across over the years.
Hearth filled with concrete and rebar
Hearth filled with debris from the brickwork and topped with concrete and rebar.
Hearth filled with Navajack ( rock and sand mixture) compacted and then topped with 3-4 inches of concrete with 2 lengths of rebar.
Hearth lined with brick around inside edge, then patio slabs sitting on top and then again topped with concrete and rebar.
So who knows, unfortunately no way to know for sure till you get into it.

kejoni 01-31-2008 05:18 AM

You all are so wonderful! Thank you so much for all your advice and tips!

Yes - this is going to be a HUGE project but now I feel confident that my husband & I can handle it! HOPEFULLY it will all go well and we won't run into any problems! (If we do I know where I can turn to ask questions!!!)

Thanks again!!!

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