We love our house, but there were some 70's holdovers when we moved in, the largest, and most dangerous of which being the massive brick pedestal from an old fireplace. Here's what the removal of those bricks looked like and how it went down.
I often remind my wife that I prefer not to move on to a new project until I've completed whatever I'm currently working on. Such was the case as she continued to prod me about getting this huge mass of bricks out of the living room. When the day finally came, it was a Sunday evening, the barn door project in the basement was done and she lovingly said, "why don't you just start taking those bricks out right now?" I threw a couple of excuses out. "You know this is going to create a lot of dust Dear..." I said. "And I'm gonna make a ton of noise and then you're gonna have to figure out what to do with the hole thats left in the floor." "Are you sure you're ready for all that?" I stated.
She knew she had me right where she wanted me, I was already in work clothes, she got the kids to cheer me on... I went down and got the crow bar, the hammers, my safety glasses and pulled the mower with the trailer right outside the window. Next thing I knew I was ripping bricks off the wall and tossing them out the window into the trailer. This project had officially begun.
The bricks came off the wall pretty smoothly, there were clips that were mortared into the bricks and nailed into the studs, with a few good tugs, these gave way and I was happy to see the drywall behind the fireplace was in good shape. The last thing I wanted to have to do after removing these bricks was to install drywall, tape, mud, sand, texture and paint in my living room. That first evening I was able to get the entire vertical wall piece off and the first row of the base. I cleaned up the work area before bed, got showered up and laid there in bed thinking how much was still left to go knowing that the bricks against the wall were the easy part.
I got back to crushing this thing right after dinner the next evening. Brick by brick, load by load, getting the crow bar in, lifting up a brick at a time and watching the pile of rubble grow. Throughout this project, the bricks were the easy part, the biggest headache was the small pieces of rubble and dust that was created every time I ripped a brick out.
After all of the bricks were up and out (4 full loads and a crack in the mower dump trailer) I could the expanded metal they had used as the base for the install. This was basically a 3 layer build. On top of the floorboards they put a layer of black plastic, then an expanded metal pan and then the bricks. Incredible to see how simple the build was but also just how much bricks and mortar went into it!
Near the end of my 3rd evening working on this, I was able to get a good grip on the expanded metal and rip the staples and the remaining mortar right off the floor, this exposed the floor boards and signaled that I was getting close to being done with the removal. Once the pan was completely gone I shoveled what was left into the trailer and vacuumed and swept multiple times to get it all cleaned up.
After all of masonry was out I scraped the wall with a putty knife to get the gunk off, patched the big hole where the fireplace vent went into the chimney and put mud where it looked uneven. After an initial sanding (more dust), I used a can of spray texture and a putty knife to replicate the look of the knock-down texture on the wall, painted it, placed some extra carpet where the brick was and covered it all with a rug.
The final result came out great! 5 total days of a few hours of work. A few days after the removal, my parents visited and my dad and I loaded the brick onto the trailer I negotiated to keep when we bought the farm and took it all to the recycling center. That was when the project was officially completed. Any body who has done something like this knows, you can't check it off the list until whatever you removed is officially off your property...Unless of course you don't mind piles of junk and aren't committed to doing things the right way and finishing what you start. That's not my style.
Every time I sit in that room I get a great feeling of accomplishment. We have so much more room to move around, the wife can decorate and we don't have to worry about the kids concussing themselves on those bricks!
This project took a lot more manual labor than most. When I'm taking on work like this I try to remind myself of all of the people that do manual labor everyday of their working life. I think about the brave men that felled the trees so we could build our highways, the families that travelled West on the Oregon trail. It's important to remind yourself what you are REALLY capable of. When you think about it, how hard is the removal of a bunch of bricks from an old fire place when you compare it to getting a wagon train over the Cascade mountain range, hand sawing 200 year old Sequoia trees or building a railroad?
I appreciate the efforts of those that came before me and try my best to honor them by never shying away from manual labor in my own life. Nothing feels better than working, sweating and bleeding for a project like this, getting it all cleaned up, getting yourself all cleaned up and sitting in a chair relaxing right there on top of the spot where that son of a gun used to bother you (and the wife).