Sunday, September 20, 2015

Project is (well) done

We finally finished our home renovation project for this year.

When I say "we," I mean Lee Brady, our handyman extraordinaire who carefully planned, thought out, reworked and then executed, some wonderful improvements to our house, the most striking of which was the installation of our fireplace mantel in the dining room.

The mantel and shield before work began.
Kim and I found the mantel in a yard sale on South Main Street about 10 years ago (has it been that long?). We bought it and I stripped the white paint off of it, a laborious summer project that took several days to complete. That was my sweat equity in the project.

We brought the mantel inside the house and propped it up against the dining room wall, where it patiently waited for the next seven or eight years. In the meantime, we found a really neat brass fireplace shield in a salvage store in Greensboro, bought it and propped that up against the wall, too. A pre-existing hearth was already in place, indicating a coal-burning fireplace had indeed once warmed the room.
Whenever we had friends come to the house, they'd oooh and ahhhh about our potential fireplace-in-waiting.

They did that for years. I think they were being kind to us.

Finally, Kim and I decided it was time to get started. We hired Lee, who promptly rebuilt our deteriorating freestanding outdoor utility shed while we decided what kind of fireplace tile we needed to buy.

The old hearth needed hammer-and-chisel attention.
Once in motion, the project gradually gained momentum. The shed was redone, along with sundry other items that needed handyman attention. Lee tackled each job one-by-one, until finally, just the mantel remained.

About a month went by where Lee had to take on another paying job (We were in no hurry. Why should we be, we waited this long) at another location.

Then he said he was ready.

One of the first things he did, besides mounting the mantel on the wall, which was impressive enough, was to remove the existing hearth. We just didn't think the tile there was appropriate to our vision for the fireplace.

We are delighted with the completed project.
What should have been an anticipated easy removal turned out to be a project in itself. The tile had been installed and attached to a concrete footing underneath. That was unexpected (working on old houses almost always reveals the unexpected) and Lee had to use a hammer and chisel to chip away the footing to prepare the hearth for the new tile we had selected.

After an uneven and dusty surface had been chipped out, our cat, Halo, inexplicably thought we had installed a luxurious new litter box just for her. She jumped on the hearth and started scratching...

Noooo. (She did not).

Finally, Lee was set to install the new fireplace tile. This actually took a couple days, but when I came home from work Thursday, I was greeted by the completed project.

I was stunned. The fireplace looked to me as though it had been there since the house was built 95 years ago.

Now when we have friends over, I know their ooohs and ahhhs will be genuine. I know mine are.

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