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Saturday, October 25

There's No Place For The Fireplace

A big project like a house can be a series of bizarre and apparently nonsensical critical paths. I can't get the top floor of my house painted or carpeted until the fireplace in the downstairs room is out. Huh!? Well, maybe I could, but maybe I don't want to. The removal of the fireplace is the last big job in the house - the last one which can cause rubble, at least. I could leave it there, but then there would continue to be a plague of soot, which would ultimately make the new carpet a mess. I could block the soot bits up and stop, but then there would be a nasty fireplace in the room, taking up space. Really, it wants to be removed, blocked up and forgotten about. Not only that, but the skirting board needs to go on at the same time as blocking it up, otherwise there's a potential for a huge critical chain to go wrong.

The skirting board question comes to this. When the fireplace is gone, there needs to be a skirting on the front. This should match up with the new skirting board I put on nearly 2 years ago when I first got the house. However, if I want it to match up, then I need to attach the skirting before the plasterer comes along, or he'll plaster the whole of the wall, leaving me no choice but to remove the stub of skirting and do it again. But that stub I have already got matches the rest of the skirting board at its far end. If I remove it, won't I have to keep going, round the room, as the plastering will constantly make everything a different size?

So, skirting board first.

Before that, the fireplace needs to come out. It's a job I didn't want to do when I first saw it. I thought it would be a lot of effort and a lot of money to replaster. Given that I ended up accepting the replastering as necessary and given that it's cheaper than I thought and that I can do reasonable plasterboarding myself, I changed my mind. Given that I now have a big hardcore drill with chiseling attachment, I reckoned I could also make short work of the whole removal process.

I started out with the best of intentions, power-chiseling away at the fire-surround, watching tiles drop off and thinking I was getting somewhere. There wasn't a lot of cracking of concrete, more some remodelling, and all-in-all, it was enough noise to send my companion up to the opposite end of the house to paint a door. Thank you.

After lots of power chiseling, I had little thought - what if I just hit this with a big sledgehammer?

I did.

Then I got a big crow bar.

Then I did prying, smashing, power chiselling and manly bellowing. All in all, the fireplace was smashed into tiny piece.

I even did a responsible thing and bagged all of the pieces into rubble sacks.

When I was left with just the hearth, I considered what it might be made of, smashed it with the sledgehammer and discovered that it didn't matter. Smashing rocks up - that's where it's at.

In the end, there was a car-chassis-creaking-quantity of rubble sacks to take to the tip, and that's exactly what I did, avoiding the mistake of the past where I ended up accumulating much rubble and other shite outside my house for nearly a year (over a year, in some minor cases).

After the tip action there was a B&Q trip which delivered both the joy of skirting board and general purpose timber, and the unexpected misery of a closed cafe. Such is life. Luckily, the dithering over feeding ourselves that followed, eventually resulted in what can only be described as the second bonza curry of the week, same place as last time, different company, this time it was a takeaway. Brilliant. Curry really got the juices flowing and the mid-to-late evening comprised making a wooden frame to fit into the fireplace hole, contemplating its position, attaching it a bit more loosely than I expected, despairing of the lack of frame fixings, attaching some freshly cut plasterboard to the front, finding that it wobbled a bit, and then rejoicing at the unexpected arrival of more frame fixings - surely something worth putting into action the following day.

It had been a very labour intensive day in the house, but progress had been made and we reviewed the project graph to be sure that we liked the way the progress looked.

The fireplace was seriously removed, all that remained was a lot of soot. Mainly on the bedclothes.


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