The Proverbial Straw

One weekend last summer, we started demo on our basement. It seemed to be a remarkably quick and easy task. At the end of our last day of cleanup, I was perched on a ladder in the middle of the now barren family room, congratulating myself and my family on our hard labor and looking forward to rebuilding. My husband was across the room, removing the final piece of decorative crown molding at the top of the fireplace so he could take out the remaining studs on that wall. At first, I thought it was a product of tired eyes. Surely the brick fireplace couldn’t be swaying.

Fireplace before demo.

I rubbed my eyes and looked again – at the still swaying fireplace. Apparently, the only thing holding the floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace facade up was this:


DIY Rule #1: It always turns out to be a bigger project than you planned. Always.

Clearly, the existing fireplace was a safety hazard. So instead of being finished with demo, my husband started tearing down the old fireplace, brick by stinkin’ brick. Then he began making a new hearth with cement block. It was like a puzzle, only with really heavy pieces and much bending over.

Well yes, you may be thinking, that is a big job, but why on earth would it take a full year? That fireplace, my friends, was the straw. My husband wound up with two herniated discs in his back, which ultimately required back surgery. After a lengthy, do not lift more than 5 pounds or bend over recovery, his doctor gave him the green light to return to his old nemesis.

Here’s the fireplace now, ready to be tiled:

Fireplace ready to be tiled


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