Fireplace Freestyle Fiddling #2 Design Fail

First I want to thank you for your kind comments – it’s encouraging to hear from some of you who follow along this 6 + year renovation – my,  you sure have long attention spans.

Remember that anyone can do what I do – it’s not difficult if you take your time and be precise in measurement and cutting – or build in some wiggle room in the design like I have on this project. If I hadn’t put in the daddo (groove) in the back of the legs on this fireplace but instead built it on a flat surface – it just would not have worked.  One other thing – be prepared to make changes in the design – especially if you have no clue as to what you plan to do –

See Below

So we left of here.

6-start-of-fireplace-designThe two side legs (pilasters) are removable and the crosspiece is loose. I’ve built small square boxes attached to the front of the pilasters – now we start to figure out our design.

2-fp-designFail # 1 – This seemed like a good idea on paper, but when I glued these on the fireplace I knew I made a mistake. Waffles anyone? I was trying to tie in the design of the cabinet doors.

3-fp-designFail #2 – OK, so maybe if I just move the center element to make a central rectangle and use a simple molding under the mantle.  Nope.

4-fp-designFail #3 – The fluted pilasters are the original pieces that will go on the cabinet frame. So maybe we could make a wider version to fit the pilaster. Still trying to salvage my waffle, I thought maybe I could place a center square of some kind of design. Not feeling it.

5-fp-designSemi Fail #4 – How about making the waffle go away and add a square design element? The flat fluting has got to go away. This thing looks too square.

6-fp-designFail #5 – So let’s put a rounder element in the mix. I had a couple of stair balusters, so why not add these. It will soften the look of all the sharp corners. No, no, no.

7-fp-designGetting warmer – Let’s just get back to basics. I cut some cardboard and mocked up the design elements – we’ll figure out what they are later. I want three elements to mirror the three Ginkgo leaves in the stained glass windows. Also in the photo I’m in the process of adding rock wool insulation up the chimney. This high-heat insulation will help keep the cold out. This is a direct vent fireplace, so the two silver pipes are for venting.

8-fireplace-design-1Fail #6 – My first thought was to use some type of flower to to tie in the leaf theme of the windows. I found a great wood shop out in Oregon that makes stock carvings that I thought I could incorporate. The company is Heartwood Carvings. This was nice, but too far from the arching design the Ginkgo leaves have.

9-fireplace-design-2Fail #7 – We’re getting closer. The palmetto flower had sort of the design I wanted, but I really liked the central scallop shell design.

10-fireplace-final-designI’m tired, my head hurts – let’s just go with this. I found matching scallop shells in a square block and thought that they mirrored the Ginkgo leaf design. My wife was from an island and she eats scallops – so why not?

11-wood-carvingsSo I put in my order and in a few days I got these. Two carved pilasters 4″ X 36″ – Two 5″ square corner blocks and a 5″ X 12″ center block.

12-wood-pilastersTime to gut busy and build this thing.

More to come – stick around.

Fireplace Free Style Fiddling #1

Now that we have the woman cave kinda finished, let’s move on to the 1st floor. Time to tackle the living room fireplace.

It looked like this when we bought the place in 2009.

It looked so cute, but looks can be deceiving. The rug on the hearth hid the fact the whole fireplace was crooked. It had a gas insert that was not to code, painted brick that was poorly built. The old double hung windows were drafty and no insulation made this part of the room cold. We’ll fix it.

1a Old roomAs always first we tear it apart.Which also included resurfacing the ceiling and two walls because of plaster damage.

5 windows doneI  removed the windows and added energy star units that didn’t open – added stained glass windows to hide the neighbor’s house and used the original cabinet doors and made new boxes to go on either side of the fireplace.New insulation and drywall was placed to repair all of the damaged and lost plaster.

1-fireplace-concrete-boardI used thinset to attach  hardibacker with tapcon screws over the uneven brick surface and ran two air lines for the direct vent fireplace and put a new cap on the chimney, ran a new electrical line to the right side of the fire box and had new gas lines with a code approved floor shut off added.

2-marble-installedAgain I dragged my wife to Nashville to look at some stone and came home with this carrera marble slab. They cut the three pieces so the grain and pattern of the stone matched.

The hearth is a piece of leathered finish black granite. The original hearth was limestone, but in really poor shape and was 1 1/2″ out out square.

3-bookcase-topThe tops of the bookcases were capped with part of the same slab.

4-stone-installed-fireplaceThe hearth got a skirting of the same granite. It will match the black fireplace surround. The floor dipped on the right hand side about 3/4″ so that was fixed when I added the 1/2″ CDX plywood overlay. Now the new hardwood will be flat and level.5-marble-bookcase-topAdditional pieces of marble were placed in the sunroom bookcase windows.6-start-of-fireplace-designThis picture represents a week of doodling and trying to figure out what to do with this thing. After a lot of head scratching I got this – not much to look at. The reason for all the doodling? Nothing on this brick fireplace was square, level or plumb. Instead of building this surround as a one piece unit, the pilasters and crosspiece are not permanently attached to each other so that I can make adjustments to make square. Nothing is glued or installed yet. All I know that this is the general scale and shape of what’s going here.

1-side-railBut I have to start making this a permanent thing, so just to be safe I started with the side pieces that will intersect with the cabinet frames. You can see the cuts to fit over the marble tops and granite hearth. I used silicone here for a couple of reasons – mainly because if I’ve made a mistake I can get this thing back off the fireplace. If I would have used polyurethane glue – I would have to destroy my fancy cut-work

2-side-installedThe sides installed we can start building our floating fireplace parts on this foundation. Since I don’t know what the final design is, I’ll put on elements that I know will have to be in place before the next piece of this puzzle goes on.


The front piece of the pilaster is dadoed on the back to fit in the side piece. It is not glued or attached and this allows for it to ‘float’. This will be how we adjust for the out of square parts of the fireplace structure.

I know we’ll need base caps, so let’s make those.First we make the side base. This is notched over the hearth and is dadoed into the face of the fireplace pilaster. The front piece sits proud of the side piece because they’ll be an additional detail there.The side cap is cut to rough shape and temporarily put in place.


A sample block of the front of the cap is used to mark the side piece for cutting.9-finished-base-cap-corner

Once the side piece is cut it looks like this.10-base-cap-installedBefore final installation I paint the pieces that are next to the granite, so final painting will be easy to do.

Bored yet? More to come.


Cave Art

Being a student and lover of art, I have been fascinated with civilization’s need to create a visual record of our existence. For some reason I have always been attracted to paintings – I suppose that’s why I do what I do at the gallery I am supposed to be running (when I’m not here at the Adventures Project). Since this is a woman cave- I thought I would present some cave art.

janfeb2016_f11_indonesiacavepaintings-jpg__600x0_q85_upscaleAn example is this painting that is thought to be the oldest cave painting in the world. Found in Indonesia in 2014 you can read about it here.

When the carpet was installed in the basement it was just hours before pieces of cast off furniture arrived from our house we currently live in. Oh, and some cave art as well.

1-cave-artIt’s been 6 years since any livable space has existed in this house – unless you count a bathroom. I plopped down some chairs and a coffee table and went to pull some art from storage.

3-cave-artJust a few pieces to finally get something on the walls – after all, that’s one reason for doing this crazy project in the first place.

4-thorpThis was my wife’s first request. This is an acrylic on canvas  painting by a regional artist Cynthia Thorp titled ‘A Moment of Him” – well it is a woman cave after all.

5-mary-louis-schrodtThis oil painting is titled “Fire Fighter” by the late Mary Louis Schrodt of Louisville. It’s wonderfully realistic, but unfortunately not functional You can read about her here.

6-grace-coleShe selected this Oil painting by Grace Cole titled ” Requiem of Frozen Tears”. Grace is still a working artist and you can read about her here.

7-deb-boyerShe picked this little watercolor by regional artist Deb Boyer. My wife came from an island, so this is a reminder of home for her.

8-chris-thomasAnd this little oil painting by the only male artist in the cave. This rose study is by Chris Thomas, an artist we helped develop many years ago. His web site is here.


8-coffee-artOf course, to my wife, the best art is her coffee cup sculpture.

It feels nice to have someplace that’s not full of sawdust and has art on the walls.

I’m happy.




Quick Update

Just a quick update to let everyone know I’m alive. I’m working like the dickens at the MisAdventures project, so more to come.

I asked my wife if she wanted a shelf in her little coffee niche before I started this project, as it’s way easier to just tile it in while doing the field tile – not needed she said. Afterwords she thought that a shelf was probably a good idea. Sigh –  married life


1-cutting-marbleI had enough of the old marble top my neighbor gave me to make a little shelf.


So after cutting and a little polishing I grooved the bottom of the shelf to receive some stainless steel pegs that I had drilled and set in the sides of the niche. A little tweaking, a little grout – bada- bing,  bada-boom. Done and move on.


Good thing too – as I had just enough time to put the final coat of paint on the walls and finish the baseboards before the carpet installers arrived.

Hang in there – things are going to get finished.

It’s Coffee Time

Greetings fellow renovators. I hope everyone’s summer was fun and fruitful – whether you were tackling a renovation project or your summer reading list. For me it’s been inside time this year – with most of my focus on the woman cave shenanigans.

Over the weekend I finally got around to fixing the hole to the left of the staircase. My wife loves her coffee – me? I’m 62 and I have never had a cup of coffee – or a beer for that matter. I’m weird like that. She wanted a place to have a hot pot of coffee or tea for her visitors – so that’s why the hole is there.

9 finished stair

So after I paneled the hole with some 1/2″ plywood it’s time to figure out what to do.

1-nook-startSo I hopped over to the home center and picked up this subway mosaic tile from Lowe’s. I added a electrical outlet on a GFCI circuit for the coffee pot. Since this is a house built in 1935 I thought this smaller version of  subway tile would work.

2-marble-oldNext out to the garage to get a piece of antique marble top that my neighbor gave me – it was from an old dresser that had a top that split in two.

3-concrete-board-upAfter a little fiddling with the tile saw and a quick polish it was attached to the bottom with some silicone. 1/2″ Hardie cement board was added to the back, top and sides of the opening with a little tile adhesive and screwed temporarily until the mastic set.

4-tile-startAfter a little math we start to tile. I used tile mastic instead of thinset here. Mastic is an organic adhesive that can’t take continuous water exposure. Since this area will only get a minimal amount of moisture it will work fine. Mastic works well with mosaics because it holds tile initially much better than thinset.

5-tile-inSo in a couple of hours I’ve got the tiles set.

6-groutingThe next day time for grout. I was kind of concerned because my wife picked a light grout and this looked way darker than the color sample showed.

7-grout-finishedAs it dries it lightens up – so that’s a good thing. What’s not a good thing is I missed a little grout by the outlet plate. A little grout mixed up and applied will fix this.

8-pvc-trimThen a little PVC trim is cut to cover the raw edges of the opening. This was milled from 5/4 (1″) stock to wrap around the front to cover the tile edge.

9-trim-inAfter the cover trim is attached I made a back band trim to match all the other door openings.

10-trim-detailHere you see the trim detail that wraps around the front to cover the raw tile edge.

11-finishedNow all that is needed is the coffee or tea. If it makes my wife happy – then I’m happy.

Onward we march – tag along, something pretty might show up.



Mid August Progress and Color Changes

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Lots of activity at the MisAdventures project. So I thought I’d share a photo-rich post of the shenanigans here in southern Indiana.

1 kitchen flooringFirst up is the laying of 1/2″ BC plywood over all of the existing first floor. This is the kitchen area looking towards the sunroom. The original 3/4″ T&G pine floor gets overlayed with the plywood glued and screwed every 8 inches and also screwed through the floor joists. This adds a great deal of stiffness to the floor that will have 3/4″ oak flooring.

2 coffee canI guess you had make do with what was handy. This old coffee can lid was used as a patch over a larger hole in the floor. Looks like the plumbing had been moved several times over the 80+ year history of this house.

3 corner repairThe two first floor offices have the original plaster lathe walls and ceilings. I spent many hours grinding out cracks and repairing with plaster. The final corner crack is cut out and repaired with fiberglass mesh and hot mud plaster.

4 crown mouldingThe other office got a new crown molding and paint. Here’s a test fit – and I have to admit to failure in the coping corner ability. I tried the proper way by coping the corner and just couldn’t get a good fit. Mitering the corner is not the way it should be done – but it sure looks better than what my poor coping saw skills produced.

5 closet doorThe original doors were all sanded and repainted and fitted with those fancy door knobs and plates.New hinges and mortise latches will let these doors hang around for another 80 years.

6 tv boxBefore I finished laying the plywood underlayment I was able to run a couple more cables and power for a recessed TV box. Trimmed out the doors and painted everything.

7 new office paintSince I had to repair the cracked corner in my wife’s office – it gave her a chance to change colors – so the walls now are a more saturated blue/green instead of sky blue.

8 ceiling medallionsI found a couple of smaller ceiling medallions laying around from the previous owner. I reconfigured them with some bondo and put them up. The bead detail matches the door plates and the large medallion in the living room.

9 skirt board cuttingOne more thing before we head to the woman cave. The stairs from the 1st floor to the 2nd needed skirt boards. One side is 14′ long and the other is 16′. Here I’m cutting the angles using a cardboard template. I use a lot of cardboard for angle cuts – just to make sure.

10 stair skirt boardsThe stair skirt boards slide in next to the outside stair stringers. I left a space when mounting the stringers so that these trim pieces could fit easily. If you don’t allow for the skirt you’ll have to scribe cut the whole skirt – and that’s no fun. The risers and treads will butt up against the skirt board.

Now for something completely different

11 tub plumbingI gave up on hiring plumbers and started doing my own plumbing. Here I’ve got the all the copper fitted to the tub deck filler. The pipes look a little  crooked in this photo – but it’s just the camera angle.

12 Josh Craig tileHere’s Josh Craig – the tile guy. He’s one mean mamma-jamma when it comes to tile. He’s spent over a month on this bathroom, so he might not win a race, but the finished product is worth the wait.

13 tile patternAll the tile in the basement is porcelain from Atlas Concord. I added two vertical panels of this lotus flower design in the shower. I had Josh cut the tiles in two to run them vertically. It’s very subtle, but adds a little interest to the shower without being too obvious. The green doo-dads keep all the tiles flush, with very little ‘lippage’.

14 tile floor.I have a floor border with mosaic inserts to match the design of the shower floor. The green stuff is a crack isolating membrane called Green Skin.

15 color changeI was never a fan of the Italian Ice green color Francia selected for the bath. Now that the tile is going in she also though it was too pale. So time for another color change. Good thing it’s only paint – and my labor. No problem –  a couple of hours and all will be forgotten. Looks like BM Boothbay Grey it is.

16 paint startFirst we do a little cutting in.

17 new colorI think the grey will be a little more relaxing. We’ll see what happens – who knows what the future holds..

So there you have the latest update – more to come.