Rockin’ It

Right now, we’re kind of between projects.  Planning some while waiting for materials to come in/get delivered for others.  One of those projects is a fireplace revamp.  First off, neither Ben or I like the look of the 70’s moss rock; it’s dark and looks dirty.


Secondly, the placement of the vents and fan are less than ideal.  What’s a fireplace without a mantel?  But most importantly, the open wood burning fireplace is a huge cause for concern.  We can’t leave a burning fire unattended, fearing an ember will land on the rug and burn the house down.  The ash gets everywhere, and we can’t control the intensity of the fire.  So, we’ve ordered and are waiting on our wood burning insert.

Because the insert weighs about 600 pounds, Ben decided to start on the surround before we have to move a hulking insert around.  To get started, Ben laid out wood (to protect the floor) and chipped rock off the hearth face.

Fireplace Rock Removal Starting

Seeing a pile of rubble inside wasn’t exactly a good surprise as we expected the cinder block to continue up from the basement.  Hoping to find better news, Ben cut a small hole in the sheet rock on the side of the fireplace.  Looked like rock and cinder block.

Fireplace Rock Removal Vents

With nothing to lose, we pulled off the sheet rock to see what we were looking at.

Fireplace Rock Removal Left Side

Some block and some rock.  Really makes us wonder what the previously covered up the cinder block.  Knowing there was cinder block on the other side had us hopeful again, so we chipped away at a rock on the other side.

Fireplace Rock Removal Behind

Cue the sad face, more rubble.  This was the biggest blow to our plans because this side extends into the hallway.

Fireplace Rock Removal To Hall

It seems this rock isn’t a façade, rather a structural part of this fireplace, which means it has to stay.  Now we’re stuck building over the rock, which is less than ideal on the hallway side.  We’ll build out as little as necessary over the rock to keep the hall as wide as possible, but we’re bummed.  Rebuilding the front isn’t as much of an issue because we’ve got space to extend, but we have to work within the confines of the inlaid floors.

Fireplace Rock Removal Base

Until the insert arrives, our fireplace will look sad, like this.

Fireplace Rock Removal Overall

With the insert, we’ll be able to get accurate measurements necessary to rebuild and reface.

P.S.  We realize removing/covering the moss rock isn’t for everyone, but neither of us have ever been fond of it, so we’re doing what works best for us.

20 thoughts on “Rockin’ It

  1. Glad to see the rock going! It’s not my bag. I’d also love to see the plate glass mirror go bye bye – not sure if that is your bag or not!

    1. Hey Emily R!

      Nope, neither the rock or the huge mirror is our bag. We’ll get the mirror down some point in the near future. Some things are vintage and awesome, these, not so much! 🙂


      1. With your husband’s sweet woodworking skills, the mirrored wall would be a great place for a built-in. I can’t tell how close that exterior window is to the mirrored wall but it would look nice if you could make a built-in and fireplace look like one solid unit!

        1. Hey Lizzy!

          So glad to hear you love your insert! We had the stand alone wood stove at the other house and used it so often, so we’re excited to get this one.

          I’m so excited to get a mantle and hang some art on there! Also, we’re planning to make a built in in place of the mirror for wood storage and some other pretties. 🙂 Just have to get to that point. Haha.


  2. Aww man! I would be so ticked off to uncover all that! Bummer!
    Good call on getting the insert. Open fireplaces will just suck all of the heat out of your house and will just make it colder – even with a fire burning! We got a wood burning insert installed in our house last year and we LOVE it! We use it all the time – especially during these cold New England winter months! With the money we saved on home heating oil last year alone, the insert has just about paid for itself.

    I understand if you don’t like the stone. I don’t mind it so much but maybe it would make it less-dingy if you used a lighter color grout/mortar/whatever the stuff in the middle is called? 🙂 Maybe even with just a mantle and artwork, it might fit better with the rest of your space. I can tell that it doesn’t really go with your design taste so covering it up might be best!

  3. This makes me curious – I see DIY outdoor firepits on Pinterest all the time, and notice that a lot of the comments on the blogs/pics say not to use cinderblocks to surround the fire because they’re flammable.

    But it looks like the floor of your fireplace is cinderblock and the previous owners obviously used it based on the soot – or is there a layer of stone or something on top of the cinderblocks inside?

    Maybe cinderblocks manufactured after 19xx are flammable? So sorry, I’m not a handy person. *off to google it*

    1. Hey Kristen!

      That’s interesting! There’s a layer of fire proof bricks on top of the cinder block. We were expecting the load bearing structure to be cinder clock, with a rock facade on the outside and the duct work inside. So strange and not what we had hoped for. 😦


  4. We recently knocked down the facade of our fireplace as well. We hired our neighbor, a mason to do the new cinder blocks. We are still without a new facade. Where did you get your insert? How much did it cost(if you don’t mind me asking.). It’s something we have considered,but haven’t looked into.

    1. Hey Catie!

      We bought a Harman 300i wood insert from a local shop. Ben chose it and liked it best. 🙂 We’ve decided to keep prices off the blog from now on, sorry!


  5. I always thought your fireplace was in the middle of the house. I guess that goes to show how deceiving a mirror can be!
    Would you have been able to whitewash the rock? I can totally understand your concerns about an open fire. Go inserts!!
    All the best 🙂

  6. I feel your frustration! 😦 I’m not a lover of bulky open fires places either, rather seeing it as messy, smelly and definitely not romantic! I do really heart two-sided fireplaces though, especially when they’re used as a divider and spreader of heat between two open plan rooms. Take a look at this great example on Houzz: I also like how it ‘connects’ the two spaces by integrating the rooms so you can see around the fireplace and through it. Very important! Any chance of Ben breathing some of his magic DIY skills into this project?! cheers, heather x

    1. Hi Heather,

      Yeah, the open fireplace seems like a terrible and completely unsafe design. I too love the look of double sided fireplaces, but that won’t be possible because this backs up to the guest bedroom bookshelves. And given the way it was built, I wouldn’t be willing to tackle any structural changes. But, we’re hoping to add a double sided fireplace somewhere else. 🙂


  7. Oh that’s terrible! I hate it when you have a project that you have the perfect vision for and thanks to some crazy builder it’s a total fail. When we bought our house I was going to rip out the hideous wrap around mirror in our hall bathroom. Come to find out it is seriously glued to the wall and is in no way coming down without serious damage. I’ve just had to live with it. I have future plans of at least putting some kind of frame on it to make it look vaguely better.
    Good luck with the fireplace adventure!

    1. Hey Mary!

      Ugh, it’s so annoying! Sorry you’re having similar problems. I’m assuming you’d damage the sheetrock in the process. Is it at all worth re-sheetrocking to take it down? Hopefully you can figure something out!


  8. Structural? That one picture of the rubble looks like crumbling rock to me. It looks like it could fall down and that outside layer is only holding up those chunks inside. Can you please share more of how it was decided that it was to stay?

    Also, I’ve discovered you can white-wash fireplaces. I think it will look beautiful with your style/decor.

    1. Hey Autumn!

      It does look like crumbling rock. From what we can determine, the builders knew they wanted the rock facing and decided to make that more than just a decorative face. Basically, the chimney and venting was installed, then the mason built the rock face and filled in with rubble to keep the inside vents and such in place. So the rock is holding everything back, with some cinder block inside for real structural supprt up to the roof. Does that make more sense?


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