Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fireplace Remodel #1 - How To Do Drywall Repair

This project is still in progress. I fit it in between getting the kids to school, making dinner, coaching volleyball, getting the kids to their practices, you know all the normal mom stuff. It started with a couch slip cover and morphed into fireplace demolition, dry wall repair, carpet removal, concrete floor painting, and new wall paint.

This is part one of the project, fireplace remodel.

This is our fireplace in our great room. Our great room is open to the kitchen and the dining room. We eat, do homework, watch TV, entertain, basically live in this room. I wanted to point this out because when you take on a project like this, you have to be ready to live in dust, destruction, and chaos, in our case, for several weeks. I did almost all the work myself. A one woman show takes longer than a construction crew. I did have some help. My dad taught me how to do the drywall, my mom helped me with the dust clean up, and my husband helped with furniture moving and cleaning. I'm still cleaning up concrete and wall board dust. I think the two hit it off and have started to multiply.

The Problem

I have never liked our fireplace and haven't known how to fix the problem? I had no idea when I picked my floor tile ten years ago when we moved into our tract home that the builder was going to use it as my fireplace surround too. Notice how large the tile is? See how the tile along the top is bigger than the bottom? It gives the fireplace the illusion of "falling" forward. The tile surround is so big that to build a mantle around the existing tile would be out of scale to the rest of the room. It would need to be an enormous mantel. I didn't want to spend money on something that wasn't going to look right. It took me ten years to fix it.

The demolition

The room needed an update so I decided to paint. After clearing the room of most of the "stuff" I decided to tackle the wall of tile. I was hoping if I was really careful, I could get away from the project with just some small drywall patching. No such luck.

Me trying to be careful.

After about five minutes I realized the only way to get the tile off was with some serious muscle. I skipped the gym and did the "construction worker demolition workout." It could be a new fitness craze. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to demolish something. It's really fun to break things with a hammer! I was having so much fun, my daughter Casey wanted to give it a try. Notice the fashionable eye protection she's wearing. Wear gloves, eye protection, and a high neck shirt. I had to go change my top after this picture was taken because little shards of tile kept going down the front of my tank top, ouch!
Here's Casey taking a whack at it.

After the tile removal.

The dry wall was not patchable. We had a little too much fun with the hammer. With each peel of tile mastic, more drywall came off.

Sorry I was so engrossed in the project I didn't take pictures of the next step, but this is what you do. Take a ruler and an Exacto knife and score the existing wall where you want the drywall to be cut. If you don't do this the drywall paper will tear into the existing good drywall and you will need to patch more area. Carefully cut out the drywall. I have seen home improvement shows use a Sawzall to remove drywall. My dad helped cut it out by hand. He has a Sawzall, but he said we might ruin the wall studs. I'm glad I took his advice, it was really easy to cut it out. Remove all the old drywall screws. I don't have any electrical outlets or lights near my fireplace. If you do, be careful not to cut into any wiring.

Wall studs and insulation tend to freak out husbands when they get home from work, so warn him before he gets home and assure him that it will be fixed soon.

Cami wanted to know how Santa fit through the tiny pipe that goes into the chimney?

Before you go out and buy a piece of drywall, make sure you measure the thickness of your existing walls. Drywall comes in three thicknesses. My Dad happened to have an extra piece that was a match for our walls. Measure the opening and cut the drywall. We measured and cut four separate sections to close the hole. Drywall is so easy to cut, I used an Exacto knife. Score the outside paper with the knife along the cut you want to make. Stand up the board with the cut facing away from you. Apply force to the opposite side. I used my knee and gave it a load "Hiyahh!!" (my Karate imitation)

Here is the new drywall screwed into place. Screw it into the wall studs and counter sink the screws. Don't sink them too deep or they will break through the drywall paper and not secure the board.

See the TV and armoire to the right of the fireplace? Bad idea! Take everything out of the room before doing drywall.

My husband was relieved at this point.

Next tape and joint compound. It really isn't "tape" it's paper. Apply a very thin layer of joint compound to the drywall seams and cover with drywall tape. Apply another thin coat of joint compound over the top of the tape.

Let it dry overnight.

I like this pink joint compound. I've only used the regular white stuff before. It turns white when it dries, no guessing.

It reminds me of cake frosting.

You also need a trowel and a tray.

Here it is taped and frosted. Wait till it turns white, then lightly sand and apply another thin layer of joint compound. Wait, sand, repeat it if you can still see the seams. Trowel on a thin layer to all the new drywall wall.
THIS IS VERY MESSY!!! Remove everything out of the room before sanding drywall. Advice I wish I had taken.

See the edges are turning white.

TThe builder sprayed the walls with an "orange peel" texture which I REALLY don't like! I ended up troweling the joint compound on to all my walls in the great room in a random pattern. I've done this in quite a few other rooms in my house. Some day I will have finally eradicated all traces of the dreaded orange peel.

My girls liked it this color.

The fireplace is now a blank slate ready for a new mantle and surround.
That is a later project. On to wall painting.

This is a messy project, but I know you can do it!


  1. That looks like alot of work! I guess now that the prep/repair work is done though the fun part begins!! Can't wait to see how it turns out!

  2. Wow. Shan, you weren't kidding when you said you tackled it! I bow down, girl.

    Can't wait to see the finished product.

    When's the reveal?

  3. You are a Godess!! I torn down our crappy deck, it was so much fun! This is really inspiring, Thanks!!


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