Sunday, January 27, 2013


We have always wanted a fireplace in our living room. Our living room isn't very big, but my remodeling project presented a nice opportunity to add one. It, also, allowed me to learn and exercise new skills. I had never installed anything like this before, and the veneer stone presented a challenge.

You see, I am comfortable with laying tile on a floor. Been there, done that - and did it well. Installing large, heavy blocks of colored cement on a vertical surface is different. It's not a precise. It isn't as pretty, quite frankly. Much like the differences between rough and finish carpentry.

I prefer finish carpentry (not trim work, though). I, also, prefer tile work to stone.

So during this task my mood swung from fear, to confidence, to drudgery. Fear of, "can I do this?" Confidence - I am doing this. Quickly supplanted by, "how much longer am I going to have to do this?"

Before I started, but after I wrestled several hundred pounds of blocks into my living room, I started having second thoughts. I could have tiled the surround. Built a wood cabinet. Maybe learned to stucco. When it came time to do it, I just did it.

What I didn't quite appreciate was how dirty the work was going to be. It's bitterly cold out, so I had to mix and clean up indoors. I had to wet saw indoors. I had to chip stones indoors. Concrete dust made my skin rough and my hair like straw. It was all fun, once. The novelty wore off quickly. The second, third, fifth bucket of mortar, and complete clean up, just became work. There was no way out but through. The way to be done was to get done.

Like rough carpentry, I was never quite pleased with the fruits of this labor. I can see the mortar there. That stone isn't straight. I can see the cut line over there. When you've devoted several weekends to something, you don't want lackluster results. You want to Mona Lisa, you need the Sistine Chapel.

What I got was a fireplace.

And a few hundred pounds of leftovers.