Pulling up the hearth

There’s been much discussion around the hearth. S was of the opinion that the beige tiles under the fire are probably the thing that makes the house seem 80s. Black fire, beige tiles, pink carpet, erk.

They’re not going to look any better once the floorboards go into the lounge room. We did some layout testing and it was all naff. We thought about reducing the size of the area to minimise its effect, but we just couldn’t get around the Blight of Beige.

In the end it was decided that either the boards had to go all the way under the fire, which is probably a fire hazard, or the tiles had to be black to match the fire. So really only one option. And black means slate, which rocks since it’s a natural stone surface, but tends to be expensive (and isn’t that comfortable underfoot, for most areas you’d be inclined to tile).

The little square patch was also a bit naff, and a concrete plinth that extends down to the ground below was found to extend well past the tiles on either side, so it was decided to extend the tiles the full width of the room so we weren’t trying to nail boards into concrete. We’re going to have furniture boxes either side of the fire for books and twigs/wood/etc., so the tiles won’t be that visible. It’s a utility space which spends half the year covered in bits of bark and so forth.

S got cracking on Gumtree, and found some super high quality slate tiles going for a song right away. Just leftovers from someone’s project, not enough to do a whole room but fine for our purposes, and they were desperate to get rid of them because they were moving house. Black, uniform colour and very smooth. Yippee!

S fetched them (cue the ute), cleaned them up and did a quick layout to check their goodness.


That’ll look pretty neat, we reckon.

Meanwhile, S also got busy removing all the staples from the floor (holding the underlay down) and the carpet gripper from around the edge.

We tried to start pulling up the tiles around the hearth using a hammer and chisel, but it was very hard work. We needed an air compressor to run the nail gun anyway, so purchase of that became a priority.

M went and picked up a second-hand air compressor, also off Gumtree. An air chisel to go with it made short work of the tiles around the fire. S took to demolishing with gusto.


The last 9 tiles couldn’t be removed without removing the fireplace. Looking up the unit’s data sheet online, it turns out that the thing weighs 280kg. There’s no way we can even drag that thing off there.

A plan was hatched to jack it up and sort of slide it away on some beams. But the first problem was that the flue wouldn’t come out! More research online at the fireplace manufacturer indicated that the hat on top of the chimney might be holding it all in place. So up on the roof we go …


M very gingerly edged down there and it banged off with a rubber mallet OK. That roof angle turned out to be almost as treacherous as it looks – without the chimney supports to lean on it’s quite hard to get back up to the ridge. Not to mention the 6m drop off the side. Talk about collywobbles.

Anyway, with the flue hoisted up it looked a bit like Wacky Wednesday there for a moment.


To get that fireplace out we have to support the flue with something. And to support the flue with something we need to get the new tile underlay installed, at least in the corners of the room, so we can put in a couple of props.

The tiled area will be precisely 1m wide. The ceramic underlay comes in 1.8 x 0.9m rectangles. Bummer. We need to build it up a bit because the floorboards are 19mm, not including underlay, and the slate tiles are only 6mm thick.

The concrete either side of the existing tile underlay was a bit all over the place, so M flattened it out. M thought that a box with the vacuum cleaner stuck into it would serve as a great dust control method.


Oh how woefully wrong M can be. Utterly inadequate. The concrete flattener is a rotary metal thingy that goes on the angle grinder. It threw great gouts of dust to all directions, thick enough not to be able to see through it at times. Took 5 times longer to clean up than it did to do the grinding.

Anyway, live and learn.

Once the concrete was a bit flatter we could lay down the tile underlay. The manufacturer recommended using adhesive on particleboard flooring as well as nails, so we did that.


The gap between the underlay and the wall is flexible, whereas we want the front edge to be just right. It will be our reference point for the floorboards later. So we set up a fence in the right spot and put the underlay up against it before nailing it down.


With both corners getting two layers of underlay, we can prop up the flue. We chopped a bit of junk treated pine from the yard to use as props, and used one of our nice tassie oak beams to keep it up (the beams will go into a table down the track).

Then, two more pieces of tassie oak and 3 jacks allow us to jack up the fireplace.


At this point, it was thought that the fireplace might slide down the beams, if the ones near the wall were jacked up higher than the one at the front. But that was dreaming. It’s just too heavy.

Time to roll like an Egyptian! There were still 2 old curtain rails in the shed (mates to the ones serving as chicken roosts), so we chopped them into pieces to use as rollers and popped them under the fireplace.


They did a great job. We used the towing strap wrapped behind the fire to pull it forward, and as one roller disengaged out the back we brought it around to the front. Thank the gods for all those pyramid-building documentaries we watched as kids!

Gently, gently and the fire is out.


S set-to with the air chisel once again and removed the last 9 tiles in about half an hour.

Finally, we use the angle grinder to cut a line in the existing fibre board (which sticks out too far), and pry it up the old-fashioned way.