if i were a "real" home improvement blogger, i would be splitting this project into bite-sized, pinnable, tutorial-type posts. they would be titled things like:
"removing a warped fireplace mantel,"
"the most complicated way to hide all those obnoxious tv wires,"
"mounting a tv into brick: must-have tips and tools."
but instead, i'm just going to throw a bunch of pictures and some rambling words in the general direction of a coherent post because thats the way i roll, yo.
just as a reminder, this is our fireplace. in the two-plus years we have lived here, we have spraypainted over the 80's gold surround, and upgraded the molding and trim all around it. tucked away at the very bottom of our maybe-someday-fireplace-to-do-list were ideas i had about replacing the warped wood mantel, maybe painting the brick, and mounting a tv in that prime tv-mounting space.
mark was not 100% on board with all of these ideas. he liked the wood mantel. (so did i, but it was hard to put anything on the left side of it without it sliding off) he thought painting the brick might not actually be good for resale value. and he didnt think we needed a big tv taking away the focus in this room from the fireplace.
fast forward to this Christmas, when he had apparently finally had enough of attempting to see the score of the baseball and football games on the tiny 12-inch screen we were working with since April. enter a 40" hdtv and a blu-ray player. because why not. Merry Christmas to us!
i tried to convince him to wait until after the holidays to start this project. i think he made it 4 days after Christmas before he started in on his first long weekend of work. first up: electrical.
to keep all the wiring hidden, it was going to have to be run through the walls. by only cutting the drywall behind the baseboards, mark opened up enough space to work with, but didnt have to worry about any additional drywall work or touch up painting when it came time to put it all back together again.
since he is an overachiever, he decided to add a new circuit to the breaker that is dedicated to the upstairs entertainment area. there are two new outlets on this circuit that he added. his headlamp came in very handy for this part of the job.
next up: removing the old mantel. we were hoping to remove it in one big piece, since it was such a nice thick chunk of wood we figured we could reuse it somehow. but all the prybars and screwdrivers in the world would not make it budge. so mark broke out the handsaw. and a couple strokes in, the mantel just popped right off the old glue that was holding it on. in one nice big piece. with a nice big sawcut in it.
mark scraped all of the old glue off of the brick to prep the surface for the new mantel he was building. oh, did i not mention that mark was building the new mantel? because he did. it was all part of his master plan for concealing all the wiring.
he started by drilling a hole through the bottom piece of the mantel and into the brick. this gave the mantel a definite centerpoint that made trying it on at different stages in the building process to check measurements were always the same, since that one hole could be lined up by sticking a drill bit in it.
and then, mark built a mantel. i dont have a lot of technical details about the how-to of this, but i know it involved some wood, some glue, and a nail gun. forgive me, i was much to busy being a giant sloth-ball on the couch and reading my way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which i have since finished! what a good story!) you're pretty lucky i took breaks at all to take a couple pictures of the progress mark was making.
if the angle of these pictures looks similar, its probably because i didnt really bother to move from my super comfy setup on the couch. ever. but this gives you kind of an idea of how this thing is built. like a big, long, hollow box that wraps around the side of the brick, with intermediate supports to keep it all in shape.
the top piece is the only part of the box that is not connected. yup, it just sits there. there was talk of velcro or magnets to hold it in place, but it turns out it works just fine without that extra bit of planning or hassle. it had to be removable so that the wiring inside it can be accessed if the need should ever arise.
once the mantel was all built and painted and attached to the brick with three giant masonry screws, there was still a little more wiring to do. mark added an outlet box inside the mantel along with a surge protector power strip for the tv. since the mantel is hollow, all the wires can run inside of it, and then down through the wall to the other new outlet under the window without ever being seen. its really pretty slick.
the last step in the project was to actually mount the tv to the brick. we toyed with the idea of just sitting it on the mantel, but ultimately decided it would look more sleek, be able to be tilted for a better viewing experience from the couch, and leave the mantel more open if it were mounted. so mark, armed with a borrowed hammer drill, did just that.
and there you have it! with just over two weekends worth of work, we have a new mantel and upstairs tv!
we celebrated the end of the project and tested the picture quality of the tv by watching the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of a week. (we watched them mostly on the weeknights, half-a-movie at a time.) the verdict? they were good. i liked the books better. i can cross it off my list! mark liked being able to finally watch them with me, and is in love with the upgraded technology and actually being able to read the score of the football games.
since i took that last picture, the cable guy has come and gone, the wires have all been safely stashed either in the mantel or behind the walls, and the walls and baseboards have all been reattached. there's just one more tiny piece of wire-concealing that needs to be taken care of, and then this "small" project will be finished just in time for mark to move onto his next one.