The Torreses start a project

We demoed our fireplace today. It sounds way more fun than it actually was.

For seven and a half years we have lived with and cursed its poopy brown tile and unproportionately high mantle. Every house in our neighborhood has the exact same fireplace with the exact same mantle and exact same tile. Maybe poop brown was the thing in 1982? Maybe it was soooo 1981 and they got it at a steal from the homebuilder’s clearance bin? Either way, there’s no good reason it should still be around 31 years later.

Also I started thinking about how I was only like four when some sweaty dudes were in my future house laying this horrible ugly tile. I think even at that tender age I would have made a better choice. Probably rainbows or something because I was all about rainbows when I was four.

ANYWAY. Fireplace. Here’s the before, plus or minus a few tiles:

fireplace remodel

Don’t be jealous of our mantle decorations that include Minnie Mouse Bingo, beads, a spool of ribbon, a rubber lizard, a jar of leaves (don’t even ask. I stopped asking a long time ago), and a plastic flower.

The plan was to work on it most of Saturday, but life gets in the way, as usual. Here’s how it went:

  • Saturday was Christian’s sleep in day, and I accidentally let him sleep later than he wanted (read: the kids were watching cartoons and I was enjoying some quiet coffee and writing time. Not sorry.).
  • Then he had to finish the yard work that he started the night ย before.
  • Then it was lunch time.
  • Then he offered to blow up the kiddie pool since the kids were restless and it’s already hot as balls here.
  • Then I got sleepy.
  • Then I took an hour long nap in Rachel’s bed.
  • THEN we finally left the house to price out and pick up some of the supplies. By this time it was about 3:30, and once we left the home improvement store, it was dinner time.

This is how we roll, people.

I should tell you here that projects aren’t really our strong suit. We want to do them, but it’s in the actual doing that we falter. Before we had kids, we decided to build a circular patio in a shaded corner of our yard where nothing really grew anyway. Thanks to a stupid rainy summer in 2007, followed by a twin pregnancy, twin babies, and a good dose of laziness, we finally finished the patio in time for the girls’ first birthday party nearly two years later. Thus it was dubbed “The Two Year Patio.”

Then there was the sandbox that we built next to our back porch. My husband…he is a bit impulsive and just started digging a hole one day when I was out. Thanks to his sister coming to visit, we had the sandbox ready in time for the twins’ second birthday. But had she not helped, we’d likely still be digging the hole.

Finally, there was the door Christian busted down after Rachel locked herself in her room and was too young to realize she had to unlock it (and what special kind of genius put locks on the bedroom doors anyway?). Why we didn’t think to take a screwdriver and to some shimmy magic to pop it open like we did the 800 following times they did the exact same thing in Zoe’s room, I have no idea. But a door hanging on one gangly hinge isn’t really safe so we had to replace it, and since this is an older house, the door didn’t really fit. No biggie, just a little sanding, which we eventually got to. A year or so later. Then things expanded when it got warm again and now we need to sand some more. Or just wait until it gets cold and the door can close again.

So after dinner we finally bust out the chisels and start whacking out some tiles. I have some tips for those of you who may do a similar project:

  • Wear goggles, unless you want tinier than tiny shards of poopy brown porcelain tile embedded in your cornea.
  • Wear shoes, unless you want tinier than tiny shards of poopy brown porcelain tile embedded in your foot. Some people may even opt for close toed shoes. (We call them professionals.)
  • Try to stay out of the direct chiseling of your DIY partner unless you want tinier than tiny shards of poopy brown porcelain tile embedded in your forehead, cheeks, or cleavage.
  • You know what? It’s probably best you just stay out of the way and go check Facebook or something.

So after maybe an hour or more of chiseling and hammering and sweeping and scraping, this is what we are left with. Not bad for “Day 1 that didn’t really even start until 6:30 pm.” It already looks a million times better.

fireplace remodel

That’s a towel wadded up where the tile ripped a hole in the sheet rock, not a blood stain. Either they didn’t use cement board back in the 80s, or they took some serious shortcuts in this house. Which again explains the discount poopy brown tile. It smells really old and musty in there, and my favorite quote from today was, “I really hope that’s insulation and not fur.”

Here’s what we’re going for:

fireplace remodel

Despite my amazing DIY photo skills and awkwardly chubby wrist I think it’s going to look awesome when (if) we are done.

Also, this happened in the middle of all the hammering and chiseling and cursing and Netflix Pingu episodes. She got up a few hours later and we discovered she had a fever of 102. Way to get out of helping with the home improvements.

Join the Conversation


  1. We are the same way with home improvement projects and with time in general. I think it’s going to look really pretty when you get it done. Just seeing all of the white in place of the brown made a huge difference. Hope you get it done sooner rather than later.

    I also hope the fever is gone.

    1. I thought so too, Lillian, about the white, busted up drywall looking better. Now it’s gone and we have a plastic covered hole in the wall. ๐Ÿ˜‰ #stillbetter

  2. This is totally how we roll. Our backyard is a pit of dirt right now, just in time for summer. We’ll probably finally have some grass just in time for winter. Good luck with it!

    1. Oh man. All of our grass died 2 years ago in a super hot and unwatered summer and it was hell trying to play in the water with a yard o’dirt. We still have some muddy patches, but it’s growing back for the most part. There’s hope!

  3. Brian is very impulsive and will start DIY projects while I’m away. Then I have no idea what to do when it isn’t complete.
    I think it’s hilarious that you left everything on the top of the mantel while you demo’d.

    It’s going to look great!

    1. Thanks Sue! I’m excited about it too. And she was better the next day ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Fur! Oh my.

    We are the same with home improvement projects – except the part where we actually get round to doing anything about it. We usually don’t get past the talking stage.

    1. Girl. You should see the LIST. It’s a mile long and includes such easy projects as “fill in those holes” and “touch up that paint.” Yet THIS is what we tackle.

  5. I love me some home improvement and have more than one time not waited until the next day but started after dinner. Way to go! You are getting there. I can’t wait to see the finished project!

    1. Me either, Brittany! It’s exciting to be making it into something we love.

    1. Right? I can’t believe so many people have loved with it for so long, but then again, we’ve lived with it for over 7 years.

  6. You are hilarious. And I feel ya on the demo- I’ve said to myself MANY TIMES, “Was this really someone’s dream counter/tile/flooring?”

    1. Right? Now future owners years from now will say the same thing about us! “Ew, I can’t believe they picked this grey stone. Let’s replace it with some lovely poop brown tile!” It’s a never ending circle.

  7. Oh my… we are so not handy like that in our house. Well, at the moment, we are in an apartment, so we aren’t improving a dang thing.

    Can I just say that your new fireplace will be awesome when it’s done. (:

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