Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Home Renovation – Stove Install

October 2006

It is a great feeling to wake up and know that despite the cold damp weather, within the next 8 hours, I would have a working furnace for my room. This would be another huge milestone, even though I would still not be ready for winter.

I was very happy with the contractors. They were nice, cleaned their workspace, and efficient. They consulted me on a few things where choices needed to be made. For instance, when they ran the gas line they asked if I wanted a ‘T’ installed in case in the future I decided to change my real fireplace to natural gas as well. (Yes, of course)

I tried to leave them alone to get their work done, so I don’t have pictures of the progress. But, I have photos of the results and I was thrilled with how it all came out.


By design, the flame size grows larger after the stove warms up in just a few minutes and turns yellow for a more realistic look.



I’m so glad they were the ones to cut a hole in my perfectly good roof.




There isn’t much to write about when you just hire a contractor, except maybe the price, which was almost as much as the stove itself. But again, it was well worth it for knowing that it was done right; no gas leaks to worry about or water leaks from the vent going out my roof.

I hooked up my thermostat and cranked up the heat. Beautiful. Of course, the heat was just pouring out my ceiling.


May 28, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment



 …and April and May are gone…

 But it was a great two months and next up I will have more than the Monday Home Improvement blogs to tell you about.

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Life in general | Leave a comment

Home Renovation – Forgot Something

October 2006

I planned a full evening to hang some more drywall and get another chunk of it done; particularly the spots closest to where the stove pipe was going to be so I didn’t have to work around it later. Hanging drywall is fairly easy; it only gets tough when you are working with full sheets all by yourself.

I was looking up at the wall where the cathedral ceiling was adjacent to the house, trying to figure out how best to sheetrock it because a single 4×8 sheet wouldn’t cover even one half of the triangle it formed. My wife asked me what was behind the plywood and I replied, “probably nothing.” I explained how the peak beam probably extends to the original roof where it is fastened and anchors each truss which distributes and supports the weight of the roof and strengthens the rigidity of the whole roof. It probably even has the original asphalt shingles underneath.

Oh crap! There is probably nothing behind it! That needs to be insulated! How did I miss that? Funny thing was that my wife admitted she wasn’t trying to point that out to me by asking what was behind it. She was as shocked as I was at this realization.

So, instead of hanging drywall that evening, I was ripping down plywood and figuring out how to insulate that space. Luckily, I had the materials to get it done.





I probably could have done a better job if I built some sort of backing to help mount it, but it would suffice and I was still in crunch mode. (it is also stapled in) Now I’m really ready for that stove install.

May 21, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Renovation – “Oh, the Pain” of Removing Grout from Slate

October 2006

I spent many evenings with my Dremel trying to brush out dried grout in all the fine groves in the slate. Even though we had sealed the stone, the grout had found its way into every textured nook in the slate, and it was a tremendous job requiring paying meticulous attention to detail.

Long and tedious work; thank god for my MP3 player so I could listen to tunes to pass the time.

There isn’t a good way to do this. The brush on the Dremel would not only remove the grout, but also the soft slate. Another way to remove dried grout off of a sealed surface is with an acid wash. This worked OK except that it still didn’t remove the grout from the deeper grooves where it was thicker. Sulfamic Acid is rough, I had to wear gloves, a mask and eye protection… it is nasty stuff; but it seemed to help.

So, evening after evening, I’d go out there, listening to my music and spend a more couple hours brushing out what I could of the grout. After a week and a half it looked pretty good; I figured one last acid wash and I’ll call it finished.

(You know where this is going… don’t you?)

It may seem terribly obvious, but an MP3 player doesn’t last more than 0.03 seconds when submerged in a bucket of acid; hence, my Solid Advice.

I had my MP3 player clipped to my jeans but it somehow just popped off when I was bending over and scrubbing; and of all places for it to land, it landed directly in my bucker of acid with a “plop”. The music stopped instantly. I fished it out as quickly as possible and towel dried it immediately; all the while saying some pretty bad words. But, it never worked again, not a bit.

No, I don’t have a picture!

I’m over it now, but only because I have a new MP3 player; and I’m much more careful with it. As a matter of fact, I also have an FM transmitter so I don’t have to wear it while working on this project; I can just play it through the radio. Just one more reminder, heed my advice

The hearth was done and on schedule for the stove installers. All I had to do now is finish up the insulation and sheetrock, as long as I didn’t forget anything….

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | 1 Comment

Home Renovation – How to build a Hearth

September- October 2006

NOTE: Thank you everyone who has commented on this article! However, please note the following:
1) This is not a step by step “how to”. They are just a series of pictures and I didn’t annotate many/any details at all; but hopefully it gives you ideas and inspiration.
2) The type of stove you plan to install will change fire code requirements. This sealed natural gas stove could actually have been placed 2 inches from drywall. However, a real wood burning stove requires much more, including an air space between the tile and actual wall. Please consult your local codes.

September was half gone and I could see all of the Fall house maintenance coming up like, extra lawn mowing, fertilizing, raking leaves, draining water lines, tuning the snow blower… all that stuff and I didn’t have a plan, materials, or even a clue on working with stone.

I needed help, and, if there is anyone out there more happy and willing to take on a project that they also have no idea how to do, it’s my wife. We split up the tasks. I worked on figuring out where the stove had to be placed and vented, what was needed to support it, and the detailed dimensions.


My wife worked on picking out the materials, the layout, the techniques, tools and supplies we would need to install it.

We knew we would use some kind of stone (natural or manufactured), even though the specs for this direct vent, natural gas, “wood” burning  stove allowed for placement next to drywall and could sit on hardwood floors. Most of the ceramic tile we looked at looked too neat and perfect and we were looking for something more natural. We looked at natural stone and found some to be too expensive (flamed granite) and some to be too rough/irregular. My wife kept pushing slate, despite my initial distaste for slate. However, she found some Brazilian and Indian slate that had all sorts of great colors and textures. We bought different lots from several different stores and chose the best ones.



I came up with a plan that didn’t call for too many cuts and consulted with the contractors who were going to install the stove to make sure it was all going to work, and I was right on with my plan. My wife arranged all the pieces for the best mix in colors and pattern and then sealed them. (natural stone needs to be sealed)

I built a strong support for the hearth, even though no one was going to be walking on it.






With the backer board in place, it was time to install the tiles.





We learned as we went along that perfect spacing was never going to happen with natural slate as all of the pieces were not cut perfectly. Just following close to my guidelines was good enough; grout will fill it all in and it will look great.



Do I even have time for Octoberfest??? Somewhere right around this point I had to skip a weekend of work for the most important weekend of the year. (other than my anniversary; but I worked on the hearth that weekend)

Time to cut some slate… Don’t bother trying to dry cut with a masonary blade. Get (or borrow) a wet saw and cutting is like a hot knife through butter.



Looking good! Time to grout and finish up.



I was even able to find and pull my thermostat wire I had left in the wall. (good thing I marked it on the plans)


In the end, getting to this point didn’t seem so hard, but I didn’t like how the grouting went. The slate is very rough and the grout didn’t wipe off like it would on a polished slab of marble. (you can see it in the pictures above… all the little white streaks in the slate) I wanted to remove the remains, which was dry at this point, but, oh-boy, is removing the grout from slate a very painful story to tell…

May 7, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | 23 Comments