08 Nov

Working the Bugs Out

custom fireplace

The cool thing about starting your own business is that you never know where your next project will come from. The bad thing about starting your own business is that you never know where your next project will come from.

I’ve been fortunate. Friends have quickly taken a liking to my DIY skills and have been very supportive in filling up my ‘To Do’ list. For the most part, I’ve been able to crank out a painted table or refinished bookcase in just the way they were hoping it would turn out. So when my girlfriend from church asked if I could repaint a faux fireplace she had just scored, I was more than willing to jump in with a hearty “Yes!”

And then this happened.

broken brick fireplace

The mantle tore off as her husband and I wedged the fireplace into my SUV. In less than 3 miles across town the bricks broke free and the mortar crumbled away. The “big ugly metal box” was the only thing holding everything together and when Dave and I got it out of the car and on to the driveway it occurred to me that my friend was a tad mistaken. This wasn’t at all a fake fireplace. No, it was indeed a very real fireplace that needed a whole lot more than just a quick paint job.

So, I did what any good friend and competent DIY’er would do – I took the entire thing apart.

dismantled fireplace

And I’m glad I did because during my dissection I discovered quite a few creepy crawlies had taken up residence between the wood’s cracks and crevices. After careful scrutiny and a sense of formication, I grabbed my camera and snapped some shots of the little buggers. I did my best to keep the girly screams at bay but I swear each time I focused in, the wind picked up and brought the little bastards to life and I flailed and hopped around like a loon. Fortunately, I managed not to drop the camera and got a few shots for you to squirm at as well. {You’re welcome}

roach in wood

Ew. Ick. Yuck. Blech.

roach poop

You’ll notice quite a bit of ‘activity’ along the areas where the mantle met the fireplace base. Back when I used to schlep Tupperware we learned that the majority of bugs feast on common household glues so it made sense to me that this area would be dotted with roach poop. {It didn’t, however, make it any easier to touch.} But it wasn’t until I consulted Mr. Google that I realized there is actually a wood cockroach. Apparently, they look and behave differently than the Oriental variety but I didn’t get close enough to identify which kind was hanging out on my project piece.


No, I just quickly vacuumed that sucker down and tossed it far out in to the yard to sit…for 2 days. Hey, I grew up in the ‘hood and have had some experience with bugs; I wasn’t taking any chances. {Please notice that my garage door is securely closed.}

After a long, hot shower I gave my girlfriend a call to tell her the bad news. We agreed that the project was going to be a tad larger in scale than originally planned and she trusted that I would make the best of it. She gave me complete design libery and I took to Pinterest for inspiration. Only, I didn’t find anything. Seriously, there were no pictures or blog posts of anyone rebuilding an actual fireplace. Sure there were plenty of folks who had repainted the bricks of their fireplace or switched out mantles. I even came across a couple of innovative homeowners who installed wood surrounds and bricked their drywall to insinuate a fireplace existed where one clearly didn’t but nothing I searched resulted in a project similar to the one I’d taken on – accidentally.

And that got me all kinds of excited.


I spent the next couple days measuring and digging through my wood pile. Using a couple of the original pieces mixed with things I’d picked up but had no real idea how I’d use them, I concocted a game plan. The overall goal was to make this fireplace look like it had always been in my friend’s home.

Read Part 2: Finished Custom Fireplace


4 thoughts on “Working the Bugs Out

  1. Oh, I was just getting interested.. and it ended. Gosh, I can hardly wait to hear what happens next. I was glad to see you didn't bring it in the house, by the way. Ewww..

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