boarded-up Art Deco fireplace

Not removing a fire surround

Having been thwarted on the skirting board removal front, I set my sights on the fireplace.

The chimney doesn’t stick out the roof, so it seems pointless to keep the chimney breasts. I’d love to remove the chimney breasts from the room directly downstairs, which is Colin’s study-cum-office, from my room and from the loft. However, this idea has been vetoed, so I must satisfy myself with removing the fireplace.

boarded-up Art Deco fireplace

The surround is an original Art Deco cast iron affair, with the opening boarded up with a piece of wood. The whole thing is painted over with white gloss. If it had been nicer, perhaps I would have considered keeping it; but it has to go.

I’d already tried to take the board that was covering the hole off. It was attached with a few screws, which were easy enough to remove. However, whoever boarded it up has put some sort of sealant around the edge. I’d bought a Stanley knife during my last tool-buying shopping trip, which I used to cut through the sealant.

Fireplace with board partly removed

I pulled off the board to reveal a load of rubble sitting in the fireplace. I hadn’t been expecting that. I cleared the rubble out, putting it into a bucket for the time being.

Rubble cleared, I wondered how to remove the rest of it. The internet said that cast iron fire surrounds usually have lugs beneath the plaster around the edge of the fireplace keeping the fireplace on the wall. I’d have to chip the plaster off to find them.

It turned out that there probably weren’t. On further inspection of two blobs in the top corners, I thought they looked like some sort of screw holes. I scraped off the paint covering, and found they were indeed holes with some sort of screw or something covered over a bit with some sort of filler. I poked the filler stuff out with my shiny new bradawl (again bought on my last shopping trip), and investigated what was holding the fireplace on.

corner of fire surround, with two nails in one hole
two nails in one hole

It was nails. Each hole had two nails in it, hammered really far in, so the heads were further in than the front of the fire surround. I couldn’t imagine why someone would fix a fire surround to a wall by hammering in two nails in each hole. Wouldn’t one nail do? Wouldn’t a screw do? Apparently not: it had to be two nails.

long, rusty nails
excessively long nails

I poked at one of the filled holes some more with the bradawl. I poked with some pointy-nosed pliers. I pulled with the pointy-nosed pliers. I eventually got the claw hammer underneath one of the nails on one side. It was a rusty old (normal) nail, at least three inches long. The second one came out reasonably easily without the first one getting in the way.

broken pliers
both bits are broken; I couldn’t find the other broken-off bit

The nails in the second hole were much more stubborn. I did the same sort of thing as with the first hole, but to no avail. I got the pliers right in there, and tried to lever the topmost nail out. The pliers gave way: one pincer point snapped clean off. The pliers were unusable as grippy pliers after that, so I tried to lever the nails out with the other pincer. Of course, that one snapped too, but at least the grippy action was kind of back: the pincers were more or less the same length again.

But really, I need a new pair of pliers, and, ideally something slimmer and with more leverage than the tools I already have. Plus, there’s the thing with more leverage than the tools I already have: the pickaxe.

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