DIY Laying Brick for a Hearth

So as many of you know, I've been saying that we've been working on our hearth for our wood stove for quite a few months. And I'm sure your all ready to see what it looks like, I know I was excited to see the final product. So I'm going to go through it with you step by step so that you can do it to. I don't know about you, but our electricity bills just keep going up and up and it's really getting ridiculous, our last one was $500. Anyways, we had decided quite a while ago to convert to a wood stove, not only to save money but also because we love the look of them and the smell. Plus we are surrounded by bush and there is no chance of having to buy any wood.

So our project originally started off fairly simple, there was already a foundation for the hearth, we just need to replace the top layer with bricks, luckily the wall pieces were already there. So this is what it looked like to begin with.


Just in case you can't tell from these photos, the top of this hearth is laminate, and the sides are carpet. Not sure what the previous people who owned our house were thinking. But the backing is actual brick which was a great time saver for us. (Yes I know that carpet it nasty, we got rid of it).
 So we obviously had to remove the laminate, but this is what happened.

So we took the top off, and opened a can of worms. Or mice I guess... Yes that is a mice nest. Thank God we did this in the summer and there wasn't any in there!!! So that changed our plans right away. First thing we did was stop and go outside. Do not breath this stuff in. We went to the store and got those masks, and some bleach and spray bottles. Put equal parts bleach and water in there and start spraying. Thankfully I have a brave boyfriend and he scooped all that into a bag and i didn't have to deal with it. Then we sprayed some more.


We didn't want to keep wood that was soak with mouse pee and poo so we started from the ground up. There was scratches in the floor from them too, it was so gross. So we were planning on painting the floor in there anyways, because we are allergic to dust and these particle floors in trailers are really bad for it, so we were using the garage floor sealer stuff. So we painted over this too, and we haven't had any mice yet this year (yay!!)

So then we had the opportunity to change the shape of the thing because it was really weirdly shaped. And we just started cutting. (turns out we had some major difficulties with the angles we choose but that's a little later on).

After we got the main shape we started adding bracing, mainly vertically. We though we had enough new wood but we ended up using a few scrap pieces that were nailed together, it didn't really need that, we were just being lazy haha.

Then we added the horizontal pieces were the wood stove was going to sit for a little extra protection. Our wood stove is huge. And we shoved it in place (man that thing was heavy)

Next thing we did was put plywood (not osb, this is super important, you will see why in a few steps). Which I apparently didn't get a photo of, but then we put the bricks around just to see what it looked like.


Ok I'm sure that you are wondering, we just used pre-made mortar, the have it at Home Depot or your local home improvement store. Said it was for bricks and masonry, that's what you want. So we mixed up some mortar, it should show the ratio on the bag, if not you kind of want it sort of thick but not so much that it will dry before you use it all. Also once you mix it you have to use it, so make small batches. It's really scary at first I am telling you that right now. At least all of these bricks below that we laid we were zero percent confident, but we kept going, that's what you have to do because that's how you gain the confidence. So I'm going to share a tip here with you which is something we found out by accident, the more water on your surface and brick the better. It sounds silly but it really helps the mortar stick on there and easier to spread. Put water on the plywood using a cloth (this is why you can't use osb) and all sides of the brick that is getting mortar on it and the bricks beside it. Use a bucket and an old rag. Also I want to mention if you get some mortar on the tops or sides of the bricks that is ok, it wipes off fairly easily with a cloth and water. Be sure to use to separate buckets of water and cloths though as they do get rather dirty, and you want the one your using to clean them to be, well, clean. The other one it doesn't really matter, since your putting mortar on the places your wetting down.



This is what you want to do: First wet your plywood base, then wet the side of your brick that are getting mortared and any bricks beside it that will have mortar on them. Next put some mortar on the plywood and level it out with your trowel, run the extras up the sides of the bricks surrounding if there are any, if not, scrap the excess off and put it back into your bucket. Put a little bit on the bottom of your brick, just a thin layer. Then you really want to layer on the side(s) and push it up against the other bricks or the wall. Mortar will squeeze out, that is ok. You want to run your finger along the edges (or your trowel, whichever you prefer) to get rid of the excess. Make sure you have it in the place that you want it, once those are dry, they are on there. This is the point where you can wipe down the tops and sides of the bricks with a wet cloth, the sooner you do it the better, but it can still come off if you let it dry, it just requires more elbow grease.


You might want to get an actual masonry trowel, but we didn't because they are expensive and we are cheap so we just got a cheap drywall one. Which in all reality didn't really work all that well, we got some rubber gloves and put those on and just started using our hands, and once we did that everything started working way faster. At this point I know you are wondering, why is there more plywood in the center there now? Well our big slab bricks were 1/4 inch smaller than the other ones, so this was the fastest way to make everything even.

Just a quick note about cutting the bricks. I will defiantly recommend you go and get yourself a diamond cutting blade. They are meant to cut masonry and it works fairly well, we got one for our grinder, because our circular saw bit the dust (pun intended) earlier in the year and we hadn't gotten around to getting another one yet. But keep in mind the size of your bricks compared to the size of the blade, my boyfriend had to cut one side and then flip it over and cut the other side. We used an angle finder for the angles and a little bit of guess work. Turned out we had exactly one half of the red bricks left over. That's cutting it close!! (pun intended again)



Note: your floor will get really messy. If you have nice flooring that you are planing on keeping, I would highly recommend that you put down some plastic. Otherwise your floor will look like ours does, and I'm pretty sure we already swept it up. But it is really easy to get off, just sweep up the lumps and then mop.


There, we finally got it done. This week we are going to move the wood stove on and get the chimney installed. Which I'm sure will be it's own box of worms. Maybe I'll have to post a whole other post about it (man I hope not). Until then!

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