Massive hearth taking up too much space - okay to demo, and if so, how?

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nerdgirl

New Member
Jun 29, 2022
5
Music Studio
Bought our home in 8/2021 and began teaching my music classes in my basement studio immediately. As you can see from the pictures, this was a hazard from the start. Little kids running around + unforgiving flagstone edges = massive potential for head injuries. I put foam protectors on the edges and thankfully, we ended the year with nothing more than a bump on the leg. But because of the safety issues and the space it takes up, the hearth needs to go. Therefore, I have two questions:

1. If I keep the concrete below the hearth or add tile, will that be enough to keep me up to code? I have never owned a home with a fireplace before, so I am new to all of these regulations. To be clear - the fireplace stays. It's just the flagstone and the brick/mortar beneath that needs to go.

2. As for demo, what is the best way to do this? I'm guessing a hammer and chisel, but if there's an easier/less messy way, I'm all ears. You can also see that the builders just kind of dumped the masonry into the box created between the bricks and main fireplace, so I'm going to need tips on how to get that off of the concrete subfloor with minimal damage to the sub.

I have thought about what this means long-term. We will be living here for the rest of our lives, so 40-50 more years, we hope. This fireplace will likely see little to no use while we are living here. I actually had it completely concealed with those cube shelves you can see in the background, which I removed to take these photos. So while I'm teaching here, that will be the setup. And after, it will be a place for my grandkids to sleep and play when they come to visit. We have another fireplace upstairs that we do use, so this just isn't needed. Still, it's a cool feature, so we don't want to fill it in in case a future owner wants to use it.

IMG_3257.jpg IMG_3258.jpg IMG_3259.jpg IMG_3261.jpg IMG_3260.jpg
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,696
Northern NH
Are you sure this was not built to hide something or a foundation of a hearth on the floor above?

An electric jackhammer will make quick work of the demo, hauling it out and disposing it will take awhile. If you do demo it, seal every opening with plastic and use a respirator when doing the demo.
 

nerdgirl

New Member
Jun 29, 2022
5
Music Studio
Are you sure this was not built to hide something or a foundation of a hearth on the floor above?

An electric jackhammer will make quick work of the demo, hauling it out and disposing it will take awhile. If you do demo it, seal every opening with plastic and use a respirator when doing the demo.
I'm fairly certain it's just completely empty. There's one spot on one side where there is a hole in the bricks, I'm assuming as a wood box. There is no gas line (it's wood-burning) and I can't imagine what else would be there. I hadn't much thought of that, though.

ETA - we can easily pop the flagstone off the top to check the inside of the brick "box", though, before we truly demo anything.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,479
South Puget Sound, WA
If the fireplace stays, hearth protection is required in front of the fireplace opening which in this case is on 3 sides. The bench hearth was probably done for seating and to balance out the visual mass of the huge fireplace. If the raised hearth is removed, there still must be floor protection at the floor level.

I have thought about what this means long-term. We will be living here for the rest of our lives, so 40-50 more years, we hope. This fireplace will likely see little to no use while we are living here.
Based on this premise, I would take the whole thing out, starting at the top and working down. It is a dusty 2-3 day process, but once done it will liberate a lot of space. If you still want wood heat, a freestanding stove will take up much less space and will heat well. The structure is most likely offering structural support, so it may need to be replaced with a wing wall or support post.

FWIW, my son and I took out a fireplace and 2 story chimney in our house and a furnace chimney too. Tent off the area to contain the dust. I put a box fan blowing the air out of the tent to keep the dust out of the rest of the house.

fireplace_gone_web.jpg fireplace-gone2_web.jpg
 

nerdgirl

New Member
Jun 29, 2022
5
Music Studio
If the fireplace stays, hearth protection is required in front of the fireplace opening which in this case is on 3 sides. The bench hearth was probably done for seating and to balance out the visual mass of the huge fireplace. If the raised hearth is removed, there still must be floor protection at the floor level.
This is something I particularly wonder about. I'm not sure I'm ready to take out the whole thing - definitely not right now as we don't have the know-how, funds, or bandwidth to undertake that massive of an operation - but for floor protection, there will be about 18-24 inches of concrete all the way around that we'll leave bare for now. If we do decide to leave the fireplace and tile that concrete over eventually, will that be sufficient for hearth protection, even if we have carpet on the rest of the floor?
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,580
SE North Carolina
Two thoughts.
It’s HUGE!

You really aren’t getting that much usable space and will still have two exposed corners. Finishing the newly exposed areas could be a challenge.

If it were me I would take off the flagstone. Seal up the flue with a flue balloon. And build built in shelves the depth of the existsing bench support most or all the way around covering up the fireplace opening. Less is more in my book. By not demoing the bench supports you save days of work. The shelving makes the space useful and eliminates the bech height corners. Not having to mess with the floor under behind the supports saves days of work.

Just my thoughts
 

nerdgirl

New Member
Jun 29, 2022
5
Music Studio
Two thoughts.
It’s HUGE!

You really aren’t getting that much usable space and will still have two exposed corners. Finishing the newly exposed areas could be a challenge.

If it were me I would take off the flagstone. Seal up the flue with a flue balloon. And build built in shelves the depth of the existsing bench support most or all the way around covering up the fireplace opening. Less is more in my book. By not demoing the bench supports you save days of work. The shelving makes the space useful and eliminates the bech height corners. Not having to mess with the floor under behind the supports saves days of work.

Just my thoughts
I would totally do this if I didn't desperately need the space. I need seriously every inch I can get. It is *tight* in there right now when I teach some of my classes. 😕 As is, I'll be putting the cube shelves back around the fireplace, which will protect against the brick corners.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,479
South Puget Sound, WA
If we do decide to leave the fireplace and tile that concrete over eventually, will that be sufficient for hearth protection, even if we have carpet on the rest of the floor?
Yes, most likely that would suffice if it extends out 16" from the fireplace openings.
 
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