Renovation Diary: Prefab Fireplace Removal

There are many types of fireplaces in the world -- gas, wood-burning, those fake electric space heater things. But it turns out they break down even further than that. There are masonry fireplaces, which are custom built with bricks by a mason. Then there are factory-built, or prefab, fireplaces. Ours was a wood-burning fireplace (emphasis on the “was”), of the prefab variety.


Unlike masonry fireplaces, which can pretty much last forever so long as they are cared for, prefab fireplaces have a limited lifespan of about 15 years. Ours was likely installed with the house was built in 1974. So, strike one.

The chimney was capped at some point when a metal roof was installed, and during the inspection, our inspector told us the firebox was damaged beyond repair. What about reusing the chimney? Likely no dice, as prefab units often have native parts. So that, combined with the fact that it was hideous and huge, meant the fireplace had to go.

There’s surprisingly little information on the interwebs about removing these babies. And, in case you thought this was a good task to outsource: HA. NO ONE wants this job. Fireplace installers and general handymen all said no. Actually, they mostly just ignored my pleas.

Luckily, the GardenWeb forums exist. There’s even a special board devoted to fireplaces. I posted there about my dilemma, and some very helpful folks encouraged me to go after it with a sledge hammer. So I did.

Actually, Matt did most of the sledging. All I did was break a few chunks off and pose for photos. (I was smashing other things though!)

The “brick” was actually quarter inch thick brick face on top of drywall. Underneath the drywall were studs, which Matt also smashed down. After removing the wooden structure around the metal fireplace unit, we detached everything that seemed like it might be detachable. There were a couple of electric blower units in the top, which we carefully removed. But we were still left with this monster. The base is not actually attached to anything, but it's too heavy for us to really do anything with.

Now we’re waiting to find a junk man who’ll come take it away.

I was able to find a junk hauler to come pick this puppy up off the floor and haul it away. Basically, they rocked it onto a dolly and took it out the door. After that, we smashed up the little hearth, which was tile and plywood. And then there was much cheering.

This is definitely 90% DIY-able -- even 100% if you are super strong, with super strong friends.