Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hearth of Gold

Many thanks to Why S? for the lesson on using "Post Options" to set the date of a post.

Ah, a warm fire on a cold winter day. Unless you're in the southern hemisphere right now, it's probably pretty far from your mind. But up here in the north country, we're all freaking out a bit about oil prices. Not for our cars - which are a pretty small amount of our annual oil usage up here - but for our furnaces. Spread out over a year, we (Bangor Bungalow) spend about 2-3 times as much per month on heating oil as on auto gas. Yup, those numbers are right.

So faced with oil prices about 3 times what they were when we bought the house - and with an unlined chimney (drat!) - it was time to rethink the heat situation.

Yes, we cut our oil consumption almost in half simply by insulating the attic (FIRST THING you should do, FYI), shutting the flue, making the doors and windows close (not necessary to replace with vinyl windows or steel doors, FYI - just fix 'em and use weatherstripping!), and turning the heat down from the 80 degrees it was when we bought to a comfy 58-62 (night-day). Love those programmable thermostats.

What else to do? There are a few options, which we checked out. The verdict - we took a cue from friends down the street, who got a pellet stove last year. Let me tell you, this is the time to be in the pellet or pellet stove business! You can't even hardly order one at this point - all the manufacturers are behind and pellets are being hoarded. Wow, like I had to whip out my New York City elbow-push-shove maneuver in order for us to get waited on in the store. And we went EARLY. I think people going now to get a stove are in tough shape.

So we ordered a stove, long story short. It will theoretically fit in the fireplace and not need one of those tacky surround things. When we finished ordering the stove, we came home, and Ken just HAD to say, "you know, this would be our last chance if we wanted to do something different with the hearth." Oops. Famous last words. The hearth was kind of 70's looking slices of brick and didn't go real well with the room or the rest of the fireplace. AND, we still have all our tile supplies. AND, what better way to spend a Saturday night a couple weeks ago than smashing out old brick pieces?

Here's an old before pic. One of my worst peeves with the old hearth was the hideous 1/4 round around the edge - and that the hearth was raised, so you could stub your toe on it endlessly. And the floorboard in front was the wrong type of wood. Argh.

Suffice to say, the hearth is getting tiled. The tile shop down the street let us test-drive a few samples (green, tan, yellow) overnight so we could check them out in different lights. In a secret ballot election, we unanimously chose the yellow ones. I'm not kidding, we really did a secret ballot, but it was just on folded-up post-its. The next morning, Henry (the cat) was sitting on top of the yellow sample board, so that clinched it.

Next: we'll spare you of the many days of arguing with various underlayments and cement board to get the right thickness of the substrate. Boy was that a pain in the butt. Backsplashes are way easier! This is after the brick came out, the hodgepodge of flooring-subfloor-concrete. Of course all 3 of these guys have to check everything out and be wherever we are.

Then we went to Colorado. Intermission music. BUT, we used our pilgrimage to Modern Bungalow to get 4 accent tiles - the yellow subway tiles were waay cheaper than we expected, partly because we decided it was such a small area, we wouldn't be total penny-pichers for a few square feet. Then we picked cheap ones anyways. So we had extra cash for the pretty tiles - and we did the Motawi thing. So classic, almost too perfect. The black accent is because the stove will be black - we think it will pick that up quite well. And the rose theme is in the kitchen a bit too. I should say, if anyone from Motawi is reading this, you might consider a few more tile designs in 3x3 size - if all of us bungalow-ers are using them in subway-tile style settings, then 3x3 are really useful. There are the 6x6s, but they're too big for some spots. Anyways, they are GORGEOUS!

The last tile arrived in the mail on Monday and was put in place this evening, in between field work and lab work sessions at the real job. We were too tired to even look at any gravel or dirt tonight anyways - so the tile was a nice, quick, instant gratification. The Motawis aren't permanently installed in this pic - we'll wait for the 'big reveal' till we're really done.

Now we need to chase down one old floorboard to fill the sides, then the ol' grout part. That's Ken's specialty.

FYI, I found these helpful - This Old House hearth tiling instructions .


Why S? said...

That's going to be beautiful. I love Motawi tile.

My brother lives in Northern CA and he has a pellet stove. There's been recent shortage of pellets, so of course, the price of pellets went up last winter. Good luck with that. I live in Southern CA and I'm always shocked when I hear how much in costs to heat a home in the colder climates. Good luck.

Why S? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Why S? said...

My last comment posted twice because I got impatient and hit the button twice. So I deleted the duplicate. Sorry.

Karen Anne said...

Wow is that a thing of beauty.

Derek said...

We got rid of our oil furnace a few years ago, and replaced it with high efficiency gas. It was expensive though, and not an option for people without gas service. It looks like the pellet stove will save a lot, as long as you can get the pellets.

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