Header Image

Header Image

Sunday, February 22, 2015

DIY TV/Fireplace Wall with Stone Accent & Tile Surround

Definitely one of the most interesting projects I've taken on with a super amount of aesthetic impact. When people come down the basement stairs this is the first thing they see and the reactions have been very impressive. This item is a contemporary take on the stone wall people can have as an option in their family room.

So continuing on with the theme of creating a cool man-cave-media-room-esque experience in the basement, there was one blank wall that was screaming for some attention. We initally had an air hockey table on it, and the more sophisticated the room's decor became, the more that thing needed a new home :) So up came the idea for a coordinated wall with a TV/Fireplace that matched the bar. This is an area separate from the main media section so weve found that having two video sources during an event really kept things lively while entertaining.

This project requires the average tools, the most important part is planning. You can see in the pic below that there was already power, cable and audio connections in/near the place this was to go. The most important ones being video and power which get hidden behind the structure for the cleanest look--I did have to add an additonal electrical outlet behind the box.

Wood - $20
Laminate Flooring- $20 - one box
Ledger stone - $150 (the corner pieces raise the cost a bit)
TV Mount - $40
Black Matte Tile Surround - $15
Top Mantel - 100% Oak - $50 (6" x 6")
Bottom Mantel - Top Surface 12" Laminate Shelving $15 / Front Surface Oak $20
Light pucks - $20

After figuring placement and the desired size (we went with 5' wide), the first step is to create the frame you see below. 2x4s are only 3.5" deep and we needed an additonal 1/2" to accomodate the depth of the electric fireplace AND the return corner on the ledger stone pieces which is why you see those plywood strips on the vertical studs to make them thicker.

Prop the frame up on the wall and mark where you need to trim the baseboard molding so that the box is flush against the wall. We used a dremel to make the cuts. If youre not using stone below the bottom mantel, you can reuse the extracted molding for the front of the box.

Obviously this needs to be attached to wall studs for safety. Where you cannot reach them you can install a block of wood attached to the frame and use toggle bolts. They willl need to be at least 5" long depending on where you place them.

The front of the box will get a plywood covering and the top half will get layered in paneling, the bottom half of ply will need to be customized to accomodate the fireplace. Flooring planks are 4' long so you can attach 4' of plywood to the top section of the box and then glue/pin nail the flooring to the wood.

Here it is with the flooring attached to the top half. I left some ply attached to the bottom half for support and made a mock placeholder of the fireplace just to get a visual on placement and to plan the bottom mantel.

The next step was to build the top mantel. I've never built a cube structure before and the process of doing it in a way as to not show any seams was definitely a task. You basically need to miter the edges that are going to touch so that every corner/seam looks tight and hidden.

The front and side pieces need their top edges mitered so that the upper suface can just lay on them and hide the seams. The bottom piece can be a lower quality of pine as it will not show.

Glue and pin nail the eye level pieces

Wrap the bottom pine piece with the new structure and connect.

Now what will be the top surface needs to have 3 of its four sides mitered.

Now lay the top surface on to the new structure and all seams should meet and create a nice clean box with an open back side

You can use the edge of a screwdriver to rub the seams as that will help to mildly round them and make it easier to hide later.

Fill any nail holes and seam separations with wood filler, sand and repeat until satisfied.

We will need to feed wires into this mantel so we cannot have our mounting cleat (2x2 on wall as shown) be a 2x4 or it will block too much of the open back of the mantel. You will need to drill a hole through the flooring to give you access to fish wires into the mantel as well.

Test mount and remove or tack up with a pin nail if you want to keep looking at it :)

Now we need to create a landing for the fireplace. Most electrical fireplaces blow air from the bottom so it will NOT be sitting on this. You will need a few inches clearance below it, so take that into consideration when deciding on this height. Build some standard stud framing.

Corner Ledger Stone piece about to go on the bottom course

Cover the bottom landing with plywood and your first course of stone as once the bottom mantel is built there will be no reason to go back down.

Trim corner pieces added to the flooring. With the top mantel up, you now have a visual for the spacing of the tv mount.

I installed a cable mgmt system to help things from getting crazy down there. Check your local code but you should be allowed to drop the power cables from the TV and cable source down into the box and simply plug them in because this is not a structural install. Most jurisdictions prohibit dropping a power cable inside of drywall, but not in a box like this which will have cable access.

And here she comes, looking all sexy :)

Successfully mounted to the wall. Purchase a cylinder of HVAC venting pipe and cut in half and expanded to help funnel the hot air and protect the wood from direct contact. Black matte tile tried to photo bomb the pic.

Glass cover on gives a nice preview. I placed a temporary piece of plywood on the left side to help me gauge tile placement, but this will have to be customized and removable to gain access to the plugs and cables.

First tiles up and around the frame with some simple shapes. We came out 5" from the glass edge to give a nice tile buffer. The bottom mantel will come up to the bottom of the tile.

The left side of the ply was clipped to the exact edge of the tile. An additonal piece will be attached later to access the cables.

The cleat below the bottom tiles is there just for support while they dry.

Once the tiles were finished I replaced the cleat with a permanent 1x6 which will be the back of the bottom mantel. The bottom row of stone is complete and the mantel sits right on top of it.

The bottom mantel gets created just like the top one, the only changes were cutting the top surface with some L shapes to wrap around the sides of the wall. The mantel protrudes 6" from the front of the addition and an additional 4" all the way to the drywall which is why a 12" deep piece was required and since its so close to the ground, no bottom piece is required. I chose a laminate shelving piece since it was a third of the price of oak and would have the same result.

Removed the top mantel and hardwired three light pucks onto a dimmer on the left side of the mantel. Exact cut of ply on the left side butting up against the tile to finish the look.

Now its time for the stone. Doing a dry fit to see how many pieces will be needed. Stone can be cut with a wet tile saw. These come in 6"x24" pieces, each row of a piece is 1.5" high so whatever youre doing needs to be a multiple of 1.5" to make sure your stone reaches to the exact point you need it to.

Mantel painted and first side of the stone cut to size and mounted. The row running across the top of the tiles was supported by some screws temporarily while they dried.

Test of a  little xmas bling as this was completed right before.

Added quarter round trim. The last step with the stone is to dab a light coating of vegetable oil with a paint brush. This will give the stones a nice rich tone. The quarry will try to sell you a sealer for $25, this will give you the same effect.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Woke up to NO HEAT!

Nothing like waking up to 40 degree temps in your own house (20 outside, and -1 predicted for this weekend). Went to check the thermostat and it was dead (or at least appeared to be). No display nor any response from the buttons. Popped it off and it was missing the batteries (which its never needed before, as its powered from the furnace). I inserted some and the display was restored, but no matter what I did the furnace did not ignite.

Checked and reset the breakers, the gas stove, fireplace, and the hot water heater just to make sure everything tied to gas was still functioning properly.

Now down to the furnace which is in the basement, removed the panels, checked the filter, the status led was green and blinking properly, the only oddity was about 2" of water below the furnace in the drip pan.

There is a pump in the pan that should be pumping this water out but its apparently not...if yours is in the attic or a closet you shouldn't have this drain problem as there will simply be a down grade of your drain to get rid of the water automatically. The rust build up had been unseen by me during my many trips in this area because its in the rear of the furnace.

After some fiddling around, checking the transformer and conductivity from the thermostat (if you check the 'C' and 'R' contacts they should register 24v) with a multimeter, and verified that the furnace was still operating.

Down near the pump was a small piece of equipment attached to the side of the pan, it said AquaGuard. OK...thats a good lead. a little more fiddling and googling, and this is apparently the safety cut off switch for the furnace. When the water gets too high in the pan, it actually disables the furnace to keep it from producing more water and flooding your basement. So now panic mode was subsiding, as this was definitely the culprit. I pulled it off of the pan and the furnace cranked right up.

The only problem now is that the pump is supposed to get rid of the water BEFORE the monitor needs to disable the furnace. There is no switch on the pump to start it, it is engaged with a water float, like the type you find in your toilet tank and when the float piece hits a certain angle from being raised by water in its tank, it should start the condensate pump and everyone should be happy.

Well, I took the cover off of the pump and manually pushed the float mechanism. The pump started to loosely eject the water out of the clear tube, but it wasnt really doing anything worthwhile. The pump is obviously blown as it doesnt seem to be creating a suction strong enough to eject the water the 15 feet required to get it up the clear ejection tube out of the house.

So, I emptied the drip pan with a wet/dry vac, replaced the pump, and sprayed the pan with a rubber sealant.. Happily I saved $500, not needing a service call and of course Im outside of the warranty period. Luckily a replacement pump runs anywhere from $40-$80 and is a simple install.

While I waited for the replacement pump, it looks like it takes about 2-3 days for the drip pan to refill with water, so thats the only buffer of time you have to get this taken care of before you need to wet vac it again.

A common maintenance step for your high efficiency furnace (which you should have been instructed to do by your PM or HVAC installer) is to dump approximately a liter of a bleach/water mix into an inlet tube that feeds the pump every 6 months or making a service change (changing cold to heat or vice versa), it should be capped like this...that feeds directly into your pump to keep it from getting clogged with algae and dirt particles.

Good luck!