The Beginning Of A Fireplace Makeover: Removing A Woodstove Insert

As of today we’ve lived in our house for six whole months. How crazy is that? Can you believe this little adventure was half a year ago?

And in all that time we’ve never formally introduced you to Bart. How rude of us.

Bart, aka Black Bart the woodstove insert, is hard to miss in our kitchen. We know the previous owners got a lot of use out of him (although they did warn us that he made the house pretty smoky and coated a lot of nearby surfaces with fine black dust). We’d always planned to replace him down the road when we hopefully convert our fireplace into a double fireplace (that can be enjoyed from the living room as well as the kitchen).

But Clara spurred us into action a bit sooner. See, the bean is just too obsessed with Bart. And the potential harm to Clara thanks to a searing hot 30+ year old wood burning stove has always outweighed any potential benefits. So although we moved in the middle of winter, we didn’t fire him up once. And Clara still finds the sharp metal edges of Bart oddly fascinating, no matter how many times we say no or redirect her with toys/the dog/insane dance moves, etc. In fact two especially pointy corners are right at “pulling up level” – which makes us even more nervous now that she’s about to be toddling around.

Sure Clara, why not play with a potentially scorching hot surface with sharp metal corners that’s conveniently located right at baby level? After all, it was last tested more than thirty one years ago – before either of your parents were even born.

All kidding aside, we know many folks who love wood stoves (even those with kiddos), but Bart just wasn’t working for our fam. We couldn’t keep denying that he was truly (and weirdly) a Clara magnet, and after she once managed to get the stove door open and her hand into some soot before we could pull her away, Sherry and I were officially fed up with this sharp and dirty metal monster that we weren’t even using.

Never ones to act hastily (you know us, we prefer to overanalyze while hemming and hawing), first we considered locking the doors with a kid-proof lock, adding foam pads to the pokey parts, and even blocking him off with baby gates or some sort of homemade blockade contraption. But in the end we realized that building everything short of a moat around something that we didn’t use and already planned to replace down the road seemed more than a little wacky. In other words: it was time to bid ol’ Bart adieu. So we borrowed some confidence from Layla and Kevin‘s fireplace makeover and decided to give our kitchen a Black-Bart-ectomy yesterday (don’t worry, we won’t trash him- Bart will live on, but more on that later).

When it came to the whole wood stove removal thing, I didn’t really know where to start. And this was one of the few times in my life that google was no help. So during Clara’s afternoon nap (so as not to set a bad example slash taunt her) I just sort of started pulling at things. Lucky for me, the flashing around the sides easily pried away. So much so that I’m kinda surprised Clara hadn’t figured it out yet. Yikes.

I learned there was only a little bit of glue holding the three pieces flimsily in place (which made the stove look flush on all sides).

The only questionable moment was when I revealed a bunch of wires on one side and worried that some electrical work might be involved. Thankfully I soon realized that they were just connected to a fan on the back of the unit, so I didn’t have to disconnect anything after all (I just kept it all attached and removed it all together). Phew.

With all sides of the stove revealed, the only place I could see it attached to the house was right here at the top. It seemed to be bolted to a vent that snaked up into the chimney. So I figured I’d just attempt to take that apart and hope for the best.

The good news was that my hunch was right- those bolts were the only things holding that baby in place. The bad news was that the bolts were really friggin hard to get off. Okay, just one of the five was (the top of that bolt was so soft that my wrench had trouble gripping it). Oh and did I mention that space was tiiiight? My skinnier-armed wife tried to save the day, but she’s also shorter-armed, so alas… no dice.

But I kept at it (and Sherry kept trying as if her arms were growing by the second). And after getting covered in ash and enduring a few knuckle scrapes we got Bart fully detached from the vent. Ta dah!

Okay, so it was less of a perky “ta-dah!” and more of a grunting “ohmygoodness” because that beast was HEAVY. But as you can see, we managed to shimmy Bart out of the fireplace and onto a piece of scrap cardboard (which helped us slide the whole darn thing out of the way). So our fireplace could go from this…

…to this:

Admittedly it’s not the prettiest before & after. In fact, the after kinda looks uglier in a way… despite the fact that I got my Cinderella on and scrubbed the inside it with some warm water and mild soap:

Sherry really wanted to be the one to yoink this beast out all by herself (short arms be darned) so she made me scrub things down while she sulked slash snapped embarrassing photos. I’m making that face for two reasons. 1) because the sooty clean-up job was pretty nasty, and 2) because I’m realizing that a photo of me in my high school gym shorts would end up on the Internet. Yep, still own ‘em and still fit in ‘em… sort of.

Short shorts aside, Bart is currently residing in our dining room (where Clara rarely goes), just waiting to be craigslisted or otherwise donated (haven’t yet figured out if a Big B is worth anything to anyone, but we’ll share the craigslist link if he ends up there).

And hopefully soon we’ll have a prettier version of our fireplace to share. Immediate plans for it include painting the firebox a dark charcoal color to even out the stained brick interior. And that’ll probably be followed quickly by painting the brick and mantel. Spoiler alert: we’re leaning towards bright glossy white (we’re planning to bring some color onto the kitchen walls, so a white fireplace should be a nice counterpart). But we’ll share all those painting details as we go.

Down the road we’re also planning to take the fireplace makeover a step further – perhaps by eventually tiling it, beefing up the mantle, or even framing it out all the way up to the ceiling to give it more height. Not to mention the whole double-siding plan. But all that future fireplace stuff is TBD at this point. We’ll just have to see where we end up. Oh, and Sherry wanted me to mention that she scraped off that big circular blotch of glue that you can see just outside the upper left corner of the firebox in the photo above. Despite how easily the metal flashing peeled off, the gummy glue didn’t come off the brick as easily. So she got all ninja on that blob and ended up using an exacto knife to slice it off in pieces.

Have you guys removed a wood stove or any other fireplace insert? Was google surprisingly unhelpful? Does anyone have a kid who loves their wood stove as much as ours? Do you think Big Bart is worth craigslisting or should we donate him to the Habitat For Humanity ReStore?

Psst- We’re sharing a fun, functional, and affordable little kid-art corner over on BabyCenter today.






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