Last November, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, I was watching a movie with my husband in our family room. Ok, if you really want to know, it was “The Terminator”. I had never seen it. Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Anyway, during one particularly long action scene (I tend to get a little fidgety when they get lengthy), my focus began to shift from the television screen itself to the wall behind it.
I scanned downward to our sweet little brick fireplace with the oak mantle, and then over to the left where our audio-video equipment sat in the open, on a glass shelving system with an atrocious amount of wiring coming and going in every direction. Along that same wall were various impractical pieces of furniture that didn’t really tie together; they were just leftovers from when we downsized.
What did I see? Potential.
This is what the wall looked like that day.
Now, no disrespect to the “Ah-nold”, but he had officially lost the battle for my attention. I already had my laptop up and running at this point, while the movie merely served as a violent soundtrack to my urgent internet hunt for DIY fireplace remodel projects. Just a quick overhaul of the brick and maybe a larger mantel or something? Nothing too crazy. I googled and bing’ed my way around, finding inspiration and ideas.
This is where Mr. Nickels says I got a scary look in my eye.
I’d done my research, so I gave him a rough idea of what I wanted. “Dual custom built-in bookcases on each side, makeover the mantel, apply stone veneer to the fireplace, a couple of light fixtures, and…”
“I thought you said we were only making over the fireplace.”
“That was before I went online, silly.”
So our makeover began. That very same day. (If you didn’t already know, patience is not one of my personality traits.)
We cleared away all of the furniture, removed all of the audio-video equipment, and Mr. Nickels started in on the wiring. We knew we didn’t want a bunch of funky wires running to and fro like we did before, so he removed the drywall and ran all of the HDMI and electrical inside the wall instead, with ports at each end. There were a few moments of frustration along with an occasional curse, but he got ‘er done.
Next we built the bases of the cabinets and secured them to the floor and wall. I was already excited, even at this stage.
We purchased stock cabinets from Home Depot and secured them to the bases, the wall, and each other. The mantel was removed, and I started applying the stone veneer to the fireplace, starting at the bottom and working my way up. (While it may look like I’m admiring my toenail polish in this picture, I’m actually in the middle of applying the stone veneer. I swear.)
The stone veneer on the fireplace was finished, and I put two coats of white primer on the cabinet bases and doors. We painted the mantel, and trimmed it on both ends, to accommodate the bookcases that would eventually be installed. On the left cabinet you can see the dark wood we used for the top. We found an unfinished butcher block countertop at Ikea, trimmed it to size, and then stained and sealed it.
Here’s a close-up. It turned out gorgeous.
We built both bookcases, painted them with two coats of primer, and attached them. It was finally starting to take shape.
By this point, we were getting close. We applied stone veneer to the wall behind the television, attached the wood trim to the front of the bookcases to frame them out, added lighting fixtures, put up the crown moulding, and added two more coats of paint to the entire thing.
And…it’s DONE! We added baseboard to the bases of the cabinets to match the other walls, installed slate tile on the fireplace hearth, caulked and sealed all the crevices, added cabinet handles and filled it with stuff. All of our audio-video equipment, laptops, printer, etc are now nicely hidden away in the left-side cabinet, while our movie collection hides in the right-side cabinet.
I don’t know how much this would have cost us to hire a professional; it’s in the several-thousand-dollar range, I’m sure. But for us? It was about $800 in materials. And, good materials at that. Solid wood, slate tile, stone…you get the point. I’m sure if I could add up all of the maintenance/improvement/repair costs we’ve avoided over the years, by doing things ourselves, it would be in the TENS of THOUSANDS. Seriously. Now, I already know what some of you muttered under your breath…
“Lady…you’re smokin’ a fat one. I don’t have a lick of experience with [carpentry/tiling/plumbing/auto repair].”
That may be true. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. You’d be AMAZED what you can learn to do with your own two hands. Just a few months back, a strange error came up on my car’s diagnostic panel. We weren’t sure what to make of it, but instead of just taking it in to the mechanic, we googled the error code, found some YouTube videos and DIY walkthroughs for the problem, made a trip to the auto parts store and had it fixed in one afternoon. $75 and a few greasy hands later, it was repaired. It would have cost us that much or more just to have the mechanic glance in our car’s direction.
Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of Diddly-Squat
Remember this…you don’t have to know everything about everything. We’re just a couple of jacks-of-all-trades, but masters of absolutely nothing. We tinker around in plumbing, electrical, carpentry and auto repair just enough to get the job done, but not enough that I could quit my job and become a full-time plumber. (That, and my aversion to poo.)
In the end, Mr. Nickels and I had fun building this together, while adding real value to our home. And…we appreciate it so much more, having built it ourselves. It goes without saying, but this is one of the many reasons we’re able to meet our savings goals every year. We’re not handing over $1,000 to the mechanic every time we hear a rattle, or $500 to a plumber for every clogged drain.
Are you a DIY’er? Or wish you were? Have any success stories? Or epic failures?
Now for one last thing , just so I can sleep a little better tonight…
Disclaimer / Legal Mumbo-Jumbo:
DIY projects, such as those mentioned above, are performed at your own risk.
As with any do-it-yourself/DIY project, unfamiliarity with the tools and process can be dangerous. All DIY-related posts should be construed as theoretical advice and aesthetic inspiration. Improper use of tools could result in damage to your property or serious bodily injuries. MYSHINYNICKELS.com is not liable for any damage or injury resulting from the DIY projects listed or referenced.