The kitchen layout has evolved since we first talked about what we wanted. We were originally going to have a range cooker in the chimney breast and had a gas pipe, which was to be connected to a gas bottle in the garage (no mains line gas), installed along with an electrical outlet with enough power for a cooker.
Then I had a horrible realisation. The sink was on the other side of the room, so if we were to cook pasta, for example, we’d have to walk across a wide kitchen to drain it of boiling water. That was never going to be practical with two young girls in the house.
We considered adding a second prep sink next to the range with a worktop. However that would mean introducing a water outlet which would have a knock on effect of moving the electrical outlet, already situated in the base board, due to the danger of a potential leaky/burst pipe near the electrical point. Added to that the outlet for the wifi is situated in the same place. As our internet has been tricky due to the house’s thick walls we had previously queried moving this; it would be expensive and messy.
Then one evening we were at a friends house and they were cooking on their open fire as we sat in the kitchen. My husband looked at me forlornly; “we definitely can’t use our fire can we?” You see the fireplace in our sitting room was added by the previous owner, and it includes a much, too small flue. As a result we were warned it would be dangerous when we subsequently had it cleaned. All the other chimney breasts in the house are blocked up and this was the only open, functioning one. We had asked the previous owner if it worked and we had been told it did. So the only functioning fireplace we were going to use to house a stove…..
which would prove tricky as the stone mantle was very low and we would have to build at the back of it to bring it sufficiently forward to reach the back hobs successfully……
and now we’d have to do lots of additional work to make it work too.
I realised that if I moved the oven to the back wall we would lose some of the electrical work we’d had done, but wouldn’t have to pay out for additional work and we could put a breakfast nook in the corner of the room, next to the working open fire. My husband was reluctantly persuaded, tempted by the thought of a roaring fire to stop his anguish of wasted work and money.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not keen on the fireplace. More to the point I’m not keen on the ugly, lower half of the fireplace. So I intended to do something with it. I thought to keep the stone on top, but add a shelf for display on the ugly lower half. Then I’d paint it white to give it a cleaner look.
I’d been thinking over how to bring this about, the main stumbling block would be the solid stone which would prove difficult to get a drill though, when I realised that there was a seam of cement that could be drilled into which would make my work easier. I had been poring over designs for how to put together a mantle piece when I saw this at my local brocante..
It’s really sturdy and I could never reproduce the lovely scalloped edges. I’d intended to get some form of wood carved appliqué, but any this size would be expensive. So in comparison to individually buying the wood, brackets and appliqué its purchase at 35€ was a no brainer.
To fix it to the wall I decided to use these z bars which are meant to be able to hold 20kg each – I got 4 just to be on the safe side. The benefits of these is that they interlock, so you screw in one side to the wall and then the other side into you shelf/cupboard/mirror top and then slide it into the bar on the wall. You can make sure the bar is horizontal with the supplied spirit level and there should be no mistakes. Mmmm, let’s see.
I realised my first problem was going to be the uneven nature of the wall. Although there was a horizontal seam of cement, the stone work jutted out haphazardly so that the lip that the second piece was meant to slip into was obscure. I had to find a way to make it stand proud of the wall.
My solution was a length of wood, narrow in depth, that would allow the bar to be sufficiently away from the wall.
I marked off the middle of the chimney breast with a marker pen. Then I cut the piece of wood to the length of the top of the shelf. I then marked the middle of the piece of wood too.
Laying the piece of wood on the worktop I placed the receiving bars along the length. Ensuring the bars were directly aligned with the wood edge I marked were the holes should be for the screws. Then I placed this length of wood so that it’s edge was aligned with the edge of the top of the shelf.
You must remember that whatever side of the wood faces you is the side that has to go against the wall. I marked mine so I knew which side was which.
Holding the wood in place I drilled into the wood were the marks were, so I drilled the additional wood and the shelf at the same time. This way I knew the holes would align, and therefore the z bars would. As the inserting z bar was going to be at the upper edge of the shelf I knew the shelf itself would sit fractionally above the cement seam.
Then it came the time to mark and drill holes in the cement.
As it was difficult to get the marker tip through the drilled holes I laid the wood against the seam, making sure it was level, then I marked where the holes would be with lines drawn away from the wood. Then I marked the wall along the length of the wood, focusing on the z bar areas, with the marker point as close as I could get to the wood edge.
Then I got the z bars and put them along the drawn edge, aligning with where the screw were meant to be. I then scratched into the holes of the z bars with a screw, removing and marking the scratch with the marker pen each time so I didn’t lose sight of where each hole was meant to go. Now it was time to drill.
I obviously used a stone drill, but even so these are difficult to drill into hard cement. So, making sure the drill was set to hammer, I used the narrowest, stone drill bit I had to start out. It didn’t go in very deep, but I drilled all the holes along. Then I went up with the successive drill sizes until I’d made the holes sufficiently big enough to fit the raw plugs inside the holes.
Starting at the middle I attached the z bars to the wood with the screws then, following my earlier direction note, I screwed the screws in the wall just a little bit all the way along. Then I put extra strong builders glue all the way along the back of the wood. After that I screwed the nails in all the way.
I took the leftover piece of the length of wood and glued that in the middle of the mantle as between the z bars and the wood length there would be a slight tilt in the shelf otherwise.
I left the glue to set overnight.
The next day I checked that I could slide the shelf z bar into the one on the wall. When I was convinced all was well I slipped some raw plugs under the edge to make it stand proud of the breast, levelling it with the z bars. Then I took the builders glue and piped it under the edge of the shelf, smoothing the excess around the edge of the shelf like it was acrylic, sealing it all.
To disguise the difference between the mantle edge, the shelf and exposed stone I’m going to add some trim. I’m not painting it yet as I’ve more work to do; I’ll update you with that soon.