I have to be honest, I’m not sure that those indoor planters that so many 50’s-era ranch houses have were ever a good idea. They’re never in a spot with good light. They’re never in a spot that’s great to water in. They’re permanent, so you can’t just dump them out when they get yucky. So yeah, not my cup of tea.
Even worse, is when you have one (like mine) that’s been built right in the middle of your walkway! Then it’s just wrong.
There’s only one solution to this gripping dilemma.
I’m sure there’s lots of ways to do it, but I thought I’d share the way that worked for me. It’s a long story, so I’ve broken it into three parts:
Part 1: Prep Work (this post)
Part 2: Demo
Part 3: Finishing Details
Before I did anything, I did a little investigating. Although it’s true, I am given to jumping first and asking questions later, this was unfamiliar enough that I thought I’d better do my legwork this time.
First of all, I wanted to make sure that the stone wall wasn’t structural. I figured the planter box wasn’t because it wasn’t holding anything up. But what about the rest of the wall? If I pounded on the planter, could I somehow damage the main wall? And if so, would that be a serious problem? Fortunately my Dad is a Civil Engineer (as well as an inveterate DIY enthusiast, so I got his advice.
Of course, this meant I also had to deal with the prelude to the information, mostly along the lines of, “You want to do WHAT?”
Dad assured me it that the wall was purely decorative. In fact, he said, the stone itself wasn’t actually stone, but made of concrete with some natural pumice filler to make it lighter. My stone wall is totally fake! It’s still reasonably heavy, but it’s not as heavy as stone, which meant I’d be able to move the stones if I were able to get them loose! It also meant that I would likely not hurt myself or break something shifting them around. Very important.
Okay, so, knowing that I would (a) not likely injure myself (unless I did something really stupid), or (b) knock my house down, then I figured I was okay to continue exploring this idea.
The next thing I did was take a good look at how the box was put together. Stonework is kind of like a big puzzle, and I wanted to make sure I could take part of the puzzle off without wrecking the whole thing. I mean, I was fine with a bit of patchwork here and there, and I was fine with covering part of it up with bead-board or something. But I didn’t want to have to completely disassemble the whole fireplace just to get the planter box off.
Fortunately, whoever built it must have predicted the future, because it was connected for the most part with one big seam (it was the same on the front).
There was a bit at the bottom that wasn’t quite in line, but I figured I could always patch that or cover it with a big baseboard or something decorative.
Finally, I emptied out the planter box. I wanted to see what was IN there!
The kids and I worked on it off and on for several weeks. It was very dusty, so we set up fans in the windows and then we dug the dirt out with little shovels and put it in bags and put it in the trash. It was so dry and full of junk it wasn’t worth saving.
Once it was (mostly) empty, I knew three more things.
1. That the fireplace wall was faced with stone all the way down. I would have done the demo either way, but I would have had a bigger patch/cover job at the end. This way I could pull the box off and just be done with it.
2. The box was open all the way down to the bottom. In other words, not filled with concrete or something nuts that would have required jackhammers or the equivalent.
3. That there WAS a bottom, somewhere down around the floor. I couldn’t get all the debris out easily, so I didn’t know exactly what was at the bottom, but I knew that it had one. So, not open to the basement or something else that would have made it more difficult.
Not that any of those things would have stopped me…. eventually. I just might have had to wait longer to get on with it.
So. Once I had decided that this was (a) possible, and (b) feasible, I was ready to actually get to work.
You know what that means… Demo, Baby!
Continue reading this amazing story in Part 2: Demo!