How to Tear Out a Stone Indoor Planter (Part 2 of 3)

Planter Box Removed

Fireplace Stone

Welcome back! We’re in the middle of discussing how I tore out my indoor stone planter that was built into the side of the fireplace when my house was built in the ’50s. I tore mine out this week and I love how much more open it is. I can walk through the walkway without sustaining injuries!

Since there’s so many people out there with 50’s era ranch houses, and since indoor planters were such a popular feature when those houses were built (mystifying, but true), I thought you guys might like to know how I tore out mine.

First I shared my investigation and prep work. Today it’s all about the demo, baby.

I’m sure there’s lots of ways to do it. This is the way that worked for me. It’s a long story, so I’ve broken it into three parts:

Part 1: Prep Work
Part 2: Demo (this post)
Part 3: Finishing Details


My basic plan was to try and just chisel out the mortar between the stones and take it apart piece by piece. I didn’t want to swing a full-sized sledgehammer inside the house. Not only do sledgehammers and kids not mix (YIKES), I didn’t want to send junk flying everywhere or risk hitting the other parts of the wall.I thought I could just get the stones out one at a time and keep it simple, safe and relatively tidy. So, I only needed a few basic tools.

Demo of Stone Planter Box

Most important, of course, were the safety goggles. I knew there might be bits of (fake) stone, mortar or who knows what else flying through the air, and I didn’t want any of it in my eyes. Any other people who were in the room with me also had to wear safety goggles.

This project wasn’t particularly loud, but if it had been, I would have also worn ear protection.
Beyond that I figured I’d just need some chisels and the three pound sledgehammer. I didn’t know what exactly would work so I grabbed what we had. As it turns out, I only used one chisel, the one on the right, the flat one. That one is called a “cold chisel.” According to the internet, it is designed to be used with metalworking, whereas the ones designed for masonry are much wider. Well, this is the one we happened to have in the house and it worked just fine. Great, in fact.

The three pound sledgehammer is a very useful tool, one we’ve had for years and we use a LOT. It’s heavy enough to do some good work, but small so you can keep control of it.


Okay, so. I started by trying to peel off the slate on the top layer. I just put the flat part of the chisel into the mortar underneath a piece and gave it a few whacks with the hammer. I didn’t hit it all that hard. My Dad always taught me that it’s the hammer’s job to do the work, you just aim it. So I did that, and the stones popped right up.

Demo of Stone Planter Box

Once the top layer was off, I started looking for the easiest place to dissassemble the puzzle. I figured it’d be easiest to take out a stone that only had one end mortared in instead of both, so I found a stone that was exposed on the end, like this one on the corner.

Demo of Stone Planter Box

Then I just did the same thing with the chisel. With the bigger stones I might have to pound on it in a couple of places, but generally the mortar broke apart and then I could just lift the stones right off.
Demo of Stone Planter Box

You notice I’m picking that up with one hand. That’s because those stones are light. It only weighed as much as, say, a couple of big books, not like a rock. If it was real stone I would have had to use both hands and been more careful.

As soon as I lifted off a stone, I would find the next stone that seemed the easiest and go after it the same way.

Demo of Stone Planter Box

I just kept doing that until I got down to where there wasn’t any more mortar that I could get to with the chisel. It was surprisingly quick. My husband had thought I’d be at it for days, but we got the whole project done, including clean-up, in about two hours.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up with how I finished off the project in Part 3: Finishing Details!

~Angela :-)

P.S. If you missed it, make sure to go back and read Part 1: Prep Work!

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  1. I loved seeing your project. Now I can’t wait to see it all finished! You always inspire me. I’d better go work on a project right now!

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