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Old 01-24-2011, 08:03 AM   #1
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


I have attached and old picture of my fireplace (Those are NOT my little curtain things, those were left there by the PO).

Last night I drilled a hole in the dead center above the mantle to check stud spacing. I stuck a coat hanger in there to get an idea and unless I'm going crazy there are NO studs in there until you get to the very end where the corner is. Is this normal?

I was expecting them to maybe be turned the other way to gain space, but I didn't expect a big empty space. The plaster is about 3" away from the brick.

It's a 1930 Cape Cod BTW.
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Old 01-24-2011, 11:19 AM   #2
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


Not an expert, Pete, but I believe that what you have is very typical, and that you will find that your foundation has a bump out on which the bricks set, making the fireplace somewhat a structure by itself, consisting basically of a brick perimeter, with a flue running up the center of it, surrounded by a significant air space.

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Old 01-24-2011, 11:26 AM   #3
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


well that's a bummer...... Leaves me with the decision of taking down the plaster, framing it and putting up drywall.... or...... find somewhere else to put my TV.
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Old 01-24-2011, 11:42 AM   #4
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


I'll shut up after this, and see what the experts have to say, but I think that you may very well have a personal safety and code issue with replacing the masonry with wood framing. Also, you'll obviously have to see how far the bricks extend (possibly to the cap?), as the bricks above the ceiling will need to be supported. Could you possibly support the tv from the ceiling? Maybe with some rods painted to match the front of the fireplace? I haven't gotten that far yet, as our almost 30 year old 1/2 ton console tv still works fine, but have been contemplating dealing with a similar situation in our home.
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Old 01-24-2011, 11:49 AM   #5
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


Dexter:

I don't think I'm explaining myself correctly......

I have zero interest in touching the chimney - in fact I don't even want to anchor the TV into the brick. The brick is 80 yrs old. The plaster you see there sits about 3" away from the chimney brick. What I was talking about was filling that gap w/ 16" OC studs and using them for structure.

I drilled a hole where the "X" is. No studs back there - but there's about 3" of air gap before you hit the brick once you get through the plaster.

There's definitely studs where the lines are.
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Old 01-25-2011, 01:23 PM   #6
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


Made the hole a little bigger just so I could see for sure. My wife was highly entertained when she got home.

About 3" of airspace between the plaster and the brick. The brick is flush w/ the plaster at first (as you can see) but about 3" above where the bottom of the mantle starts, it slopes in.

I am very fascinated by this. I am now left trying to decide whether I should pull the plaster down and frame the area for the mount or just say Plan B and get a ceiling mount and go between the rafters.
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:16 PM   #7
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


Pete, some projects are just, well, projects, and some are neat; this one is definitely the latter. Initially, I thought that you had perhaps happened to drill through a mortar joint, and maybe were up against the flue, without realizing it, which is the reason I cautioned about framing, but later realized, since I had read some of your other posts, that was not likely to be the case. Anyway, I am only speculating, but it looks and sounds to me, as you had probably already concluded, that your chimney necks down above the fireplace, and that, for whatever reason, a previous owner decided that they wanted to conceal what may very well be some interesting brick work. The strange thing to me, not being a mason, mudder, plaster, or other, is how they managed to support the face of that wall, with nothing more than a 2x4 at either end. Did you encounter mesh in the wall? Or is possibly cement board with a thin coating over it? Obviously, I am only speculating, but will definitely be interested in what you find, because it were mine, I am afraid that I would have to remove the plaster at this point, even if it meant having to go back and redo it later.
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Old 01-26-2011, 08:33 AM   #8
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


It's a THICK wall. I'm no expert on plaster walls, but the chunk I cut out is 1" thick and looks like 1/2 concrete and 1/2 plaster.

I started patching the hole last night. I'm having a new load center put in the basement and as soon as that's done that's the last obstacle for us tearing our kitchen out as soon as temperatures rise. In combination with that I have to finish the stairs to the deck and cut a hole in the back wall and put a door in so we have access to the deck from the inside. This is crucial since there will be a LOT of barbequin' while the kitchen is out.

With all that going on, it was just too tough of a sell to my wife to rip the whole thing down and build a wall from scratch there. Maybe next year.
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Old 01-27-2011, 06:11 PM   #9
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


Not really sure what you have there. The concrete may serve a purpose, maybe a firewall. For what it's worth, I've never been fond of the TV above the fireplace look. Unless it is your only option, I would be inclined to find a different location.
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Old 01-27-2011, 07:01 PM   #10
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


I'll speak only from my own experience, because I'm not a professional contractor.

Based on the old houses my wife & I have renovated, I've come to the conclusion that sometimes they just are what they are. Sometimes it makes perfect sense, and you're awed. Sometimes you're just baffled. Back in the day, they didn't have the same building codes we have. And some people just did things their own way.

When I went to remove the back porch from one old farm house we owned, I discovered that the "studs" were rough-cut 1x3s and 1x4s, spaced anywhere from 28"-38". There seemed to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.


That said, I think you're on the right track - digging deep enough to do your job right the first time.


Good luck!
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Old 01-28-2011, 09:18 AM   #11
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


I'm not necessarily a huge fan of the TV above the fireplace either, but in this room it just gives us SOOOOOOO much more space. There is a little nook that the audio tower just happens to fit into so it literally only sticks out about a foot. If we could get the screen out of the way like that then that leaves the two good long walls available for our couches - it makes the room seem HUGE compared to all other options.

It's not a huge fireplace either - we only burn the occasional starter log in there, we never have "real" fires in it since it's pretty shallow.

I'd still like to tear it open and frame it, but it got pushed to 5th or 4th in line behind the stairs, door & kitchen.
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Old 01-28-2011, 05:00 PM   #12
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


The "concrete" you are referring to is actually "brown-coat", as it is known in my area. This is the first coat when applying older plaster on walls. The "brown-coat" goes on first, is rather rough, and is ususally/almost always, the coat which bonds to the metal lath or the lath boards. Then the finish, or sometimes called "skim-coat" is installed which is the smooth, hard, pretty coat, to be painted. You finding the space between the actual fireplace brick/mortar is interesting to me. What is the plaster bonded to? Most metal lathing material I am used to has to be attached to something like studs. The could have "boxed" a section, rather large, for the wooden lathing material to be attached to though. Have you found any indication of either metal or wooden lathing material behind the plaster? Interesting tool you have on the ladder also. I have used those on many jobs myself.
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Old 01-28-2011, 05:05 PM   #13
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


You just have to check this one out

Fireplace Remodel - ongoing
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Old 01-28-2011, 05:42 PM   #14
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Stud spacing above a fireplace in an older house? What's going on?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackofall1 View Post
You just have to check this one out

Fireplace Remodel - ongoing
That looks like the way to go all right. Tear it out and frame it up so you don't ever have to worry about the TV falling.

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