Mortarfied: Despair in DIY


Do you ever feel like you’ve had one of those weeks where you were really busy, but don’t have nearly as much to show for it as you think you should?  That’s my week.

We are continuing to trudge through this Never Ending Fireplace Makeover, but quite frankly, I’m tired.  Tired of my family room being a disaster zone of wood, tools, dust, nails and masonry supplies.  Tired of having a giant eyesore in full view the moment you walk into my home.  Tired of taking a step forward in progress, only to take two steps back.  Tired of my kids saying, “Mom, are you guys ever going to finish that fireplace?”

Have you ever had a project like that?  It wears you down.

Take the mortar issues I’ve been battling here.  We finally got the fireplace framed and the cement board up, and the next task was to mortar the joints – almost like taping drywall joints – simple enough, right? 


I pulled out the mortar mix and decided to knock out this next task on the punch list.  I followed the directions, but it just was a total mess – mortar everywhere, not sticking the way it should – I think more ended up on me than on the fireplace.  It just wasn’t right, leaving me, you guessed it, mortarfied.

So, I ended up taking it all down (and crying on the inside).  But setbacks like this take a hit on your DIY self-confidence and plant those seeds of doubt.  Had we taken on more than we could chew with this project?  What if we totally mess it up?

I did end up getting the joints done (with a premade mix), and decided to put off the mortar mixing task until later – with the scratch coat.

But, before the scratch coat, we had to install the metal lath (that keeps the stone from sliding down the wall).  Again, one of those tasks that takes infinitely longer than you expect.  My husband did most of it, but I finished it today.

And, I faced my mortar-fear by trying the mortar mixing again.  I used a big plastic tub instead of a five gallon bucket, and that seemed to do the trick.  I completed the scratch coat on the bottom portion of the fireplace (to aid in successful stone adhesion), and have made progress even since I took this photo (and subsequently ran out of mortar).  A stone mason, I am not.  This stuff is messy.  But, it’s progress.

So, I guess there is a teeny tiny light at the end of the tunnel, because once the scratch coat is done, I will be able to get to the fun (hopefully) part – putting up the stone.  However, I’m sure that will present its own set of unforeseen challenges and lunatic rantings.

Sorry for the downer tone here – I do try to keep it light, but I also try to keep it real.  And I’m ready for this fireplace to be done.  For real.

Here is what I’m holding out for at the end of the day.  This is what I’m really hoping the fireplace will look like when it’s complete.  It’s images like this that keep me moving forward. 

I’m really looking forward to hanging stockings on this new fireplace too.  Fingers crossed. 

Yes, I’m starting to lose my mind a bit. 😉  Back to work!

Have a great weekend!


  • Reply
    November 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    It's going to look so great when you finish it!
    I'm still curious to see how your staining projects turned out! Will you show us the final product? Can't wait to see!

    • Reply
      November 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      I will *definitely* share the final product Wendy! I'm on the final coat of poly on the front doors (the inside anyway). The guy at the Woodcraft store said to wait 10 days for the stain to fully dry before applying the top coat, so it's been a process to say the least. They are looking FANTASTIC though. I can't wait to share!

  • Reply
    Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    November 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    it is going to look amazing! chin up!

  • Reply
    pam {simple details}
    November 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Oh, Jenny, I've been there so many times, unfortunately you can't stick this one in the basement or garage and forget about it! 🙂 I really did do an out loud, wow! when I scrolled down and saw the scratch coat, so impressive, and it will be worth it when you can sit there and admire your work! Hang in there!

  • Reply
    November 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I still think you are pretty awesome for tackling this project. And seeing your photoshopped "finished project", it is all going to be worth it. I'm cheering you on!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Dimples and Tangles
    November 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    You'll get it, hang in there! I'm so impressed that you tackled this huge project in the first place. I think I would have called someone in by now to finish it off! Your ceiling is gorgeous…

  • Reply
    Stacy Curran
    November 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    You'll get there. I feel that way on just about every project I do myself. My kitchen wainscoting project had me in tears for a week. But once done, it's a huge accomplishment and source of pride. I know you already know this!!

  • Reply
    Carmel - Our Fifth House
    November 20, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Hang in there – it's looking so good already! You can do it!

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