Since some of the rocks were falling off - it was easy to see that the brick underneath was in good shape. So we decided to remove the river rocks to reveal the brick.
We recently purchased property in Virginia with a small farmhouse cottage (832 sq. ft.) as a vacation home for us. The home was built in the 1940's, while in good repair - needed lots of cosmetic updates. The tiny living room contained this very large brick fireplace that someone had mortared round river rocks on it. While the rocks are pretty, but we wanted to bring the fireplace back to brick - to update the room and gain space. We also soon found out that the rocks were unsafe, many of them were loose and falling off - as well as hiding places for bugs and spiders!
After some research on the best methods to remove the rocks - we purchased a portable jack hammer. Then the long process of rock removal begin and since we were only at the cottage twice a month, it took several months to get them all off and haul them out the cottage.
Some of the rocks, just fell off - while others had to be removed with the portable jack hammer.
There were areas on the brick where the mortar was really stuck on the brick. We had to use a chisel and hammer to remove most of that mortar - very time consuming but we knew it would be worth it in the end.
At the same time we were doing the rock removal, we knocked out the walls on both sides of the fireplace (after installing a support beam in the ceiling) to open up the space in our little cottage.
The process took months of work and hard labor.
Finally - the rocks were all removed and we could see our brick fireplace! We quickly realized that we gained about 6 inches of space on all three sides of the fireplace - what a huge gain for such a small room!
After cleaning the brick, I white-washed the brick to lighten up the room. I used chalk paint in white, off white, and gray colors. And painted the inside of the hearth black using heat - resistant paint.
We had a piece of walnut from our farm in northern NY that we wanted to use as a mantle. We will be adding gas logs to the hearth - but for now we just put an electric heater inside since the chimney is not clear to use.
We are so happy with our new fireplace - really makes a huge difference in updating our living room and with the large rocks and walls removed - the space is more open too.
We plan to make a fire pit on our property - similar to this with the river rocks we removed from the fireplace.
Here's another photo of the fireplace and the living room - all updated!