Subfloor gaps around a fireplace

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Old 03-12-15, 05:13 AM
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Subfloor gaps around a fireplace

I'm planning to put down some hardwood flooring and to get a better understanding of what I'd be getting into, I started to remove this horribly ugly mantle around my fireplace. I haven't removed it completely because it seems to be covered in soot that I'm not ready to clean up yet, but I did take a peek at the subfloors underneath the mantle and it's kind of weird.

It's an old house so the subfloors are thin wooden planks, but the weird part is they seem to just end haphazardly around the firebox, leaving some small gaps. I can see straight through the gaps between the subfloors and firebox to the basement. Granted, they aren't huge gaps, maybe a few square inches at most, but I know that good subfloors are extremely important for flooring, especially nail down hardwood.

I dont see any supporting wood around the fireplace that I could use to lay new planks down to cover the gaps.

Should I worry about this area? Do I need to address it or are the gaps negligible? I plan to put down hardwood that is 5" wide, if that makes any difference.

I've taken a few pics to show what I'm dealing with. This is the ugly mantle I'm talking about:

the ugly mantle

I popped off the top of it to take these next two photos of it on the left and right sides. If you zoom in you can see where the subfloor jaggedly ends:

left mantle corner
right mantle corner

Also I'd like to put a gas insert in the fireplace in the future, but in the meantime I'm looking for suggestions on how to make the fireplace look presentable. I plan to get rid of the tile and replace it with something like black slate, but only on the inside of the firebox, so I would be installing hardwood right up to the opening to keep my options open (the opening to the chimney is sealed off so it isn't a functional fireplace at the moment).

The arch poses a problem, both for making it look decent and for modernizing it with an insert, which I'm told needs a rectangular opening. Im wondering if it's worth having someone remove the arch and make the opening rectangular, and maybe getting rid of the white paint exposing the brick. That way I could do a smaller, more modern looking mantle around it and the opening would be insert-friendly when Im ready for it.

Thoughts?
 
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Old 03-12-15, 05:52 AM
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Is that a dog or elephant in the center above the fireplace?

I would consider stripping and staining the existing mantle. I'd do a test strip on the carvings and some of the detail to make sure they are not plaster but I think you're in for a whole lot of work to get rid of an interesting piece of architectural detail.
 
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Old 03-12-15, 06:12 AM
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Don't know where you live, but you will want to want to look into what your local codes are as far as the amount of tile or slate that needs to be on the floor in front of the fireplace. It doesn't look like enough to pass here in the US.

The gaps should be fireblocked at a minimum. Type X drywall and fire rated foam is probably what would be used here... installed around the firebox from underneath the subfloor to block the space off. Your codes on fireblocking also vary depending on where you live. You ought to complete that part of your profile so that we would know. Often, that helps someone from your own country to give a better answer.
 
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Old 03-12-15, 02:58 PM
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Thanks for the responses. I will fill out my profile when I'm at my computer. I'm from Elizabeth, NJ

I'll look into what it takes to fireblock it.

The opening to the chimney is sealed, rendering the fireplace inoperable. Do I still need to worry about code? I would eventually replace it with a zero clearance insert later, or if I do something non zero clearance I'd add a hearth then.

As far as stripping the mantle, I've thought about it and even got an estimate for having its stripped in one of those acid baths. It's all wood, so I am removing it from the wall carefully because I feel like with its age it may be worth something, but I've changed my mind about keeping it in the room. It's just too bulky and ugly for my tastes and doesn't fit the more simple, modern look I'm going for. It's definitely a conversation piece but it's a convo I'm tired of having lol
 
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Old 03-12-15, 06:00 PM
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You always have to worry about "code" especially when involving fire. Once you open up the fireplace and remodel the area you'll have to comply with the current codes for fireblocking which would probably be minimal.

Still, I think the idea of that shallow fireplace and a zero clearance insert are incompatible. Everything would be much easier if you forgo the idea of fire from any source. Then you'd be much more free to do whatever you want aesthetically.
 
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Old 03-12-15, 10:07 PM
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I understand. My point is that for now I just want it to look presentable and won't be using the fireplace. I'll probably stick a few candles in the firebox and that would be the most fire/heat it would generate. If I put down the hardwood floors right up to the opening with the idea that I may make it functional later, I can always cut out part of the long planks I would place in front of it and bring it up to code with a proper hearth, but I can't really do the opposite if I put a hearth in now.
 
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Old 03-13-15, 07:53 AM
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I am concerned that you say right now you just want it to look presentable. Then later you keep throwing in that you want it to be functional. I think you need to pick one or the other. A functioning fireplace or a decorative fireplace? Both have very different requirements and doing the remodel as a decorative precludes it from ever being functional without another major re-do. A functional fireplace, even with gas logs has specific requirements as to the materials, method of construction and distance combustible materials must be kept away... whether you like their look or not. If you make it a decorative only fireplace you are much more free to do what you want for appearance.
 
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Old 03-13-15, 10:10 AM
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I agree with Pilot Dane, I know that the inspector wouldn't care that "you say it isn't going to be functional". If it looks like a fireplace or could be a fireplace, it needs to be treated like a fireplace.

Which is really why you should sort that out with a local official. The advice we will give you will probably always err on the side of caution. No one wants to give advice that will go against the codes or get you in trouble someday.
 
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Old 03-13-15, 11:34 AM
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I understand. I've pretty much resolved to have someone come and take care of the fireplace for me since I'm out of my league and have no experience with it or doing any kind of masonry work.

I just got an estimate from a place that does masonry work and the guy told me would basically rebuild the firebox to be rectangular, put new brick up the chimney breast (to make it look nice) and also put in a chimney liner to prep it for a gas insert for $4k. When I asked him how much to just rebuild the firebox, he said $3.5k He mentioned putting in a nice mantle and putting up some stone around it, but it still seems a little steep to me, but I don't know what these things would normally cost.

I'm getting a few more estimates, but what are your thoughts on the price?
 
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Old 03-13-15, 12:40 PM
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Alot depends on what you have there already and what they can reuse. Also your location and disposal costs can have a large impact on the price. The best thing would be to talk to neighbors or anyone else that has had masonry work done or ask at your local lumber or building supply yard and get quotes from several people.
 
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Old 03-13-15, 12:51 PM
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It's nearly impossible to estimate jobs remotely since we can't see it nor do we know what prices things are going for in your area. Get a few more bids and ask questions both of the contractors and of us here.
 
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