My wife and I recently moved into a ranch house built in 1956. If you look closely you can see where the previous own filled in what I assume to be two little nook shelves with regular old brick and mortar. We were initially planning on covering this up with a mirror but I'm wondering how easily I could restore this by chipping out the brick and mortar the idiot put in? Would it chip out cleanly or would I be left with a mess that would never quite look like it did originally? Any guidance would be appreciated.

mid-century fireplace

Here's a detail of the PO's handy work:

Detail of bricked-up cubby shelf

  • An alternative is to tile or put a thin brick facade over the entire existing brick wall. It would add about 3/4 inch or less. – bib Apr 3 '14 at 12:31

You might not get the original look back, but you can make it better. I'd take grinding wheel and cut a deep groove in the outer ring of mortar, then go to town on the bricks in the middle (as the groove will protect the older brick from damage). This will make quite a bit of dust, a dust shroud and HEPA vacuum rental are highly recommended, along with closing off the room.

After that operation, you may be stuck mortaring the inside of each nook smooth, as exposing the brick ends is a dicier proposition. The new mortar, unfortunately, looks perfectly good and probably bonded quite well to the old brick. The new brick and mortar may well be harder (even considerably harder) than the old.

Note the (now) traditional use for this space would for a flat screen TV.

See the two small holes, one of them with a metal expansion bolt? There may have been a heavy picture or mirror here in the past.

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  • The previous owner had a picture hanging from the (not level) bolts. We are still considering having a custom mirror for that spot. I was hoping that I would find out the new mortar wouldn't adhere as well to the old brick and this might come out cleanly. – CraigPDX Apr 2 '14 at 14:56
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    While many people mount a TV above a fireplace it is really a bad idea to place electronics above a fireplace. The heat will shorten the lifespan of your TV. – CraigPDX Apr 2 '14 at 15:00
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    @CraigPDX sorry rain on your bad mortar hopes. Still, I think you can do it as above. The heat argument on TV's is overrated: true plasma has some issues, but it's not really that hot up there: within even the vendor specified temperature range for a modern LCD TV. Measure it if you don't believe. – Bryce Apr 2 '14 at 19:57

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