Mantle from hell


We were finishing up a house today and the last item we had to build was a simple rough cedar fireplace surround. We had only five pieces. Two 4"x8" pillars, two 6"deep x16"x 6" wide corbels and a 6"x12" mantle. On the fireplace wall are two tall windows on either side of the fireplace equal distance from the outside walls with the firebox between. The problem is that the fireplace itself is out of center by about 3". The excuse the builder gave was that the flue from the basement fireplace runs up the same chase (which I guess is not big enough) and the fireplace had to be moved one direction to allow clearances for the flue. Since the builder wasn't going to tear the back of the house off at this point, we had a problem. So, what do we do to make a surround look centered on the wall when the fire box isn't? My suggestion was screw it, if it's out of center it's out of center. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit so center it on the box and go. My partner suggested we cheat a little here and there, move one pillar out of center a little (since river rock between the pillars would help hide it) and cheat a little on the mantle. The builder suggested that he would call the owners and let them decide. A while later the owner comes out. We explain the problem (they seem to understand and are aware of the flue problem) and we draw on the wall where the pieces could go. Then we put the pillars against the wall and move them around a few times. Then we hold the 150 lb mantle over our heads and move it around a few times. Then we move the pillars a few more times and for good measure we move the mantle even more times. 90 minutes of this (I'm not exaggerating) and we finally have a decision. IMO the wrong decision but we have one. The owner has decided to center the pillars on the firebox and center the mantle between the windows. This means the mantle hangs over one pillar 3" more than it hangs over the other. After the owner leaves, my partner and I don't say a word (more self control today than usual) and as the builder leaves with his hands thrown in the air he mutters "Just bill me."
Chances are I won't have to see that fireplace again...that is until they call me to try to figure out how to take 3" off of that 6x12 now that it's hanging on the wall. :-)
Thank God for Friday and a couple days off!
Sorry for the rant!
Mike O.
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I feel your pain... well maybe not all of it.
The problem with asking the customer (insert wife here) how they would like something is that you kind of have to accept the fallout.
Me: "Honey, should this drawer have one handle or two?"
Her: "I think you should paint that green".
:-)
As for you problem, feel free to start contingency planing now and assemble with something reversable like screws.
Cheers,
Steve

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Well, it will probably be OK in the end. I am currrently working on Finish in a late 19th century farmhouse that was gutted and reframed from the inside. The framers were hacks and so I have encountered many issues like the one you describe. I was at the site while they were still working because I came to frame the stairs. (I refuse to finish stairs unless I've framed them). I was appalled by the way these clowns worked - probably boring for me to list out all the details but suffice to say things are very difficult to finish clean and crisp when out of plumb, off-center, out of square, etc. But, the interesting part - - - nobody really notices (except pro's). I'll spend hours trying to take the curse off of some clusterf*ck and then worry that it is still not correct and when I point it out to the owner he says "hey, Joe, it looks great". He is more apt to ask why the knotty pine has different sized knots. So, my guess is that you will see that 3" every time you walk in the room but others might not even notice.
Good Luck, J
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Spot on observation, in my experience.
-P.
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