Q: I am moving into a condo with a brick fireplace. The solid wood mantel is supported by three bricks that extend out. Can the extended bricks be leveled off to allow for removal of the mantel? If so, how would I go about doing this job?

A: We’re a little unclear as to what you have. Is the fireplace face all brick or are the three bricks protruding from the wall somehow? But either way the answer is yes, you can eliminate the bricks that support the mantel and remove it.

If the fireplace front is brick, you should remove the entire brick. You can do this with a hammer and a cold chisel. First chip out the mortar around each brick to be removed. Remove as much mortar as you can. Then take the chisel and break the brick as deeply in the cavity as you can. The object is to try to save enough of the existing brick so that you can use it to place in the void you have created and level it with the fireplace front. Once you have salvaged the half (or thereabouts) brick, reinstall it flush with the face.

Of course this will create a look with three ends (something like 3 inches by 4 inches) in a field of what we’re guessing is 3-by-12-inch brick laid on edge. If these three smaller pieces are spaced well they might provide some visual interest.

If you don’t like this look, you may have to replace the entire course of bricks, and that can be a lot of work. Remove the bricks from all of the courses above the mantel, being careful not to chip or break them. Chip off the mortar and then rebuild the fireplace face using the salvaged bricks.

Although a talented do-it-yourselfer could tackle this job, we wouldn’t recommend it. There are tricks of the trade in bricklaying, and the learning curve can be steep. This is a job best left to the pros.

***

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