How would I go about removing this "decorative" shelf above my fireplace. I want to replace it with a more functional mantle shelf. It appears to be part of the wall, but I'm not sure. Would a hammer and pry bar suffice?
You never know what you're going to find when you tear into a house. In your case, if your house is typical, the mantle you have is probably just nailed to studs in the wall, so you can probably remove it easily.
Have you considered just adding a nice mantle over the existing one? A good finish carpenter could probably create something really nice and you'd save the hassle of removing the old one.
I can answer questions about plumbing, electrical, roofing, carpentry, drywall, stucco, flooring, foundation, windows, and planning for typical wood frame houses.
I have been a landlord and home owner for over 30 years, doing all the repairs myself. I have completed two additions to properties, drawing the plans myself, obtaining permits, and performing the work myself. One of these additions was over 1000 square feet.
Education/Credentials I have a bachelors and masters degree in Mechanical Engineering.