Low-Cost, High-Impact Fireplace Remodel

A mix of do-it-yourself elements, custom fabrication and reclaimed materials turns a lackluster fireplace surround into a rustic, refined focal point.
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High-Low Fireplace Redo

To splurge and save for this fireplace remodel, the demolition and the barn siding were tackled do-it-yourself style, while the steel floating mantel was custom made by a high-end fabricator.

Contractor-Grade Millwork

Before the remodel, the fireplace surround was contractor-grade and lacking in personality. Its black stone facade and hearth were in excellent condition, so they were left as is.

Protecting the Hearth

A full-wall fireplace surround update can become very costly in regard to labor. When a hearth is in good condition, it's best to keep it and work it into the new design. To ensure the hearth remains unharmed during the remodel, protect it with heavy-duty drop cloths and/or furniture blankets.

Scoring the Caulk

One of the easiest tasks involved in demolishing an existing fireplace surround is scoring the caulk around the edges with a sharp utility knife. Place the knife in the center of the bead of caulk, then press down and drag it from one end to the other. Once all caulk has been scored, lightly pull the surround away from the wall to loosen it.

Removing the Mantel

Most contractor-grade mantels are simply screwed or nailed through their tops and into the framing of the surround. To loosen the mantel, use a mini crow bar, nestling it just below the mantel board and slightly pressing downward. Listen for a snap to know the mantel has been separated from screws or nails, then remove it.

Removing the Fascia

After the mantel has been taken down, the fascia board (the front portion of a three-sided box which supports the mantel) is next in line for removal. To loosen the fascia board from the fireplace surround, gently pull it away from the two sides using a hammer. Once loosened, the fascia board should become easily removable with a simple pull.

Wire Management

While demolition can be completed with basic do-it-yourself skills, wire management is much more difficult. If the existing wiring for a flat-panel TV is properly centered over the fireplace, it's best to leave it as-is and design around it. Moving the electrical components is time consuming, labor intensive and costly.

Removing Switch Plates

When existing flat-panel wiring is being left as-is, it's still wise remove any outlet covers. This will make maneuvering around the outlets or jacks much easier once it's time to install new materials to the wall.

Reclaimed Materials

When sourcing interesting materials for a fireplace surround, keep in mind that some reclaimed materials can be budget friendly and also good for the environment. For a rustic touch, reclaimed barn siding was sourced online through a local history preservationist, then washed and lightly sanded for interior use.

Exhaust Fan

Gas fireplaces, while easier to use than wood-burning styles, come with maintenance fees and an increase in gas bills. An excellent alternative is to have a high-power exhaust fan installed to aid in proper fireplace ventilation. Here, the professionally installed exhaust fan is controlled by a dial mounted directly to the barn siding facade.

Finished Mantel

The biggest splurge for the fireplace remodel was its custom-fabricated steel mantel. For a modern look, the mantel was designed "floating style," which refers to its lack of corbels or support brackets to hold it up. To create the mantel, a five-sided rectangular box measuring 70 inches in width was cut and assembled. Next, several sheets of steel were cut, then welded together before being loosely attached around the five-sided box. Once in place, a final welding of the corners was completed before a fine sanding and clear coat application. To fasten the mantel to the wall, a wooden cleat was first attached using heavy-duty wood screws and a drill. Finally, the five-sided box was slid directly onto the cleat, then secured along its bottom using small strips of trim cut from the reclaimed barn siding.

Featured Artwork

Choosing the right artwork to hang above a mantel can drastically change the overall mood of a room. Since the fireplace wall is likely to be one of the main interior architectural features of the home, it’s wise to choose art that complements the colors of the room while also offering interesting shapes, contrast and textures. This abstract piece by Jenny Andrews Anderson is considered a wash, which is created by randomly blending colors in a balanced manner with a mix of paint and water.