Remodeling a fireplace

Fireplace Photo by Brian Moloney

by Dan Fritschen

Updates: Fireplaces provide a lovely and warm heart for your home; whether it’s fully functional or merely decorative, people gravitate towards a welcoming hearth – so make the most of it! There was a mania towards the later part of the 20th century to paint over, cover up or remove fireplaces all together, but now the trend has reversed entirely and homeowners are rediscovering the joy of fireplaces all over again. So if your home has an old or neglected fireplace that you want to be the heart of your home once again, there are several ways to go about it.

The fireplace is usually considered the focal point of any home in the United States. That’s why its appearance is taken seriously by most homeowners. If yours is looking dated or just not what you want it to be, consider a remodel. Remodeling projects involving the fireplace are cheaper than other remodeling projects for a home. However, we should note that just like in any other project, the cost will depend on your choices on the size, types of materials, and level of style. Today, a fireplace remodel could cost you barely $200 for a very simple prefabricated mantel or $2,500 to 3,500 for a luxury update.

When the time comes to remodel, start the change with some research. You have several options. You could find houses that were built in an architectural style similar to yours and see what kind of fireplaces they have. You could also browse books and magazines on home decoration, or check online for design ideas. These steps help you picture the style of the fireplace that will suit the style of your home. They could also help you come up with other design options you could include in your fireplace. It does not matter if you just want to update the feel and look of your fireplace, change some of the proportions, or even create some sort of formal appearance. Certainly, some researching of this kind will definitely help you get the design you are really after.


Your next step in this project is learning more about the types of materials which could be used in your fireplace remodeling project. This will be easier for you if you have done your homework. Contact a fireplace contractor or even a preferred home designer to get expert ideas. Or, if you like, you could just spend some time visiting home improvement and decoration stores to familiarize yourself with the materials used for fireplace surrounds.

Now that you have defined the style you want and know the materials available, you should check your local building codes. Note that flammable materials like wood should be kept at a certain distance from your home’s firebox. Remember that local building codes usually vary from state to state, so you must know your locality’s requirements. The minimum standards as far as National Fire Protection Association is concerned are:

· At least six inches should be present between the sides and the top of your home’s firebox opening and any wood.

· Any type of wood, like mantel and pilasters, should be at least 12 inches from the firebox’s opening.

If you want to keep costs low, remember that home improvement stores are likely to have prefabricated fireplaces and mantels available. They come in various sizes to suit your needs. Another way to save time, labor, and materials costs is to use premade panels. Usually, stone panels are cut into a thickness ranging from ½ inch up to three inches and attached to a backing. For a mantel, consider an antique or used one to save money and achieve a vintage look.

If you wish to add a fireplace in a room that backs up to an existing fireplace, consider using a direct-vent gas fireplace. This unique and useful kind of fireplace no longer requires a chimney, as it vents through your room’s wall at the fireplace’s back.

Materials should be installed properly and accurately when you are building and remodeling your fireplace. You must be very disciplined and knowledgeable with tasks like cutting lumber, stone, tile, moldings, and other materials involved. Note that if you will be doing this work by yourself, you should arm yourself with an accurate miter box. Make sure you also create precise measurements, as they are ultimately important in any building and remodeling project.

A good dose of research should be done regardless if you are going to do this work on your own or if you will be contacting a contractor. Remember that this is your home’s focal point, so take some time to get exactly what you want.

To get more great design inspiration for your living room, check out over 50 million photos in our free, easy to use online design gallery.