A Fireplace Remodel Is Simpler Than You Think

Sprucing up an existing fireplace with a quick fireplace remodel can dramatically alter your space without the major expense

Living room fireplace remodel with moroccan tile

A refocus on the fireplace remodel

Even though we don’t need a fireplace for our main heat source anymore, the home hearth maintains its mystique. However, not all existing fireplaces provide the aesthetics you want, and a complete fireplace overhaul can be both complex and costly. Fortunately, there are myriad options for a fireplace remodel well short of major work.

If a remodel in the home is already being planned, discuss with your general contractor about adding the project to the main scope.

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What goes into a fireplace remodel?

This is a general term, but the fireplace is made up of several parts. The firebox is the brick box inside the room that contains the fire. It must be built to certain standards of specific materials. That makes changing the area a bit more involved and costly. However, the other primary components would provide a more basic, cost-saving, and aesthetically focused fireplace remodel.

This includes the hearth, which is the brick, tile, or stone “shelf” that sticks out into the room at knee or floor level; the surround, which is the wall surface outside the firebox; and the mantel, which is the shelf on the wall above the firebox. Any and all of these components lend themselves to dramatic transformations. 

The mantel: modern or traditional?

Whether your fireplace has a mantel or not, you can change it. You can completely remove it, as well, which has become a popular choice in modern design. This approach gives a clean and sleek look, while a mantel tends to appeal to more traditional tastes. 

You can work with your contractor and/or interior designer, or check out Pinterest for many design ideas. People get impressively creative in re-using a variety of materials for a mantel. You can do whatever you want. You can also choose an “off the rack” wooden mantel or have your contractor or cabinet maker create one to your specs. 

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The multipurpose hearth

The hearth is similar to the mantel in many ways. Modern and postmodern homes have dispensed with hearths for decades. Back in the day, the inner hearth, on which the fireplace grate sits, was sitting right at floor level. These days it’s more popular to have a raised hearth that you can sit on, decorate with a vase or artwork, and so on. 

Again, you can do nearly whatever you dream of with your hearth. Because of its location, stone, concrete, and tile are optimal. Steel looks great but it’s a conductive material so might not be safe, depending on how all the parts work together. It’s possible but it’s a good idea to ask your contractor.

Framing the fireplace

The fireplace surround is a natural choice for a fireplace remodel. Your main concern is keeping combustible materials like wood away from the firebox. This is usually not a challenge but it’s good to review with your contractor and/or designer. The surround can be stone, tile, wood, or metal. In this case metal wouldn’t necessarily be dangerous, as you’ve no need to touch the surface when the fire is roaring.

Another idea for a dramatic look is simply painting an old brick surround. You can paint, stain, or whitewash brick and give it a welcome update. Wooden trim can be added, like a door or window frame, for a bit more refinement. 

Fireplace doors

Fireplace doors are often the impetus for a remodel. There was a time when doors were energy-saving but large and unwieldy. Now, you’ll find doors, sometimes called inserts, that look great, work well, and maintain a degree of energy efficiency. 

A fireplace remodel can be fast, inexpensive, and dramatic. An existing fireplace surround can be painted for about $100. If your home has a plain, unadorned existing fireplace, adding stone or ceramic tile as a surround can cost $200 and up. A new mantel can cost $200 and up.

When you’re ready to get started on your home remodel, discuss with your general contractor about adding this project to the main scope. You can literally remodel your fireplace in a weekend or two and have a feature you’re happy to use often. 

Popular questions asked

A fireplace remodel can be as simple as painting, staining, or whitewashing the existing brick surround. You can also add a new set of doors or a new mantel, refinish the existing mantel, remove the existing mantel, and resurface the hearth. The whole project is about improving the aesthetics of those three parts of the fireplace. It can be a simple, fast, fun process.

If remodeling plans are already planned for other areas in the home, then speak with your general contractor or designer about adding a fireplace remodel to the main scope. It will save time on permits, scheduling, and labor if these logistics are already being planned. A Sweeten contractor will have worked with specialty subcontractors who know everything about fireplaces. 

Your first task, after creating a general idea for the project, is to get your contractor’s opinion on the existing fireplace. It’s really tough to know what can be done to a fireplace without seeing it firsthand. It’s always wise to have a professional incorporate code compliance for a feature like a fireplace into their recommendations. 

You literally can paint an existing fireplace surround for under $100. If your home has a plain, unadorned existing fireplace, you could add stone or ceramic tile as a surround for $200 and up, and add a new mantel for $200 and up. Mantel materials can include wood, salvaged wood, stone, or concrete.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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