Anyone with a home of a certain vintage – built in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s – is very likely the not-so-proud owner of a large brick or stone fireplace in their basement and/or family room. It is extremely easy to give your fireplace a makeover, especially if you plan to add an electric fireplace insert. Some folks, who have a relatively attractive all-brick fireplace, without any concrete slabs for hearth or mantel, may opt to simply paint over their brick and add an insert. For the rest of you, here is a simple 5-step process for giving your fireplace a facelift:
In order to create a fresh platform for your new look, and to create a base for any new coverings, such as tile or stone, mirror or metal, you will need to cover the brick surface with drywall. In order to prepare for this, you will need to remove the existing mantel and raised hearth. You will also need to chip away any protrusions, like little shelves, that stick out from the bricks. Once your bricks or stones are all on the same plane, from ceiling to floor, you are ready to have drywall installed over the bricks.
Have an electric outlet brought into the existing fireplace opening. This is usually achieved by having your electrician pull wires from an adjacent outlet in the same room as the fireplace, drilling through the side of the fireplace and into the cavity. You can also pull wires from a basement with an unfinished ceiling, drilling through the bottom of the fireplace cavity, if your fireplace sits on the main floor. If you are planning to mount a TV above the fireplace opening, this is also a good time to run any wires you need for it, as well as adding a channel through which the TV cables can be run to other components.
You are now ready to install the drywall over the brick. Determine the largest size of fireplace insert that will fit into your existing opening. Keep in mind that inserts come in standard sizes which do not match the opening sizes of fireplaces. In order to avoid having a gap around the insert, have your drywall cut to fit the insert size, rather than the size of the existing opening.
If you are not replacing the flooring material in your room, you will have a gap in your existing flooring where the raised hearth used to be. There are several ways to fill this in, depending on your tastes. Our favourite is to have a slab of stone, such as marble or granite, cut to exactly fit the gap in your floor, at a thickness that makes it flush with your existing flooring. This maintains the illusion of a hearth, without physically taking up space; it makes the room seem more open. If you want to notice the ‘hearth’, make the slab contrast with the floor colour; if you don’t want to notice the ‘hearth’, choose a stone that blends with your existing floors. You might also want to continue the same stone as a surround around the firebox.
At this stage, you can also add a mantel piece or wood surround, if you wish. If you plan to have a TV above the fireplace, keep TV viewing in mind when selecting the height of your mantel. Ideal viewing height for the TV is to have the bottom of it no higher than 40 – 42” from the floor, so the mantel needs to be low enough to accommodate this.
Last but not least: Slide your new electric insert into the opening, plug it in, and enjoy!