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Biggest lesson from redoing a fireplace?

Emily H
December 31, 2017

Have you undergone a project to redo your fireplace at home? If so, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience? Any advice you can share to other folks who want to take this on?

Share your experience! (photos encouraged)

Comments (43)

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    I tore out a brick double sided fireplace between our living room and dining room and hung it from the ceiling at our house in Michigan. I put it at television height and tiled the floor underneath. Sorry, no pictures.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    What are you wanting to do with yours? There are as many answers as commentors with this vague question

  • nmtsm

    A good can of heat resistant paint, ie BBQ paint, to the back of the fire box goes a long way for a quick freshen up. I have done this numerous times for an immediate return. Also a bit of diluted vinegar will take smoke residue off brick facades. Always think heat endurance when choosing materials to reface with!

  • RegularClouds

    @ Joseph Corlett, LLC - sounds like an amazing as well as intriguing job, but....what was the lesson learned here? (might want to consider this myself)

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    The lesson here is keep the sledge hammer hidden away from your wife or that brick behemoth is going down and you're going to rebuild it, like it or not.

  • Renee Ozer

    We had a really horrible, huge, dark, full-of-spiders, lodge-style rock fireplace (in a mid-century modern house!) that we replaced with an orange Malm gas fireplace. The lesson: the Malm met U.S. code, but not the international building code which our jurisdiction has adopted, so we had to buy an add-on device that saves an infinitesimal amount of energy, but cost more than the whole fireplace! Looks great, though.

  • PRO
    Linda Halter, Realtor

    Is there a way to clean the fake logs in a fireplace? I want to redo our double sided fireplace but not sure where to start.

  • Darlene Mulligan

    Run the logs through a cycle of the dishwasher without using soap or rinse agent. Give plenty of time to dry out.

  • RegularClouds

    Darlene Mulligan Time for me to leave tonight. I read that as you saying, "Run the dogs through a cycle of the dishwasher....." OMG

  • Sheila Schmitz

    Renee, I would love to see your new fireplace!

  • Cathy Joyce

    Gas fireplace will provide about 1/4 the heat of wood. Sad hard lesson once the chimney is taken down ; (

  • teamaltese
    We "redid" our fireplace. We removed it! We’re in SW Florida, the house is 30+ years old, and the fireplace had never been used. It was huge, we gained 24 sqft floor space from the hearth alone. We did leave the chimney, the next owners have the option of adding a fireplace back. So our lesson is, if you’re living in a climate where a fireplace makes no sense, don’t be afraid to take it out.
  • J S

    Can I put a ventless ethanol fire place as a wall insert into a bathroom that is 8x6 but well ventilated?

  • californiacelticlass64

    We depend on wood heat to supplement propane heat during the cold months here in the California side of the Sierra Nevada (though there is lot less snow and cold months). My only regret is not designing the hearth larger for more wood storage and mess containment.

  • willaps

    I don’t like the panel inserts in my Heatilater fireplace. Is it possible to remove the panels and put in real fire bricks to make it look better?

  • 2turks

    Before and After

  • Jim Bogusky

    Invest into a fireplace insert. You get the look of a fireplace, but it has a recirculation fan, so now you have an alternate heat source.

    Go with wood if you want a workout and don’t mind a mess, gas if you want clean convenience.

    Ours paid for itself after 3 years in oil usage reduction.

    Living room · More Info

  • toomanycats12

    Great improvement, but wondering why the cabinets were painted white?

  • RegularClouds

    toomanycats12 /I questioned a couple of things there too...but notice---The durock is still exposed. I think it's still in progress?

  • Jim Bogusky

    White contrasts good with the wood as well as brightens up the small space. Added a picture of the finished tile on the fireplace.

  • Becky Cook

    Lesson learned: Use the correct fireplace for the size and placement in the room. The fireplace in our purchased existing home had a double sided fireplace that was converted to gas somewhere over the years. Thanks to Hurricane Harvey flooding, we had to rip it out. Turns out the knowledgeable vendor explained that the fireplace had not been correctly installed and was drawing air from both sides and never generating adequate heat.

    So we replaced it with a high-efficiency direct vent unit and stopped the drafts and will now be able to enjoy the warmth.

  • PRO
    Tracey Stephens Interior Design Inc

    Lesson learned regarding installing a gas log set: turn the fire off before the installers leave your home. Listen for a whooshing sound of gas. If you hear none, the pilot light is set properly. If it's loud, then ask them to turn down the pilot light. Ours was so loud at first we could hear it in the next room. The guys had already left but we were able to get them to come right back. BTW, we love our gas fire and have used it almost every night since we got it 3 months ago. Almost sad to see the cold weather go.

  • Duke

    I framed my log burning fireplace with stack stone. I built a frame that gave it some depth rather than applying directly to the wall- this method looks best. However, make sure you account for enough stone for underneath the frame just at the top of the opening of the fireplace. The exposed wood is dangerous and not to code. It`s hard to make it look right if you don't allow for enough room.

  • buddysgal

    We removed a window in our living room, built a frame, covered it with stone and installed a gas fireplace. So cozy now in the cold winter months in Canada

  • Ruth Ann Widner
    The before fireplace was aftermarket DIY — we like the after much better!
  • Linttvar Man

    I just got a gas insert installed a few days ago. if you want something reliable, I'd recommend avoiding anything with electronic ignition pilots (https://cozzy.org/best-gas-fireplace-insert/ ) They seem cool but can be very prone to failure that will cause the whole unit not to work.

    Fans usually have multiple speeds, the lowest is about equal to a computer hum, the fastest speed is more like a bathroom fan.

    Ultimately whatever you settle on, try to see it burning first

  • sigrid_lafrance



    My husband installed an electric fireplace and surround during our remodel. Best decision we ever made as I feel it ties the room together around a central focal point. We looked at all different brands of inserts to ensure the "flames" were to our liking and the specs met our installation needs.

  • PRO
    Eileen Topping

    I am considering the same. Can you please tell us what brand and size (model number?) you chose for this electric unit?

  • sigrid_lafrance

    etop1 - the unit was a Dimplex Model BLF5051. It is 50 3/16" x 19 1/2". We chose this model because of it's looks and realistic "flames", but also it provided a greater number of installation options; Surface mount, In-wall Recessed, and Flush Mount. As well as hard-wired or plugged directly in the wall outlet.

  • bethybear4

    We will be purchasing a Napoleon CLEARion (double sided) next year. It's electric, but I have read that electric is actually more cost effective to run than gas. We will be replacing a wood stove and a pellet stove. We have a small house, so this should be just fine. We have our central heat for back up.

  • queenvictorian

    Will be following this - we have four fireplaces to restore and would love for all of them to be operable, at least with the super realistic gas inserts.

  • blondebobbi


  • elizrob

    We have a propane stand-along stove which is pretty to look at and does heat well. BUT I MISS THE WOOD! There is nothing like a real wood fireplace. Nothing! I hope to work until I am 75 so I can afford to build a new living room with a REAL WOOD BURNING STOVE or fireplace. I promise I will do all the work. Anything to get back that glowing radiant heat during wretched stormy weather!

  • barbara_escher

    We bought an electric fireplace with the intention of building around and above it, including a white mantel. Unfortunately, our fireplace vents out the top, so the space that is 24" above the fireplace has to be empty. I guess we could tile it, but it's not the white wood look that I had hoped for. Wish I had done my homework. We spent a lot to rip out an ugly Franklin stove (fixing the hole in the ceiling and in the roof was not cheap), then it cost most money to pull power through a cement block wall for the fireplace. The attached picture shows what I wanted my fireplace to look like, but with that 24" clearance above the fireplace, that was not possible. Maybe someday I'll start over. This was my dream fireplace.

  • otterplay
    We has a brick floor to ceiling fireplace, with a wall to wall hearth/seating. We heavily edited it by taking out the seating, cutting the brick facing down to 5 feet, then plastering over the whole thing. We had it plastered in a very smooth finish with integral color. Love it!

    Lesson learned: decide on the firebox opening size/shape before taking things apart. Our firebox was an odder shape than we knew, so we’re having a challenge finding gas logs or an insert for it.

    If I could, I would has changed to a gas heat stove.
  • HU-854912461

    Make sure the BTUs are right-sized for your space. Just installed a Mendota Full View 36" because we loved the flame. It puts out so much heat we have to turn off the back flame to stay on the sofa! Sofa is about 13' from the fireplace. So disappointed - Mendota vendor who measured and advised should have known better.

  • HU-795783761

    Thank you for opening this line of dialog, Emily H!! There is lots of great info for those contemplating a fireplace redo - as we are!!

  • RegularClouds

    elizrob I could not agree more. We do have gas logs, due to our age, and the chimney/chase, however, with gas it's like watching a parade on tv, versus being on the street watching a parade march by. It "ain't really the real thing!" - And that wonderful smell you get. I would even go for a wood stove (glass front) over gas logs, but alas, our chimney won't support a wood fire.

  • map
    barbara_escher Too funny we liked the same fireplace wall. When this pic was taken our floors had not been refinished. They will be a natural wood color. I still haven’t decided if I will tile the FP wall or put stone around the FP.
  • crybabyme

    I wanted a wood-burning fireplace my whole life and finally got one in a rental apartment. When we finally bought our house, it had a gas fireplace in the corner, which was great but not my dream. As we've gotten older, we're SOOOOO glad it's gas and operates so easily. No wood to buy and we've got no place to store a cord of wood anyway. Plus carrying in wood at our age would be extremely difficult, and a space for wood at-the-ready is unnecessary. Gas is cheap, too. Our gas logs are over 20 years old and still look great -- flames look great whether the fireplace is on low or on high. Our friends and acquaintances who have wood-burning fireplaces tell us they rarely use them, due to not wanting to "mess up" their room, and always pine over a gas fireplace when they visit and it's on! Go figure, but we ended up with what is really perfect for us.

  • hubcatz

    Some say there's a place in hell for those who paint brick. When we purchased our home, our brick fireplace was a huge, smelly, black hole at the end of a long living room and I couldn't wait to paint it white. Installed an efficient gas insert and have enjoyed it every day since. Biggest takeaway: hire a good quality chimney sweep before adding an insert.

    Dedham Living Room Redux · More Info

  • Ednamaee

    Would like to remove hearth because condois tiny enough, but code apparently mandates fireproof material a foot or so out from firebox. And I dont want a tile floor. Iguess I could tile just around fireplace, but the photos showing the modern fireplaces seem to not have hearths...I guess they’re gas or electric logs.

  • crybabyme

    RegularClouds, I buy scented tealight candles online that are scented so well that one tealight will permeate an entire room. When we burn our gas fireplace, I usually burn one with the scent "crackling fire" -- gives off the fragrance you miss. Two other good scents for winter are "leather" and "XO Cigar Reserve." You will see the tealight vendor If you search on Google for "Scented Tealight Candles: Crackling Fire, Three Times the Fragrance"

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