Ideas for Updating a Fireplace Surround

This green and white fireplace is in need of a redo!
This green and white fireplace is in need of a redo! | Source

There’s nothing like the ambiance and warmth of a fireplace on a cold winter night. A fireplace not only creates a cozy and romantic atmosphere, it is also a major architectural element. However, an outdated and unattractive fireplace surround can kill the mood and dampen any hopes of creating a stylish living space.

Fear not. There’s hope for the eyesore that is your current fireplace. A makeover can be accomplished by seasoned do-it-yourselfers or by hiring a licensed contractor. It all depends on your budget and skill level. To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas that will give your tired, old fireplace a beautiful new look!

Taming a Large Fireplace

Some years ago, builders decided homeowners would love massive floor-to-ceiling fireplaces made from less than stylish materials like cinder block. Well, that love affair didn’t last. Besides, there’s nothing that makes an average size room look smaller than a behemoth fireplace. So, what can you do to update a fireplace that monopolizes a room? Cut it down to size, of course!

Can't work this cinder block fireplace into your decor? Creating an updated surround will solve your design dilemma!
Can't work this cinder block fireplace into your décor? Creating an updated surround will solve your design dilemma! | Source

Start with a simplified, yet elegant design. Consider framing out the offensive stone above and finishing it with dry wall and paint to match the walls. While you’re in a framing mood, create a integrated mantel. Reface the mantel, and lower portion of the fireplace with sleek, travertine tile. Problem solved!

Light weight stone veneer looks great and is easier to install than actual stone.
Light weight stone veneer looks great and is easier to install than actual stone. | Source

Creating a Stone Facade

You have brick fireplace that has long since lost its original beauty from years of use. Perhaps a “natural” stone fireplace surround will give your room the warmth and charm you desire. Do some online research and find a manufactured stone veneer product that suits your taste and budget.

The majority of manufactured veneers are made from a mix of cement, aggregates and iron oxides. Aggregates make the manufactured stone much lighter than natural stone, thus easier to work with. Iron oxides are used to impart color variations like those found in real stone.

Dimensional stone veneer starts at a thickness of 2 inches, which makes it perfect to apply directly over existing brick without encroaching on interior space. A stone veneer fireplace will transform your old brick fireplace into a thing of beauty!

Fixing Odd Proportions

Say you’ve inherited a fireplace that is somewhat out of proportion. For example, the distance from the top of the firebox opening to the mantel is too deep and the sides are sadly lacking in width.

This fireplace could use a thicker mantel and wider pilasters.
This fireplace could use a thicker mantel and wider pilasters. | Source

Head to the home improvement center and purchase a fireplace surround kit or individual sections of decorative molding for the mantel and wood to create the side pilasters. Bulking up the mantel will offset the distance above the firebox and the side pieces will extend the width. Now your fireplace will be in perfect proportion! A good sanding and a coat of crisp, white paint are the final touches of this project!

Adding Paneling and Built-Ins

Give your room the look of a country gentleman’s study by surrounding your fireplace with sumptuous wood paneling. No, not the wood paneling we all had back in the day. I’m talking about panels of quality wood trimmed out with picture and crown molding, then stained a rich hue. Take your design to the next level by flanking the fireplace with custom built-in cabinetry and shelves.

A wood paneled fireplace surround adds a sense of stateliness to a room.
A wood paneled fireplace surround adds a sense of stateliness to a room. | Source

This is a project best left to professionals, unless you are a master woodworker. Sure, it will be an expensive project, but, believe me, the dramatic end result will be well worth it!

Beautiful stone and tile fireplace with no trace of that dated lava rock!
Beautiful stone and tile fireplace with no trace of that dated lava rock! | Source

Replacing and Refacing

The 1970s weren’t known for many enduring trends in home design -- lava rock fireplace surrounds included. Luckily, in most cases, the lava rock is simply a façade covering a block structure. In other words, they are relatively easy to remove.

Just be sure when you are chipping off the offending façade that you don’t damage the underlying block. Once the lava rock has been removed, you can begin the refacing phase. You will then apply your new tile or brick directly to the block substrate.

Purchase a pre-made or custom mantel to top off your new fireplace surround. Hopefully, whoever owns your house decades from now will appreciate your design aesthetic!

Important tip: Before you begin any fireplace project, it is critical to understand the clearances required by law in relation to the fireplace opening. This is necessary in order to maintain the proper distance between the firebox and combustible materials. You should contact your local officials to research the latest building codes in your area.

© 2012 lindacee

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Start a Conversation! 16 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Great photos here. We have a switchon fireplace...I love when my husband says he is going to make a fire..Yah..turn on the switch. You have some cool ideas here especially stone background to the ceiling. As always a true craftsman you are. Voting up.++


nancynurse profile image

nancynurse 3 years ago from Southeast USA

I love your photos. You have given some well written advice. Voted up.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Ha! Making a fire has never been easier, Carol! We've had gas fireplaces but never used them much because of the cost. :( Thank you for your kind words and vote!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Nancy, So glad you like this Hub! Thanks for stopping by to comment and vote!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 3 years ago

Neat ideas! The fireplace often serves as a room's focal point, so it can either enhance or ruin the ambiance of the entire room. I really like that fireplace with stone veneer! So lovely :)


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Stone veneer is a great option, Om. It's been around for quite a long time. However, the newer incarnations are much more realistic. Very hard to distinguish from the real deal. Always good to hear from you!


azrestoexp profile image

azrestoexp 3 years ago

Informative, great ideas and nice pics. Favorite is the stone veneer fireplace.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks asrestoexp! The stone veneer is a favorite of mine also! Thanks for reading and commenting!


Armchair Builder profile image

Armchair Builder 3 years ago from Hawaii

Great pictures...as a builder, I can say I'm a huge fan of manufactured stone.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thank you, Armchair Builder! Manufactured stone veneer is the way to go!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Those are nice and I love a fireplace. I had one for years and then finally replaced it with gas logs there which were nice too.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Jackie, gas logs are certainly a good option. We used to have a wood burning fireplace with a gas starter. The best of both worlds! Thanks for your comment. It's always good to hear from you! :)


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States

Cool ideas and great photos. Congrats on being featured in HubPages Weekly!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thank you Dirt Farmer! Glad you enjoyed this Hub!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Updating a fireplace's facade is an important decision. You offer some great tips here, thanks.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks, RTalloni for reading and commenting on this Hub! Yes, changing a fireplace does require careful planning to get it right.

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