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Great Ideas for Upgrading or Modifying an Existing Fireplace or Adding a New Fireplace to a Blank Wall

Updated on April 7, 2016
A fireplace can be warm, cozy, and inviting.
A fireplace can be warm, cozy, and inviting.

Everyone loves the ambiance and warmth generated from a fireplace. But not all homes have them. And if they're wood burning fireplaces, keeping firewood on hand, extinguishing the fire, and keeping the flue well maintained can be a hassle.

There are many wonderful options on the market today that allow a fireplace to be added that doesn't require a vent or a flue. An existing standard fireplace can be converted to gas logs that generate fire at the flick of a switch. Maybe the workings of the fireplace are just fine, but you'd like to dress up the mantle area and create more of a centerpiece or focal point for a room. Let's explore all three options: Adding a fireplace, Converting from wood burning to gas logs, and Dressing up the facade.

Adding a fireplace: While adding a wood burning fireplace might be a large undertaking, adding a ventless gas or electric fireplace is much simpler. Many of today's options don't require outside venting so there is no need for a chimney and no requirement for any work to be done on the outside of your home. All you need is access to gas (can be run from a hot water heater or furnace if nearby) or access to electricity (voltage depends on requirements for the fireplace insert). There needs to be enough width on the wall to contain the fireplace box as well as the surround. You will also need to be able to use floor space into the room (18"-36" is usually sufficient) to hold the fireplace box and create an opening for heat to disperse a bit. It may be hard to decide where to start or picture a new fireplace in your mind, the sizes and design possibilities are virtually endless. Some fireplace boxes come with mantles built as part of the unit for a simple one piece installation. Others are freestanding and allow you to find a beautiful antique mantle or custom design one with a carpenter. Check out the examples below to give you some ideas of where a fireplace might be a great addition for your home.

When this all electric house was renovated, a fireplace with shelving and detailed woodwork was added.
When this all electric house was renovated, a fireplace with shelving and detailed woodwork was added.
This small gas fireplace insert had the mantle already attached.  Shelving was installed above for added height.
This small gas fireplace insert had the mantle already attached. Shelving was installed above for added height.
This fireplace was added specifically to house a TV and its components.  The woodwork ties into the window surrounds.
This fireplace was added specifically to house a TV and its components. The woodwork ties into the window surrounds.
BEFORE Empty wall space between 2 windows.
BEFORE Empty wall space between 2 windows.
AFTER A gas fireplace box to house the antique mantle makes this den warm and cozy.
AFTER A gas fireplace box to house the antique mantle makes this den warm and cozy.
AFTER Side view detail showing wall that was bumped out and side panels added and stained to match the antique mantle.
AFTER Side view detail showing wall that was bumped out and side panels added and stained to match the antique mantle.

Converting from Woodburning to Gas Logs - Many woodburning fireplaces were built with gas starters. So if buying, chopping, or storing firewood is a hassle, converting to a gas log set might be just the thing you need. Simply measure the inside of the box and have your local fireplace store help you find the right size logset for your space. A plumber or the store technician can quickly and easily install the starter and logset. You can control the flames with a simple on/off switch and dial or, ask for a remote control. You can turn the flames on and off as well as control the level of the flame or set it to come on at a specified temperature or time. There is no longer a need to wait for the fire to die out, clean up old ashes, or have the flue checked for creosote build up. Since the flue can stay closed, more heat stays in the house, the flames are real, and the ceramic logs look very realistic. Plus, no more popping embers!

Make Your Fireplace a Focal Point - Even if everything works great with your current fireplace, you may want to dress it up to add more oomph or functionality. Below are a few ideas, some simple, some more elaborate, to make your fireplace a center piece or make it a more functioning part of the room.

  1. Tile or granite - If the material surrounding the fireplace box is in poor shape, outdated, or simply not your style, replacing it can be done fairly inexpensively. Simply find a material of comparable sizing - granite, marble, glass, and tile are all good choices - and find a local professional who can remove the existing material and add new. Or if you're an experienced DIY'er, this is a job you can tackle yourself.
  2. Run electricity - A set of sconces, a wall mounted TV, or outlets on top of the mantle for lamps all make a mantle more usable. The cost of this upgrade will depend on the proximity of existing power sources to the fireplace and the materials surrounding the mantle. A local electrician would be happy to come out and give you an estimate and options for adding more power sources.
  3. Paint or stain - Sometimes a new coat of paint or stain can really upgrade a fireplace and make it stand out or blend in with the surrounding architectural elements. You don't have to stick with basic white or natural wood colors. Get creative to make your fireplace a work of art.
  4. Add a hearth - Depending on the flooring you have, if you don't have a hearth, some of the flooring can be cut away to add a beautiful, unique piece of granite that flows with the existing materials.
  5. Increase the mantle size - If your mantle size is too small for the space or you simply want to increase its presence, a carpenter can help you with ideas to add shelving, incorporate built-in cabinetry, or tie it into the flanking windows.

Below are some examples to get the ideas flowing.

This added fireplace with modern glass tilework has shelving built in on the sides and a space for a flat screen TV above.
This added fireplace with modern glass tilework has shelving built in on the sides and a space for a flat screen TV above.
BEFORE Simple fireplace mantle with black marble surround and white wood mantle.
BEFORE Simple fireplace mantle with black marble surround and white wood mantle.
AFTER Now this fireplace makes a statement! By taking it all the way to the ceiling, adding architectural details, sconces, and custom tile work, it has truly become the centerpiece of the room.
AFTER Now this fireplace makes a statement! By taking it all the way to the ceiling, adding architectural details, sconces, and custom tile work, it has truly become the centerpiece of the room.
BEFORE Small wall space between windows in master bedroom.
BEFORE Small wall space between windows in master bedroom.
AFTER By incorporating the flanking windows into the design, a small fireplace looks massive and became the focal point for this master bedroom.
AFTER By incorporating the flanking windows into the design, a small fireplace looks massive and became the focal point for this master bedroom.
AFTER This closer view shows the antiquing on the unusual paint color and the detail of the corbels and braid woodwork.
AFTER This closer view shows the antiquing on the unusual paint color and the detail of the corbels and braid woodwork.

If your fireplace isn't amazing or you don't have one at all, hopefully these ideas got you to thinking about the possibilities. Check out other ideas at arkatexrenovations.com.

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