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Ideas for Updating a Fireplace

Updated on March 15, 2018

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 However, an outdated and unattractive fireplace can kill the mood and dampen any hopes of creating a stylish living space.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 needed a massive floor-to-ceiling fireplace made from less than stylish materials like cinder block. Luckily that love affair didn’t last. There’s nothing that makes an average size room look smaller than a behemoth fireplace that takes up an entire wall. So, what can you do to update your oversize fireplace? Cut it down to size.

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

Start with a simple yet elegant design. Consider removing as much as the offensive stone as possible and framing the firebox with drywall. While you’re in a framing mood, create a integrated mantel. Reface the mantel and lower portion of the fireplace with sleek tile. Problem solved.

Creating a Stone Facade

Imagine a bright red brick fireplace that just doesn't go with anything and looks like it has seen better days. 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 room's design.

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

The majority of manufactured veneers are made from a mix of cement, stone aggregates and iron oxides. Aggregates make the stone veneer 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 with a thickness of 2 inches, making 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

So you’ve inherited a fireplace that is lacking in prominence. The distance from the top of the firebox opening to the mantel is too deep and the sides are sadly lacking in width. Head to the home improvement center and purchase a fireplace surround kit or individual sections of decorative molding and wood strips to give it a sense of balance and proportion.

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

Adding Paneling and Built-Ins

Give your room the look of a gentleman’s study by surrounding your fireplace with sumptuous wood paneling. Not that cheesy paneling from the 1970s. Quality wood paneling stained a rich hue will take your design to the next level. Up the ante by flanking the fireplace with custom built-in bookcases

Rich wood paneling creates a warm sophisticated study.
Rich wood paneling creates a warm sophisticated study. | 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!

Replacing and Refacing

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

This refaced stone and tile fireplace has no trace of its outdated lava rock.
This refaced stone and tile fireplace has no trace of its outdated lava rock. | Source

When chipping off the offending rock take care not to damage the underlying structure. Once the rock facade has been removed you can begin the refacing phase. Install new tile or brick directly onto 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 clearances required by law in relation to the firebox. This is critical in order to maintain the proper distance between the firebox and combustible materials. Contact your local officials to find out about the latest building codes in your area.

© 2012 lindacee

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Arizona

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

    • RTalloni profile image


      4 years ago from the short journey

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you Dirt Farmer! Glad you enjoyed this Hub!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

      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! :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 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 imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

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

    • Armchair Builder profile image

      Michael Luckado 

      5 years ago from Hawaii

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

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

    • azrestoexp profile image

      Arizona's Restoration Experts, LLC 

      5 years ago

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

      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!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 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 imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

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

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Arizona

      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!

    • nancynurse profile image

      Nancy McClintock 

      5 years ago from Southeast USA

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

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 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.++


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