Fireplace remodel

Remodeling a fireplace can be as simple as adding a tile surround, a fireplace screen or door, or a mantel. However, a fireplace remodel can include plumbing, carpentry, masonry, and electrical.

Remodel example
The remodel below involved replacing an existing fireplace and venting; modifying framing; adding gas and electrical; rebuilding the wall face and hearth with new tile; and adding a mantel shelf. The approximate time to complete was one week.


Before remodel

During remodel

After remodel


Step 1:  Adding an insert or replacing your fireplace

If you are looking for efficiency, you need an insert or furnace rated fireplace. Choose your product first because it will influence your remodeling options.

Step 2:  Adding a door or screen

Doors can overlap smooth materials such as tile but must be installed first if using ledge stone, rock or other uneven surfaces. Custom doors often have 3-6 week lead time. Custom Fireside carries a small selection of stocking doors in limited sizes.

Step 3:  Hearth, clearances, mantel & TV

Wood fireplaces (and those that include a gas log lighter or gas log set) require an 18” non-combustible hearth.  You cannot finish up to the fireplace with wood or carpeting even if the fireplace opening is raised above the finished floor. Exceptions may apply if adding a gas insert or a sealed gas fireplace. Consult product installation manual for more information.

Only non-combustible materials are allowed within 12” from the top of the fireplace opening and 8” from the sides. (Measurements may vary depending upon local codes and fireplace size.) Sheetrock or wood that is covered by tile, steel or other materials DOES NOT comply with code or safety requirements and must not be used.

Wood mantels cannot be installed lower than 12” from the fireplace opening.  Fireplace size, local codes, or the presence of an insert inside the fireplace, can change requirements. Stone or precast mantels that are noncombustible can be closer to the opening but excessively low mantel height can cause extreme heat build-up in the wall, potentially causing safety hazards and the risk of the mantel or non-combustible material becoming cracked or damaged.

TV above the fireplace:
Heat will travel up the fireplace wall, especially if an energy efficient insert is installed. We recommend any TV is installed so the face sits a least 1-2 inches behind a mantel shelf, or recessing it into the wall. An insert or fireplace fan will also push more heat into the room away from your TV.

Step 4:  Changing wall finishes or materials

Covering brick:
Brick can be removed but it is often easier to cover it especially with a full masonry fireplace (typically built before 1980). You can cover it with cement board and sheet rock with proper clearances. Other options include tile, ledge stone, or plaster.

Removing rock, slump stone, or old brick:
if you have a masonry fireplace, removal typically creates a massive opening and reduces fireplace depth. If this occurs, the fireplace face needs to be reduced down to normal size (24hX36w to 28hX42w max) or the fireplace will smoke excessively.  As noted above, rebuild the fireplace face with non-combustible materials that extend 8” on the sides and 12” above the exposed opening. Use masonry, steel studs and cement board. Seal from inside the fireplace so no heat gets into combustible wall.