Decorate Your Room With a Fireplace Facelift

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated April 2, 2016
Fireplace in room
A fireplace facelift can improve the feeling of an entire room. (Photo courtesy of Jumping Rocks)

Compare fireplace and mantel refinishing options and materials for different design styles.

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People have been gathering around fires since the dawn of time, so it’s no wonder the fireplace functions as the centerpiece of most rooms that have one. If your home has a hearth, is it the statement piece you want or more of an eyesore?

For those who want to give their fireplace a facelift, your options range from covering it with new materials to starting from scratch. Learn more about what to expect if you choose to reface or remodel, and what materials tie into four common design styles.

Reface

Sick of brick? You don’t necessarily need to demolish the surround to get a new look, says Eric Smith, owner of Fireplace Designs and Renovations based in Orange County, Calif. For a quick DIY solution, wrap the brick in tile or wood, or cover it with drywall and plaster to create a clean slate. You could also paint the brick for a fresh look on the cheap, but remember it’s hard to undo if you change your mind later.

Want something more modern? Many manufacturers offer ledge stones, also called veneers, in several styles and colors, says Patrick O’Donnell, president of Hearth & Home in Mt. Prospect, Illinois.

Budget: $2,500 to $4,000 if you hire a professional, less if you DIY

Timeline: 1 to 2 days

Remodel

If you prefer to gut your existing fireplace or install a new one, hire a fireplace pro certified by the National Fireplace Institute to help you with the design and construction. That includes pulling permits and scheduling inspections if you want to alter the firebox, add a wood burner or convert a wood-burning fireplace to gas or electric.

“It’s a small-scale remodeling project, so we’ll first come out and make sure what you want will work within your layout and budget and that it can vent properly,” says Harlan Hill, owner of Fire Works Fireplace Installation in Waite Park, Minnesota.

Budget: $4,500 to $6,000 or more, depending on materials and the project’s complexity

Timeline: 4 to 5 days through a couple of weeks, depending on the project’s complexity

Face

As long as you use non-combustible materials and follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations, anything goes when it comes to fireplace facing materials, O’Donnell says.

Traditional: Brick, limestone

Rustic: River rock, natural stone

Contemporary/Transitional: Ceramic and porcelain tile, marble (avoid cultured marble, which is not designed to withstand heat), slate, granite

Modern: Tile, slate, precast concrete or plaster

Mantel

Don’t let traditional mantel designs limit your creativity, Hill says. Like with face materials, the only restrictions come with safety. “You should have the mantel installed at least five feet off the ground, and depending on the manufacturer’s guidelines, a set number of inches above the hearth itself,” he says.

Traditional: Wood crown molding, columns and corbels

Rustic: Wood slats to resemble barn board, rough-cut lumber

Contemporary/Transitional: Straight-edged wood or metal box (many manufacturers offer them in myriad dimensions and finishes)

Modern: Precast concrete or plaster

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