Corner Fireplace Makeover

There was nothing redeeming about the house I bought when I was single, and still own today, save for the walk-in closets in the bedrooms (what shoe-loving girl wouldn’t love that)!

Once of the worst features was the fireplace. Don’t you just hate corner fireplaces? I don’t understand why builders install them. Here’s how our fireplace looked before we bought the house:

One day when I was at work, hubs enlisted a friend to make it over. They started by busting out the hearth. Luckily the former owner had left a box of tiles for just such an occasion.

As you can see from the picture above, the brick is just awful; the builder used the same rough brick that was on the exterior of the house.  To combat the lint trap, we refaced the brick with cement board to smooth it out.

Since the brick was so uneven, shims and cement were used to fill the gaps and provide a level surface for the cement board. The board was set into the wet cement and then screwed into the brick with masonry screws to hold it securely.

Hubs and his friend did a beautiful job of skim coating over the entire surface after the board was up but forgot about the tape. It’s not necessary to skim coat the whole surface, but don’t be tempted to skip the tape and mud because the seams will crack and ruin your final finish.  I only discovered that little known fact about the missing tape a few weeks later when my beautifully applied venetian plaster developed cracks! I had to tape over the seams and start the whole mudding and finishing process all over again. I guess that’s what happens when a women isn’t there to supervise 🙂

Moving right along, I tackled the disgusting firebox which was covered with years of soot. I started off with soap and water, but had to resort to a chemical cleaner. It was better after scrubbing but still showed the telltale signs of neglect.

Right after that is when I applied the venetian plaster – the first time!

After a few layers, letting it dry in between, I then sanded it to a smooth lustrous finish:

Now I had to tackle patching the floor tile.

Demolition is my favourite part; I smashed out areas of half tile so I could add full pieces back in. Before taking a hammer to the tile though, it’s a good idea to cover the edges of the tile you want to keep with masking tape to protect them. You also need remove the grout along the outer perimeter of the tiles you’ll be removing. That’s so the pounding of the hammer won’t radiate and crack the tile you want to keep – an important step if you don’t what to make more work for yourself! There are power tools for this, but you can also buy hand held scrapers. There’s a great new article at The Spruce on grout removal tools to buy in 2018.

Once the area was cleaned of debris, I started the process of re-tiling. I built the underlay up to the same height as the rest of the floor by inserting a piece of leftover cement board over the plywood.

I filled in the field tiles.

As I measured the ones that had to be cut, hubs cut those for me as I went. We make a great team!

I let the thinset dry for a day. The picture below is just before I grouted the tile.

You couldn’t even tell the floor was repaired after it was grouted!

Here’s how the fireplace looked for a few years before we got tired of it and moved onto phase II of our makeover:

The room was ok for a few years, but it was repainted and redecorated to make it more bright and airy! A custom made sisal area rug was cut to the shape of the room to hide the majority of the original ’80’s tile floor, leaving just enough of a border around it so you can still see my tile repair work 🙂

Here’s another reminder of the before:

The installation of a new gas fireplace is a welcome addition for the warmth (and now I don’t have to look at soot residue either)!

Now, it’s so cozy at night when it’s lit:

Looking back on pictures of how the house looked when I first bought it, it has come such a long way. I’m sure the previous owner wouldn’t even recognize it now.

Like so many of our other updates, cosmetic changes can have a big impact.Covering up the ugly brick took the fireplace from dated to modern and was well worth the effort!

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Here are a few other recent DIYs you may have missed on Birdz of a Feather if you’re not yet a subscriber:

  1. Remove a Living Room Wall – Dining Room Transformation
  2. Remodel a Laundry Room – Add a Countertop
  3. Build and Decoupage a Medicine Cabinet

For more home improvement and DIY ideas, check out the home page for a listing of projects. Our most recent project is this waterfall dresser makeover:

You might also be interested in our new craft category – Craft Rehab – where we just posted a tutorial and video for this duct tape portrait which you can find here.

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19 thoughts on “Corner Fireplace Makeover

  1. Brianna Kirk – United States – Since I was eight years old I always loved the opportunity to be creative–whether it was from website creation, writing, jewelry making, painting, or playing ice hockey. I am much older now, and following my passions through writing
    Brianna on said:

    Wow! Such a improvement! It looks fantastic now!

  2. Born To Organize – Silicon Valley – I'm passionate about gardening, organizing, blogging and cats. I live in Silicon Valley, California with my husband of 24 years. We have two grown sons, but our feline family varies. The current count is three.
    Born To Organize on said:

    What a change. I’ve seen many fireplace do-overs, but never one that completely covered the brick. I’m so impressed with both your ideas and the execution. It looks wonderful.

    • Thanks! We really had to research and brainstorm this one; we were relieved when it turned out (all except the hiccup with the venetian plaster in Phase I)!

  3. Pingback: Industrial Remote Control Holder | Birdz of a Feather Craft

    • Thanks so much Debra! I wanted to show readers that updating can be a progression. You can live with a makeover for a few years and then even update it again if you get bored of the look 🙂

    • Yes, we sanded it to make sure there was no texture that would show through the paint then we primed. When the primer was dry, we painted our topcoat (2 coats) over that.

  4. We have a ceiling to floor brick fireplace between bookshelves–very ’80’s. We have painted the shelves white and added molding and corner pieces to update and it looks really good but I am so hesitant to paint the brick. It seems trends come back and removing paint from brick is just not an option if/when brick comes back.
    This is brilliant and beautiful!! If a new owner wants brick, it is still there. I doubt my hubby will take this project on but I will save it just in case! ?Thank you for sharing!

    • You’re welcome Denise! It is a good option if you ever want to change it back as long as your brick doesn’t have to many fluctuations and is relatively flat. Ours was pretty uneven so we had to use the cement plus the screws to get a level finish. Good luck if your husband does take it on 🙂

    • You’re welcome! The technique is reversible as long as your bricks are fairly level (we had to use cement to fill in the gaps between the brick and cement board). Good luck with your fireplace if your husband decided to take it on 🙂

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