Our brick fireplace makeover is finally complete! 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:
Brick Fireplace Makeover
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.
Brick Fireplace Makeover – Refacing
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.
Skim Coating Tips
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.
DIY Fireplace Makeover – Modernizing with Venetian Plaster
Right after that is when I apply venetian plaster – the first time!
As I mentioned, I had to redo the areas missing drywall tape and blend it in later.
After a few layers, letting it dry in between, I then sanded it to a smooth lustrous finish.
You can see the shine in the reflection of the light below.
Replacing Floor Tile
Now 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 removing grout, but you can also buy hand held scrapers. There’s an article on grout removal tools but I would caution you to read reviews before you buy anything. Personally, I think a hand tile grout saw is fine (but slow) for just a few tiles. However, a Dremel with a 1/6″ grout removal attachment is the way to go if you want a quick solution. The attachment is also available in 1/8″ width but, in this instance, you just need to remove enough grout to isolate the tile you’re breaking up. Again be very careful not to scratch the tiles you’re keeping by taping the edges and working toward the tile being removed.
Now you can smash!
Once the area is clean of debris, I start the process of re-tiling. First, I build 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 fill in the field tiles.
As I measure for new tiles, Hubs cuts them for me as I go. 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 see the floor repair after grouting. It blends right in!
Corner Fireplace Makeover
Before and After
Here’s the room a few years before we moved onto the final phase of our fireplace makeover:
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 in the opening)!
Now, it’s so cozy at night when the fireplace is lit. However, we do have to troubleshoot it every once in while. See what to do when a gas fireplace won’t light.
Looking back on pictures of the house 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!
Pin Corner Fireplace Makeover
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- Remove a Living Room Wall – Dining Room Transformation
- Laminate Countertop Installation – Laundry Room Transformation
- Medicine Cabinet DIY
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You might also be interested in our new craft category – Craft Rehab – where we just posted a tutorial for this cool duct tape portrait.
Wow! Such a improvement! It looks fantastic now!
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)!
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That was not only brilliant but beautiful!
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 🙂
Thank you Tina!
We have the same fireplace. In phase II did you paint over the plaster?
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.
While a modern look is not my cup of tea, you did a fantastic job of making it look wonderful!
Thanks so much!
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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