As warmer weather approaches — we are wrapping up using our fireplaces for the season. Use the offseason to give your firebox proper service, cleaning, and if it needs one, a facelift. Fireplaces are often a focal point of a living space. Here are some tips on how to take your outdated fireplace from drab to fab.

Is my fireplace outdated?

I often see an older fireplace with a builder grade 12 x 12 tile framed with oak trim. It can be very rewarding to take off the surround you have, and update it with more current materials.

Before you replace the surround, you will want to make sure that the fireplace insert is in good and working condition. Now, would be a good time to upgrade your insert if you are doing your surround. Determine the style of your insert based on the style of your home.  An electrical LED insert is a popular choice, for a more contemporary look.  They do give off heat and you get a really cool flame that changes colors at the touch of a button. They come in all different sizes so you can refit your existing hole the gas fireplace was in, you just may need to add an outlet.  Even if you’re replacing your gas insert, there are so many options for design like brick or wood inside.

Also, if you’ve moved away from a wood-burning fireplace, a protruding hearth is no longer necessary and can be removed. Likewise there is no need to put tile in front of the fireplace anymore, nothing is sitting out.  Gas and LED fireplaces give off heat, but we’re not sitting by the fire to warm up the way we once were.

What to hang over your fireplace mantel?

I get asked this question a lot.  Oftentimes, “he” wants a big screen TV and “she” wants a cool piece of art.  As you consider your fireplace surround, you have to pick your side of a very controversial question in design around what to hang over your fireplace mantel: Does the Flat screen TV go above the fireplace, Yes or No? Another consideration is the layout of your room and how you use the space.

Personally, I don’t like a wall mounted TV above the fireplace because the TV is up so high, when really it should be more eye-level. I recommend adding wood built-ins that would surround a flat screen.  I think it’s much more fitting to have a piece of art or a mirror above the fireplace for a room’s focal point. 

However you side, factor this choice into your design. You’ll need an outlet for a TV or factor in a hanger placed appropriately for a picture, art work or holiday wreath. 

Fireplace remodel before and after photo- Woodbury, MN

Fireplace Facelift

The surround is really the icing on the cake – and is what makes the fireplace a true focal point. Stone is classic. I use a lot of stack slate, which is generally a charcoal gray. It’s interesting because I installed slate 20 years ago in Woodbury, and I am still using it. It gives a nice texture and I think slate will be around for a long time. 

There are many choices in tile surrounds these days. From 24”, 16”, 12” and you can do varying sizes on the same wall to make it more interesting. Certainly subway tile is classic, if that fits your decor. Instead of the standard 3×6 subway tile you can do some longer ones and coordinate with your kitchen backsplash. There are some fun options in ceramic tile with some antiquing on them. Sunset silver is a natural stone quartz that looks like stone. 

If you have a brick surround, the brick can be painted or whitewashed. It’s still going to be brick, but you change the color to something more appealing to you. Another thing that is really taking off locally is millwork that adds architectural interest to your space.

Updating your fireplace mantel

You should also consider your other cabinets and floor plan when selecting materials. Often the mantel shelf may match your cabinets. Lots of people are painting their cabinets white and you can go with a white mantle. 

Sometimes we can save the old mantel shelf when we demo, in fact I have one in Hudson I am currently working on and I am going to try and save it. It’s a beautiful shelf. It’s worth a try especially if you still like the composition and profile

A lot of the mantles popular with the LED electric fireplace are more contemporary, 8” deep 3” high is common — like a beam. Traditional styles will have more curves or corbels on the bottom. There are also different interesting brackets to put around your mantel shelf, such as cool wrought iron supports. 

BONUS TIP: You need to determine the heat output of your fire box and make sure it works with the products you select.

Time and Cost Factors

The cost really depends on the choices you make, like with everything,  there are huge variants on price points. 

As for time of installation, if you are going with stone, it generally takes a day of dry time in  between each 4 ft section of stone. 

If you’re interested in having help creating a fireplace update or another focal point for your room, please let me know.