DIY Fireplace Makeover

Our house was built in 1978. In 1978 a huge brick fireplace apparently was in style. Since we bought the house 12 years ago it has been nothing but an eye sore. I’ve always wanted a mantle and to have the fireplace redone- but in my mind- this was too costly of an expense and I always saw other projects that needed to be done before this.

During Christmas when we once again didn’t have a place to hang our stockings, silly as it sounds, I decided I wanted to find a mantle to buy for our fireplace. I looked online and found something for about $160. Then I looked on Pinterest for inspiration, duh, and I came across THIS photo from Eat, Sleep, Decorate:fireplace

This was my inspiration. But THIS is how I knew I could do it. Young House Love is an awesome blog, by the cutest couple ever! John and Sherry gave step by step plans on how they remodeled their brick fireplace. After reading it I decided I wanted to attempt the same thing.

Here’s what I was dealing with:


Yuck right?? So off I went to Lowe’s for supplies. I purchased 1x3x12 pine, 1x2x10 pine, 1×1 pine, 1- 10 ft base board, and 2 sheets of MDF. I can’t say exactly how much you should buy because it definitely varies depending on the size you are trying to cover. I also purchased 1x8x10 poplar for the mantle. I started with assembling the mantle and I used a tutorial from Shanty2Chic which they explain how to build floating shelves. This essentially was the same thing I wanted, except on a larger scale. To put the mantle together I used my Ridgid Finish Nailer and my miter saw. Once this was finished I stained it with Minwax Special Walnut. After 2 coats of stain, 6 hours, and 3 coats of high gloss polyurethane I mounted it and moved on to the surround.

My original intent was to cover everything with MDF. While I was reading about Fireplace makeovers, I discovered that a fireplace surround made of wood needed to be 6-9″ from the hearth to be considered “code”. This meant I needed to re-evaluate my original thought and come up with some kind of stone before I started my wood surround. After measuring out 9 inches. I cut my first two pieces of MDF with a table saw and assembled to the existing brick. This was tricky! Thanks goodness I had a tutorial from Contractor Chronicles to give me an idea of what I was doing. I also used special Mortar Screws as well.


That’s a progress photo. As you can see I used 1×3 on the outside of the fireplace and MDF for the panels. The reason I mounted the mantle before starting the surround is because I am no artist. I am a visual person and wanted to be able to see the “big picture” while putting the casing together. Once this was done I wanted to add some trim work, so back to Lowe’s for some decorative squares and more 1×1. Here’s a progress photo:

I used 1×1 to cover the lines where I had to install separate pieces of MDF and I added the square decorative piece to give it a nice look,then finished it off with some 4″ base molding.This was all I had originally intended to do and once it was painted- here’s what it looked like:IMG_2200

I left a 9″ surround for code and had decided on a stone surround. But as I stared at this picture I actually hated it! The brick was KILLING me. It looked like a half completed project. It was just so wrong! I tried changing the decor and adding a piece of crown molding to the top.


My husband kept telling me over and over that he loved it and what a great job I had done… but come on! This? No bueno’. SO I waited until Monday, when he was at work, and ran back to Lowes for some more 1×3. I made some cuts and installed the rest of the scrap MDF I had and trimmed it up with 1×1, 1×3, and 2 more decorative pieces.

Heres what I ended up withimage

Finishing it to the top did the trick! I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! The stone was our most expensive splurge which was about $15 a piece (contractor pricing), BUT it was leftover from a project my Dad’s friend had used it on and so he gave it to us for free!

NOT counting the stone- this project was $60 for the mantle- because we used POPLAR wood and $100 for the wood, MDF, paint, screws, glue, and nails. I was able to do a mantle and surround for the same price as ordering JUST a mantle online.

Here’s the disclaimer: While I am not a professional carpenter, this is not a beginner’s project. The mantle absolutely is! The surround required use of my  Ridgid Table Saw , finish nailer, miter saw and hand drill. I usually tell beginners the tools I started with were a miter, nailer, and drill. Using a Table Saw if you don’t have experience can be very tricky when learning how. Before I started using my Ridgid Table Saw- I watched all of their tutorials on Ridgid You Tube before trying my saw for the first time. Their tutorials show you how user friendly their tools are.

I LOVE my fireplace! Every time I walk into my house it’s the first thing I see and I always smile. I love that I did it! I love that it was so cheap! I love how bright and cheerful and clean it looks. It makes me happy and I know that’s silly- but that’s okay.