Once upon a time, forty or fifty years ago people were keen to rip out old fireplaces and install central heating, but fashions change. Now the tables have turned and preserving or replacing original features forms a desirable aspect of modern interior design. A fireplace with dancing flames is the true focal point which spruces up an entire room. Whether it reflects the period of the house or is included as part of a contemporary makeover, an updated fireplace with a cozy fire burning can be made to suit every taste.
Nobody wants an old, dingy fireplace, which is why a fireplace remodel is the way to go if you don't need or want a wholly new fireplace. We have compiled all the information you need to know, including step by step instructions to begin your fireplace remodeling project.
Renovation with an existing fireplace
Rediscovering and renovating a hidden fireplace can be exciting and rewarding, but also a complicated project, depending on what you find behind the plaster. Bringing a fireplace back into use is subject to Building Regulations and the work will need to be inspected to ensure it complies. The Regulations are designed to ensure the safety of you, your family and the homeowners or occupiers of any adjoining property. In the case of fireplaces, issues of insulation, separation from combustible materials and ventilation are of vital importance.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Exposing and Repairing an Old Fireplace
Step 1: Assess the Lintel
Begin by inspecting the lintel, the horizontal support across the top of the fireplace opening. Determine if the lintel is intact and stable. If any signs of damage or wear are present, it may need to be replaced to prevent structural collapse.
Step 2: Remove Masonry
Carefully start to remove any masonry around the fireplace that is hiding the original structure. Do this gently to avoid unnecessary damage to the bricks and the surrounding area.
Step 3: Evaluate the Hearth
Look for the original hearth. It may be under carpet, tile or another type of floor covering. If the original hearth is missing or unsuitable for use, plan on installing a new one.
Step 4: Install a New Hearth (if needed)
Pour a new concrete slab for the hearth at or below floor level if required. Finish the hearth with a decorative layer of heat-resistant material such as slate, granite, tiles or other suitable materials.
Step 5: Repair Firebricks
Once the fireplace is opened up, check the condition of the firebricks on the sides and back. Replace any damaged brick. Fill any cracks with fireproof cement to ensure a safe and durable finish.
Step 6: Enhance the Firebox Interior
If the current state of the firebox is unattractive or damaged, consider lining it. For wood-burning stoves, line the recess with a concrete render or use ready-made boards made of concrete or vermiculite. This provides a neat, heat-resistant finish that is essential for safety and performance.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
Once all repairs and installations are complete, clean the interior and exterior of the fireplace to prepare for use. Make any additional aesthetic adjustments as desired.
Fireplace remodel: Practical considerations
If you want to reintroduce a real fire burning wood or coal, or a wood fired stove, then the flue and chimney will also need work. An alternative option is a bio ethanol fire, which can be set in the fireplace without special ventilation. When the fireplace was sealed off, the chimney would have been capped. It must be opened up, inspected for damage and thoroughly cleaned. In the intervening years, cabling may have been run through the flue, and it is bound to contain soot. Depending on the age of the house, the flue may be of bare brick or may have been lined with a thin layer of plaster or mortar. This is very likely to have degraded and the flue will need relining to work effectively.
The size of the fireplace will limit the size of wood burning stove you can insert there. Otherwise, architectural salvage yards and specialist companies carry refurbished fireplaces from old houses and replicas in the traditional Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian styles are readily available for burning on solid fuel or using gas or electricity. Renovating a fireplace can bring a dull living room to life and adds to the charm of a period building.
Fireplace makeover: A new mantel
As you embark on the transformative journey of your fireplace makeover, the pivotal decision lies in selecting a style that resonates with the character of your house. It's a creative dance between the architectural whispers of your living space and your personal aesthetic.
As fireplace upgrades go, elevating the visual allure of your fireplace can be as simple as reimagining your mantel. This architectural accent does more than encase the flames; the mantel serves as a focal point of your fireplace ensemble. Family photos encased in silver frames, heirloom ornaments, birthday cards or seasonal decor; each item takes its place in the story your living room tells.
The style of the mantel is not a mere detail; it makes up the threads that weave together the tapestry of your living room's aesthetic. The harmony between your mantel and fireplace surround is paramount, akin to the delicate balance of notes in a symphony. Whether it be a wood mantel, effortlessly aligning with the wood paneling on the walls of your house, or a boldly painted statement mantel that proudly declares its presence. The material and hues you select should not clash but converse, creating a visual dialogue that enchants and welcomes.
Wood, with its timeless charm, offers homeowners both ease and versatility. Imagine a wood mantel hewn from rich mahogany or the honeyed tones of oak—each grain and texture telling its own tale. Should the muse of renovation strike, wood can don a fresh coat of paint as effortlessly as a canvas takes to colour, allowing your living room to evolve with your tastes.
Defining your space: Fireplace surround & hearth styles
In the next stage of your fireplace makeover, let creativity be your guide and your living room the canvas for an intimate interplay of tradition and modern design. Envision the genteel ambiance of a traditional Victorian living room—a classic, traditional fireplace, with its ornate details, which is not merely an addition but an homage to a bygone era. Conversely, a sleek, minimalist hearth can become the heartbeat of a modern living room, radiating contemporary sophistication.
A brick fireplace stands as a testament to timeless charm, its brick surround offering a nod to classic design. The rustic allure of exposed brick create an earthy palette and texture that adds depth and character to your home. The bricks need not be earthy-toned though; you may opt for the classic red brick fireplace surround. Alternatively, you can choose from other shades of coloured bricks for your brick fireplace.
For those who yearn for a touch of the old-world, a stone fireplace could be the centrepiece that draws the eye. Whether you opt for a real stone hearth or fireplace surround, or you opt for a faux option, the effect should remain the same and you can choose a stone fireplace that either is cozy and rustic or conversely, a more contemporary design.
Meanwhile, the convenience and clean lines of a gas fireplace provide a contemporary counterpoint to the traditional brick and stone, offering the warmth of a fire at the flick of a switch without sacrificing the homely aesthetic that only masonry can provide. Whether you are drawn to the rough-hewn charm of a stone hearth or the sleek efficiency of gas, the heart of your home beats strong around the hearth, where memories are made.
Finishing touches: Accessories and Safety Features for Your Fireplace
After you have selected your fireplace style, chosen from a variety of mantels and ensured that the fireplace surround complements your space, it's time to consider the final touches that will elevate the safety and functionality of your fireplace. Fireplace accessories, such as screens, grates and tools, are not only practical but can also add an extra layer of style to your living room or space. Meanwhile, modern safety features are essential: a robust screen can keep embers contained, while carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers should be non-negotiable additions to any room with a fireplace. Investing in these final touches not only secures your comfort and peace of mind but also completes the transformation of your fireplace into a safe and stylish feature of your home.
To learn more about the importance of carbon monoxide detectors, read our article.
Also check out our article on active vs passive fire protection.
Fireplaces have reclaimed their status as the focal point in home design, transforming from outdated relics to desirable centrepieces. From a stylish new mantel to a comprehensive safety-compliant renovation, a fireplace makeover can be tailored to fit any design preference, ensuring this classic feature stands out in any home.
Whether you are renovating a stone or brick fireplace,