There are some remodeling projects that can be accomplished by a do-it-yourselfer and other remodeling that should rely on the knowledge of a reputable expert. Your professional ‘We Love Fireplace’ dealer excels at design possibilities, code requirements, product knowledge and service and maintenance assistance. There are many things that can be done to upgrade your fireplace and give it a new ‘look’. If you have not read the article “Who Sells Fireplace Accessories?”, please do so. It discusses other options that you may be interested in pursuing.
RE-FACE WITH CULTURED BRICK OR CULTURED STONE?
Re-facing an existing fireplace simply means to change the finish material around the fireplace. On a traditional, open burning fireplace the original finish material is probably brick or stone. A new cultured stone or cultured brick façade could be installed right over the original brick work. There are dozens of types of cultured stone and brick options that will transform that old, dated look into a beautiful center piece for your home. Make certain you follow the manufacturer’s requirements for installing a cultured product over existing brick. For example, keeping the rows of new cultured brick or cultured stone level and straight is critical to an attractive end result. And, depending on the type of cultured stone, try to avoid stacking similar size and shapes especially on either side of the fireplace opening.
OPTIONS FOR YOUR TRADITIONAL FIREPLACE
Depending on the size and type of stone, re-facing an existing stone fireplace could be extremely difficult. It will be necessary to physically remove the stone, level the stone surfaces or fill in between the stone, to a point that a cultured product can be installed. Keep in mind that the ‘masonry structure’ for a traditional open-burning fireplace starts in the basement, continues through the living room and then extends up through the roof. A better option for upgrading an existing open burning fireplace might be to replace the mantel and doors. If modifying an existing stone fireplace is in your plan, a project of this magnitude would be best in the hands of a professional.
Another alternative to a fireplace make-over is simply to paint the existing brick. See the article “Can a Fireplace be Painted?”. Often a fresh coat of paint, a new mantle and replacing the doors can give the room an entirely different feel at a very modest price.
THINK OF THREE MAJOR STEPS TO REPLACE A ZC FIREPLACE
I like to think about ‘total tear out’ fireplace projects, in three major steps.
STEP 1 – DEMOLITION
The first is the demolition phase where the existing equipment is completely removed, including the chimney. Again, this step is much easier if you are removing an old zero clearance fireplace. (And by the way, if you are going to do this work yourself and don’t own a good reciprocating saw, buy one. It will be worth your time and energy!) Removing a traditional open burning fireplace may or may not be physically possible. Definitely plan on seeking advice and counsel from your fireplace expert. This is considered major surgery and needs an on-site evaluation by an expert because of several important factors.
STEP 2 – CHOOSING AND INSTALLING
If a total tear out of the existing fireplace and chimney is possible or if your existing unit is a manufactured, zero clearance (ZC) fireplace, a new highly efficient model can be installed in its place. The second step is selecting new equipment. A total tear out of an existing ZC fireplace opens up all kinds of equipment options for you. This new replacement ‘model’ could be another wood burning fireplace or a convenient gas fireplace. Or how about considering a free-standing wood or gas stove? Again, lots of choices for you to think about.
Keep in mind that a project involving demolition work will likely mean repairs to the ceiling, wall, floor and perhaps the roof.
If the old fireplace was located on an inside wall, the new chimney or gas vent pipe would follow the same route as the old chimney pipe through the roof. On an outside wall, you may follow the same route for the chimney or if you replace the old fireplace with gas there may be some venting through the wall options. The foot print of a new fireplace can mimic the old. A raised hearth could easily be added when framing for the new unit.
STEP 3 – FINISHING
The final step involves finishing. Finishing off a new ZC unit can be done with the material of your choice. There are lots of options here too; real stone or brick, a cultured stone or brick, perhaps marble, ceramic tile or maybe even decorative steel or slate. This part of the project is always lots of fun, but can be a bit challenging because of the hundreds of colors, textures and finishes available. Again, your dealer is in a position to guide you and show many possibilities that will truly make your remodeled fireplace a thing of beauty and the primary focal point of your home.
Replacing a zero clearance fireplace with a new, efficient zero clearance model can often add considerable value to the house.
If you are planning to be in your home for the next few years (or more), a total tear-out and replacement project might be something to seriously think about. And of course, we’re glad to help you plan and design the project and see it through to completion. Your complete satisfaction is our goal.