Tips for Surviving a Fireplace Makeover

Hey Remodelaholic friends! If you’ve never seen my name around these parts, I’m Thalita and I normally blog over at The Learner Observer. We’ve been renovating our house for the better part of the last 3 months, and it’s safe to say that it’s been a crazy rollercoaster ride, but we’re surviving and even have a few finished spaces. We’ve managed to get the nursery ready for our twin boys, got the powder room in order, and the family room has also been finished. Yep. Three whole rooms!

The family room was by far the most involved of all of these. Want to see what it used to look like?


That was the family room on the day we got the keys. Not exactly what one might call pretty, and the fireplace being off center, shiny brass, and with poorly done stonework (which covered up gorgeous brick with cement) drove me absolutely crazy! We worked with our contractor to make this into the fireplace of our dreams, and I have some tips on how you can do the same, without it costing you a small fortune!

This dated mantel and fireplace makeover is stunning! Shiplap combined with penny tile and a wood beam mantel.

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Tips for surviving a fireplace makeover

1. Keep an open mind

We started our thinking we could simply lower the mantle, paint the stone and brass insert, and we’d be done. It would have been super budget-friendly and we loved that! Then… we realized the stone was essentially falling off if we even touched it and that’s when we discovered cement hiding behind it, plastered over top of the brick. If we tried to lower any of that, things would surely break and we would be messing with the integrity of the original wood-burning fireplace – no good. This room was being shiplapped and our contractor asked if we’d want to shiplap the whole thing. He even drew a quick sketch of what he imagined it as for us so we could better understand his vision (super handy).

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This wasn’t in the budget, but because we were already getting a new mantle and doing the shiplap (and this wasn’t much more material), it didn’t hurt our bank account too much. Which brings me to the next point…

2. Try to do some (or all) of it yourself

We saved a few bucks by dismantling the fireplace ourselves as much as possible. My husband started the job and then my dad went over and took off all of the stone facing and prepped the fireplace to be recovered by our contractor.

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I painted the gas insert myself in a heat-resistant paint (I used this one), which wasn’t too hard to do. Here’s a rough picture I took the night I painted it. Because when you have babies things like this have to be done at night, right?

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3. Be frugal, but still get what you want

I wanted marble. I really really really wanted marble. But with an entire house to renovate and this unexpected change already eating into our budget, I didn’t want to spend much on the tiles for the fireplace. I knew I wanted marble hexagon tiles, but I just couldn’t find one that suited the budget, so I got creative and looked for other tiles I loved. We have a black and white ceramic hexagon tile in our bathrooms, and I decided to go for the same look here. Rather than black and white, we went for all white with a soft grey tile so that the texture and pattern of the tile come through. I dare say this was a darn good compromise on my white and grey marble!

4. Be thoughtful of details

Thankfully we had a great contractor who thought of a few things for us, like making sure we could hook up our TV easily above the fireplace by having an outlet there and also adding in a PVC pipe to run down to the side of the fireplace in case we needed to run any additional cables to and from the television. So smart. You can kind of see that in action here:

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And those are all of my tips! Pretty straight forward, but they can save you major headaches and also some money! Now let me show you the rest of the makeover, because what good are all these before photos without some afters?

As you can see, we had the fireplace framed to go up to the ceiling. This meant not having to alter the original at all (which would have cost more) and also prepped us for the next step here which will be to add built-in shelving on either side since the fireplace is so far off center.

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Then came time for the drywall and shiplap, which I was really excited about because I could finally see it all coming together! You can see below how our contractors mapped out the height of the mantle for us, which was really helpful.

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And then some tile, and this little beauty was all finished! Here’s a true before and after. Less wallpaper, more shiplap. Less stone, more shiplap. Less brass, more matte black. 

From dated wood paneling and wallpaper with a crumbling stone fireplace to a beautiful bright white shiplap and tile fireplace and a wood beam mantel

Now can we go ahead and look closely at the details, like the tile and that gorgeous mantle built by Grain Works Collective!

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Fireplace And Mantle Makeover The Learner Observer For Remodelaholic 12

The soft grey ended up working really well also with the corner piece, which is aluminum. And I just love how the hex pattern shines through without the whole thing being too graphic.

The mantle was actually made to look like a beam and our super talented contractor (who is also a carpenter) did that for us.

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Did you catch my DIY faux calligraphy artwork on the wall, there? I still have big love for that piece and I’m so glad it survived the move!

I’ve kept things pretty neutral in this room with colour really only coming through in a few plants, and I love the soothing, relaxed feel of the room.

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Have you ever completely refaced a fireplace like this? Any tips you’d add on? Let me know in the comments, and if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer. This makeover is definitely not over, as we’d like to add shelving and cabinets on either side, so there’s still more to come!

Until next time!

See more fireplace makeovers:

Farmhouse Mantel And Fireplace Makeover Step By Step @remodelaholic

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Thalita is a mom of twins, teacher, and blogger over at The Learner Observer. She is a frugal DIY-er and avid lover of thrift store scores with a passion for making over spaces with pieces that are both meaningful and beautiful. Favourite colour? White. Favourite food? Ice Cream. Favourite Pastime? Instagram, where she shares an abundance of pictures of her twin boys along with her latest home reno and decorating adventures!

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  1. Ohhh, I LOVE what you did. It looks delicious! I love the stone with the wood with the tile and the bit of greenery! OMG perfect.

    1. Thanks so much! I believe it’s a custom colour, but it looks very similar to Dark Walnut and Provincial (both by Minwax) mixed together. I hope that helps!

  2. I love this makeover!!! I’m curious, is there a reason you didn’t just shiplap over your current wallpaper and paneling? I’m in a similar position and considering leaving it as is and just applying the shiplap right on top of it. Would love to hear if there was a reason for removing it. Thanks so much!!

  3. so lovely! can you tell me what the dimensions are for your fireplace? also, where did you purchase it? it’s the perfect size! thanks!!

  4. My husband and I are doing something very similar with our fireplace, and our contractor is also going to make our mantel look like a beam like yours. Where did you buy the raw wood for the mantel?

    1. I would like to know the same thing. Where do you get wood that looks aged and with that type of grain?