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The Do It Yourself Fireplace

Jessica Brylan

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When most people look at a fireplace, they see the beauty and some even wonder what it took to put one together. For those who wonder what it would take to build a fireplace, you can look over a few things and do it the hard way or the easy way. The chimney, hearth and mantel are structures that require great attention to detail, especially if you are installing in a home already in place. This is the hard way.

The chimney can run all the way through the roof if you want. But, you can also design a nice vent through the wall for smoke and soot. It's actually easier to clean, but you have to include cleaning the side of the house and a bit more often than you would a chimney. Chimneys can get quite expensive and you would want to enlist the help of an expert before attempting something like that yourself.

The hearth can be a simple structure on the floor or it can be a massive structure where people can actually sit. It's up to your imagination what purpose it will serve. Some people just like a stone structure to hold the logs on one side and the toolset on the other. It protects the floor from possible sparks that may occur. Other people like two foot high structures that span the length of the wall and provide log bins for storage as well as a place to sit by the fire when it's roaring.

Once you've picked your area in the living or den where you want your fireplace, the mantel should be a reflection of the room. But, you can either find a mantel that matches the décor of the room or you can find a mantel you like and change the room around it. Old dark woods have been popular for years, but stone is making an impression.

The chimney, hearth and mantel aren't the only parts of the fireplace to consider. But, you get the hint. There is quite a bit of planning involved. It can get very expensive and it takes a good bit of time to install a fireplace in your home.

That is unless you do it the easy way. It's certainly not as hard as installing an entire fireplace in home that does not have one. But, it will take some thought and skill to put it together and make it look right.

Let's Start With the Dimensions
Find a place in your home where you would like your fireplace to go. You will need to get the dimensions of that area. If you have a wall that is 15’ X 10’ but you have an outlet in the center of the wall about 2’ from the floor, then you have to put your fireplace on one side of the outlet or the other. You could also put your fireplace in the corner of the room. Use your imagination and have fun with it.

Mark off where you want your fireplace and how big you would want it to be. Make the marks actually on the wall so that you can see if it's going to work. Put tape on the floor to mark how far out the hearth will come. Then, try to imagine it in your mind. Is it going to be comfortable? Is it going to take up too much room or block anything like a window or an outlet?

If you are satisfied, get your dimensions. Let's say that I want to have fun with it and build a hearth that is 2’ off the ground, my fireplace is 3’ high by 3’ wide, the mantel extends another 1’ above the fireplace and the entire structure is 6’ wide. Now, I know how much material to get.

Build Your Structure
I'm going to want to build a box out of 2X4s and plywood that comes out 2’ from the wall except at the bottom where the hearth comes out 4’ from the wall. If you're wondering about the fire and wood combination being a fire hazard, don't sweat it. You'll learn later why it's safe.

This is a simple structure. I would certainly want you to be as creative as you possibly can and absolutely love your fireplace when you are finished with it. So, take your time. Get a feel for what you want. Design the fireplace from the heart and think it through.

I would build the structure with 2X4s first. The bottom where your hearth will go is always going to need extra stability for your project. So, you'll need a 2X4 frame with 2X4s running across the frame as well as 2X4s providing columns for further support. Attach a 4X6 section of plywood to the top of the hearth section before finishing the back of the frame. The back of the frame where the fireplace will go won't have to be as structured because there is no need for additional support.

Once your frame is built, you'll need the rest of the plywood pieces put in place. My structure will simply require a 6X6 section of plywood attached to the back of the frame. A 4X6 section will be attached to the bottom and remember my other 4X6 section is already in place. Two “L" shape sections of plywood would create the sides. A 2X6 section completes the top and a 2X6 section completes the front of the hearth. A 4X6 section with a 3X3 section cut out will be the face of the fireplace. Then, 3 3X2 sections complete the inside of the fireplace itself. Your structure is finished.

Your Design
So, how do you keep yourself safe? Stacked Stone and Sandstone certainly look great. But a Coastal Ledge or a Rustic Ledge looks great for this kind of structure. They have personality and they dress your fireplace up with class. These are stone designs that you can get in flat pieces that go together like tiles or you can get the flat pieces you have to fit together yourself. They are beautiful! Attached to the plywood with a nonflammable adhesive, they completely hide the wood and are the actual stone themselves so they aren't flammable either. Problem solved!

Now, all you need is a fireplace insert, some ceramic logs, a case of Sunjel gel fuel and possibly a screen. You're in business. Approximate build time is one day given how many breaks you need. Put the fireplace in place and get cleaned up for the evening. You'll be ready to enjoy it by that time!

Jessica Brylan has been a student of construction all her life, under her father who retired in 2004. Her passion turned to interior design and strangely evolved into becoming a fireplace expert. You can read her latest report, Outdoor Fireplace Ideas when you visit Ventless Gel Fireplaces and sign up for the newsletter. The Do It Yourself Fireplace Report will be published soon and automatically sent to your inbox if you sign up now.


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