But before I get into the actual building steps, I wanted to share our vision and design!
This is actually something I've been wanting to do since before we even saw the house. Yes, you read that right. When looking at our house's listing photos, a good 6 months before we even started our house hunt, the two things that stood out to me were the fact that the open kitchen-breakfast nook-family room could easily be updated by removing some kitchen cabinets and a room dividing railing, and by updating the huge fireplace.
The first two steps toward updating this area of our house were done before we moved in. But until now we've still been living with the red brick, over 10 1/2 feet wide, floor to ceiling fireplace as-is.
From the beginning we've always planned on mounting our TV above the fireplace. To simulate that, we've had the TV up on a cabinet in front of the fireplace since we moved in, although this made the fireplace unusable.
And other than just overall updating the look of the room, we want to accomplish a look that balances out the existing fireplace features, once we hang the TV on the left side of the fireplace face. We have the glass doors over the firebox itself on one half, and a deep cavity on the other side, which was originally intended to hold your firewood. I don't know about you, but the thought of having a pile of wood (and all the spiders and bugs that would come with it) front and center in my family room doesn't sound like a good idea! Plus, this cavity could be put to good use, hiding all of our cables and electronics, which in the above picture you can definitely see we need some help with.
Another goal we had in mind was to do something other than just painting the brick. It is extremely hard to get paint off of brick once its on there, and since this is our forever home, we didn't want to get stuck with painted brick if in 20-30 years red brick comes back in style. And even though we plan to stay here forever, we do always keep resale value in the back of our minds--and what if a future buyer hated painted brick, or liked the option of reverting the fireplace back to it's original, flat faced design?
So with those ideas in mind, after many hours of searching the internet for fireplace facade ideas, these two examples are mainly what has inspired our design (with a whole lot more inspiration in my Pinterest board here).
A design featuring a fireplace on one side, with built in shelves and cabinets on the other half, which will work well with covering the right side, once the TV is mounted on the left half, and add some much needed function to that half of the fireplace:
And shaker style detailing, a beefy mantel that wraps around the sides, and leaving a small bit of brick exposed around the hearth and firebox (which we think will tie in nicely with our room's "contemporary cottage" theme. We're also fine with leaving a little brick because it works well with the house overall, considering the bottom story is brick on the outside. And it means we can avoid painting it!)
So we had a good idea of what we wanted to do, but before figuring out exactly how we were going to adapt these ideas to our existing fireplace, we had more research to do. Namely, researching building codes. Anything we do on our house, we want to be sure we're doing things the right way, and there will be no safety issues, since we are planning to use the fireplace in its intended manner. I've seen lots of blog posts where they've done similar fireplace facades, but most aren't taking fire safety considerations because they are covering non-working fireplaces. And quite a few of those facades I've found definitely don't look to be to code, at least to the codes in our area.
In our area, the building code states that you can't have any combustible materials within 6 inches of the firebox opening. Then, at 6 inches and further away, the combustible material (wood, in our case) can only be projecting 3/4ths of an inch off the face of the fireplace, and can project further out by 1/8th of an inch for every inch you move further away from the firebox opening, until you get up to 12 inches away from the opening. This seems to be the standard guideline, according to the National Fire Protection Association, but we also verified this with our county's building inspections department (and we discovered that they offer online forums where you can post questions and the building inspectors will provide answers to things like confirming building codes and verifying if you need permits, which we do not. Very useful!).
After figuring out the local building codes, we still weren't done with our research. We wanted to first look into the actual construction of a fireplace facade, like how we would attach the wood to the brick surface (special screws into the mortar, for a non-permanent solution, instead of a construction adhesive). We found this $15 ebook to be really useful, and would definitely recommend it if you're considering building a fireplace facade. There were lots of great design and construction tips and best practices, since it's written by a company that actually builds fireplace facades out in California.
Once we were done researching, only then could my husband mock up our existing fireplace as a 3D model in SolidWorks so we could start playing around with the design elements, taking into account the building codes, and also our inspiration ideas. You could also use the free program, Google Sketchup, to do this, but since he's already proficient in SolidWorks, that's what we used.
Then, we spent hours talking out the design, and playing around with the 3D model and just figuring out how to turn what was in our minds into a mock up, while working with the dimensions of our fireplace.
Here is a look at the basic design we've come up with, before we added any trim pieces. It really is a great blend of our two main inspiration photos, with the built in shelves and cabinets on the right half (covering that wood holding cavity, so we can fill it with all of our electronics and cables), and leaving some of the brick exposed (which follows code, and also saves us about $1,000, since the other idea we tossed around was getting a custom marble or granite surround and hearth, like this.).
Once we solidified the general design, it was time to add the shaker style trim. The trim not only makes it look a lot more finished, but they'll be useful for hiding seams and fasteners.
Here's a look at the design from the straight on position (although I should note there will be a few minor tweaks--think of this more as a mock up and not an exact blueprint).
And an angled side view, so you can better see how the shelves and cabinet on the right side project out from the fireplace face, but the beefy mantel pulls it all together across the entire width.
I seriously can. not. wait. until this project is done! It is going to be a huge transformation in our family room, from dark, light-sucking red brick, to bright and shiny white. Fingers crossed all goes well and we are able to finish it in time for the Super Bowl, which is just three Sundays from now!
Have you ever refaced a fireplace, either by building a facade or by painting it?
Part 2: Building a Fireplace Facade: Building a Bulkhead To Intersect Beams
Part 3: Building a Fireplace Facade: Installing a Mantel on a Brick Fireplace
Part 4: The Finale to Building a Fireplace Facade: Covering the Brick, Adding Shelves, a Cabinet and Trim, Painting