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We had a normal builder fireplace, but I had dreams of a German Smeared brick fireplace. The below is what it looked liked when we moved in.
I hated the beige color of the tiles, so I painted it with just normal primer and white paint and that lasted for a good while.
It was better, but I knew it could be even better! I saw another DIYer use faux brick paneling that comes in 4×8 sheets and I had an idea so I made a Home Depot run for the materials I needed.
I started on the demo. I was super nervous about this because I had never demoed anything before and I was scared I was just going to make it worse and the “after” I had in my head wouldn’t work out. The first piece to come off was the top, it was just nailed on so I was able to push it up really hard to get it off.
The rest of it I had to take a hammer to and pry it off, the sides were the hardest to get off. It was all nailed and caulked together pretty well. This whole fireplace surround was all made of MDF board.
As for the tile, I just hit it with a hammer and and wedged a large flat head screwdriver behind it to pry it off in pieces. I left the floor tile alone.
You can see here as I took the tile off it was damaging the drywall pretty bad.
I decided I’d just replace it. The drywall is just screwed into the studs, so I unscrewed it to remove it.
I had to make another Home Depot run for hardie backer board. From what I’ve reach hardie board is good to put around a fireplace because it’s fire and heat resistant. It was about the same cost as regular drywall so I figured it couldn’t hurt. This is what it looked like once I got it all demoed.
You cut the hardie backer board the same way you would drywall. You score it with a razor knife and then put pressure on the opposite side and it should break on the scored line. I just kicked the back and it broke perfectly!
Then I just screwed it into the studs with special hardie backer screws.
I’ve always wanted a fireplace hearth so I built one! I first made a frame out of 2x4s. Of course we had to leave a time capsule note in it!
Then I tested it just to make sure it was strong.
I screwed on 2 pieces of plywood underlayment to the top for extra support, just because that’s what I had on hand.
After the hearth, I moved on to building the mantle. It’s made out of 3 pieces of 1x8x8 common board. I cut the ends off to be the ends of the mantle to make it look like one solid piece. The middle long board is cut at a 45° on both sides and both ends. The tip and bottom long boards are cut at a 45° on one side and the ends and just a normal edge on the other side. The ends are cut at a 45° on 3 of the sides and a regular edge on the back side as shows in the photos below.
I stained the mantle Early American by Minwax and it turned out gorgeous the way the roughed up wood took the stain.
I already had a support piece on the wall above the fireplace from the old one, so I just reinforced it by adding a few screws into it. Since I was putting this up by myself I added screws to the top of the mantel before bringing it inside so it would be easier. These starhead GRK Fastener screws are the best! I’ll never go back to using “regular” screws again.
It wasn’t very heavy since it was hollow. I centered it and screwed it into the support from the top and then added a few screws on the bottom as well.
A trick to make the seams smaller of a hollow beam built like this is to go over the edges with the side of a screw driver, pressing down to roll the edges together.
Then it came time to start working on the brick paneling. I took a bunch of measurements of the wall and made marks on the paneling so I knew where to cut.
This is the mark for where the mantel will be.
I cut the paneling with a circular saw. I was still pretty new to woodworking at the time and I didn’t use the safest practices because I didn’t know any better. But now I do and I’m telling you so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. You can see in the photo below that the blade is sticking out WAY too far! It really should only be sticking out past the material a tiny bit. Because of this the saw kept bouncing back a bit and not cutting easily. I didn’t get hurt or anything, but I could have.
But I got it cut and the measurements were correct! I was so excited that I did this right the first time! I used my brad nailer to nail the brick on to the wall.
Can you see the excitement in my eyes?? I only had half the brick up at this point, but it changed the look of the whole living room! Now, if I used faux brick again, I’d cut the brick out on the edges to make the panels go together like a puzzle instead of a straight seam like I have here. Tap here to see what I mean.
Luckily my Mother In Law stopped by because she realized I had forgot to cut the hole for the gas line key. Without that hole being cut I wouldn’t have been able to turn the fireplace on.
Once the back was up I got started on wrapping the brick around the hearth. I added these smaller pieces onto the hearth frame with screws.
I was a little worried at this point, it was looking like those brick blocks that kids play with. But I kept pushing through.
I didn’t like the way the seams of the mantel were looking, so I wood filled them, sanded them down and then stained the seams again.
What do you think? Are you worried for me and my vision of this fireplace at this point? I know, it was looking pretty scary! But I knew by adding joint compound for a German Smear look it would really transform this fake looking brick. At least I hoped so…so I got to work. I applied it with a drywall joint knife. When I first started putting the joint compound on it was looking very grey, but it dried a creamy white. Side note, this expandable ladder comes in super handy with my DIY projects! It stores really small in the closet and can expand really tall!
What do you think now? Even scarier I know! But remember, it gets worse before it gets better!
It was too much coverage for what I was wanting, so when it was about halfway dry I got some wet paper towels and started rubbing the joint compound off the brick in random spots so the brick would show through more.
Finally I got it all cleaned up and I’m so in love with how it looks now!
Below is what it looked like in the listing photos and now because I’m a sucker for a good before and after! The whole living room has really come a long way! I can’t wait to tell you about all of it!
This project only took me a weekend! It was a lot of work but worth it!
One day I’d like to take this faux brick paneling down and replace it with a more permanent stone that’s over grouted to match my kitchen backsplash (more on that another day).
All living room links here.
Next up, DIY nesting herringbone coffee tables.