Introduction: Light My Fireplace

We have a fireplace that we have never used, and that the former owners of the house rarely used. It opens into both the living room and the dining room, and the draft reportedly would reach hurricane intensity. After some years, we decided to turn it into a plant-arium, with potted plants and grow lights.

One of our criteria was that it should be relatively easy to revert back to a fireplace, should some future owner be that adventuresome. We thought about painting the whole thing white, but couldn't find a fireplace paint in anything other than black, and felt that regular paints would be a health and safety hazard if you built a fire on them. So everything had to be removable.

Here's how we did it.

Step 1: Parts List 1

What we are going to do is mount some boards up at the top of the fireplace, and put grow lights on them. So we start out with four boards. I used 3/4", because they don't have to carry much of a load, but I don't want them to sag. You probably don't want to use plywood here. Two of the boards are 4" wide, just wide enough to hold the lights. The other two are 8" wide, because they have to extend the width of the bricks. The length of the wide boards should fit the width of your fireplace opening.

Step 2: Parts List 2

Here's your put-it-together stuff: drill, saw, screwdrivers (both + and -). Wooden dowels, if you want to peg the joints, otherwise angle plates (not shown). Shelf brackets (4), as decorative as you like. Brick/concrete screws to hold the shelf brackets. Fluorescent grow lights (4). Wooden blocks to mount the grow lights on, because we want them on their side, sticking out over the edge of the board (for maximum light). White paint for the underside of the boards. Not shown: light timer, extension cord, power bar, stick-on floor tiles and stick on mirror tiles.

Step 3: Building the Frame

This is simply a matter of painting one side of the boards white, and attaching the four boards together. I drilled holes and inserted pegs and tried to get them to all fit. When I saw what kind of a job I'd done, I went out and bought some angle plates and screwed them across the joints as well.

Step 4: Shelf Mounts

While the glue and the paint were becoming completely dry, I drilled the holes and mounted the shelf brackets. These are what the board will rest on when installed. At this point, I had a choice, I could leave enough room to slide the whole board/light assembly in -- that's about four inches worth, which would remove usable space and look ugly unless I covered it with a doily -- or I could leave just enough room for the board, and mount the lights after it was in position. I chose the second option.  Even there, I had to be sure to leave enough space for manoeuvring the board in and out, given that it's not likely to be totally flat to begin with and that it might warp over time. I also had to leave enough room to get the power cord (which means big enough for the plug) out of one of the corners.

Step 5: Assemble the Lights

To make sure everything would fit, I pre-assembled the lights outside of the fireplace. That's when I learned that there wasn't enough room for four 24" lights, and I had to resort to two 24" and two 18".  I had some fun figuring out how to align the plug ends of the lights so there was enough cord length to get from the plug to the power bar without having to drape across the opening.

Step 6: Insert the Board and Mount the Lights

Not a very good picture, but you get the idea. My procedure was to mount each light to its support bock outside the fireplace, then crawl inside the fireplace, position the light/block where I wanted it, and drill up through the board into the block. Then I plugged the lights into a short power bar, plugged the power bar into a timer, and plugged the timer into an extension cord.

Step 7: First Light

Here's the result of the lighting installation. The grey bar across the top of the picture is actually the edge of the board. All that is left to do now is to install the floor tile and the wall mirrors.

Step 8: The Final Product

Excessive enthusiasm prevented me from photographing the tiling and mirroring process. Suffice it to say, I covered the base of the fireplace with stick-on floor tiles left over from a previous floor project, and the walls with stick-on mirrors, left over from redoing the bedroom ceiling. More plants will be added later. The light timer is set to come on at 8AM and go off at 10PM.

To revert back to being a regular fireplace, all you need to do is dismount the lights and pull out the board (there's not enough room to pull the whole installation out). Then you peel up the tiles and pry off the mirrors. Be careful that you don't break one. You don't need seven years bad luck starting on the day you build a fire in the hurricane fireplace.

Comments

author
Reffner (author)2011-08-23

Great use for an otherwise "non useful" space. I have to say though, the mirror on the ceiling is by far more interesting to me :P lol.

Looks good.

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