This Instructable (Instructanovel) details the process I went through to demolish an existing fireplace surround made of flagstone and replace it with a much more attractive (at least to my eye) custom built one.

When I moved into my house, one of the things I definitely wanted to change was the fireplace.  Every time I looked at it - massive.... brooding.... flag-stoney - I couldn't help but hear the theme to the "Brady Bunch" start up in my head.  Sure as death and taxes, every time I'd walk into the room, I'd hear "Here's the story ..... of a lovely lady..... etc, etc" - aaaaand I had to make it stop.

So after several months of looking at it (and hearing that insipid song) I decided to tear the fireplace out.  After all, what better way to incentivise yourself to start a project than to make it look about a hundred times worse than it already does, right?

I'm going to cover the demolition only to give a few pointers and maybe give some insight into what you may find should you have a similarly constructed fireplace.  I'll then cover the construction of a new fireplace that's a lot more to my liking - and a lot less dominant in the room.

Realize that much of what I'm doing here can be adapted to fireplaces of different construction.  Even all-brick fireplaces can be given a face-lift - just maybe not as extensive as this one.  Sometimes all it takes to get your own "vision" is to see how someone else did it (hence, Instructables!).

Total Cost on this project is roughly $600 - but that's solely based on what I had on hand (leftover quarter-sawn White Oak from another project), what I found (the granite) and the materials I chose to use (spendy countertop concrete).  Your costs could be more or less depending on how big your installation is, what materials you want to use, etc.

While nothing in this instructable is terribly complex, it does require some construction and woodworking skills to pull off.  Tools (or a well-equipped relative) are always a big plus as well.

As with all home renovations involving sledgehammers, you should ask someone smarter than you if you're not sure it's OK to wail on a particular wall.   Make sure to use appropriate safety gear and also make sure you're not violating some obscure building code.  Either that, or just don't tell anyone what you're doing and hope you don't do something you can't recover from.  I choose option #2.

OK, OK - for all the Hall Monitors out there - I'm KIDDING.  Be responsible, smart, safe, and considerate - contrary to popular belief, the world was not made by Fisher Price.

Step 1: Tear Down the Wall - Er - Fireplace

So, first things first:  get rid of the old fireplace.  Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it?  To be honest I wasn't 100% sure what I'd find behind the stone, but given that I was familiar with the construction behind the fireplace wall and knew I was dealing with a gas fireplace (free-floating metal insert), I figured that it was basically just a veneer of stone about 2" thick (I also climbed into the attic to look at the surrounding structural and confirm that I wasn't going to do something I REALLY regretted). 

I pussyfooted around with a 2lb sledge for a little while  and finally realized I needed a much bigger hammer, and that  I'd also need to find a different way of transmitting the blow of the hammer to the stone (other than metal-on-stone) if I didn't want to haul 1000 lbs of crushed flagstone out of the house and end up finding random stone chips scattered around the place for the next 6 months.

I switched to a 10-lb sledge hammer and an 18" length of scrap 2x4 occasionally augmented by a pry bar and masonry chisel.  I used the 2x4 mostly like a chisel by placing the end against the edge of a stone, and striking the other end with the sledge - so the blows / impact forces were generally parallel to the wall, not perpendicular, which may have been harder on the underlying structural.  It usually took a few blows to get the stone loose, at which time I'd either just work it completely loose with my hands or with the help of a pry bar.  The 2x4  does a fine job of transmitting the force without shattering the stones.  I think I used two boards in total (they will eventually split and fall apart).  By being a little careful removing the stones, I was able to re-use them in my yard.

Be systematic and careful in your demolition - use only as much force as you need, and don't get in a rush - in a few years, is anyone going to care if it took you a few additional days to finish?  Probably not.  I remind myself of this often.  I used plenty of sheet plastic to control dust and chips, and cleaned up after each major phase of removal which makes working in the area a lot safer and more pleasant.  Doing your cleanup as you go also prevents you from having to monkey 1500 lbs of stone and mortar out of your living room at one time, and reduces the bits of stone, grit, and dirt you'll track into other parts of the house - possibly damaging floors, feet, relationships,etc.

Once the demolition is complete and the area is cleaned out, this would be a *perfect* time to replace your 1970's era gas fireplace with something more efficient - if that was something you wanted to do.  I was OK with the one that was in place because: 1) I don't use a fireplace but maybe a half-dozen times a year, and 2) even though the house was built in 1978, my particular fireplace had apparently *never* been used.   After 30+ years, the flue and firebox still had their original paper stickers inside.  No kidding.  The only "fire-like" marking I could find looked as though the previous owner's juvenile delinquents had burned a Barbie Doll in effigy, but that's just a guess.
<p>Hi can you inform me what was the total cost ?</p>
<p>It would be kind of hard to put an exact cost on it due to the fact that I had some raw materials on hand, and was able to scavenge other materials (the granite) - but - if I were to guess I'd say it was in the $400 to $800 range depending on what materials were used. I probably spent somewhere around $500 not including the granite and White Oak.</p>
Absolutely beautiful! And an excellent instructable as well. <br> <br>Thank you.
hey man ... !good job !
I was inspired by what you did, and decided my fireplace needed a makeover. Thank you. I will post pictures when I'm done.
This looks GREAT!!! I've been linking this too all my friends with UGLY fireplaces. I wish I had a fireplace in my home. GREAT JOB.
Great job, love it the designs awesome.
You do such awesome work!
This gives me an idea for the fireplace remodel I'm working on now. I was planing to use a solid piece of Oak for the floating mantle. I think I'll try to construct a hollow box and veneer it as you have. I will not be using vertical pillars to support it. My main concern is how to finish the ends. ideas?<br><br>I'm actually doing the opposite with my fireplace. It was the stye of this one with two pillars holding up a mantle and I'm making it stone with a hearth seat, lol.
I would build the box and do the veneers in stages - the ends first with the grain running horizontal (in reference to the final orientation). Glue over-sized panels on the ends and trim them flush with the box once they've cured. Assuming you're not going to veneer the back ;) next stage would be the top and bottom (assuming you're veneering the top) making sure to overlap the veneers previously done on the ends, and flush trimming once cured. Final veneer panel would be the face which would overlap the top, bottom and end veneer panels, hiding the seams. Flush trim again, and bevel if desired. It should be pretty straight-forward to get a nice clean look.<br><br>If you want to see end grain on the ends to give the illusion of a solid piece of wood, you'll have to glue up some &quot;butcher-block&quot; style stock and cut it into veneers perpendicular to the grain - but this would be a lot of work and I'm not sure it would look as nice as a &quot;wrapped&quot; grain would - but that's just my opinion ;) With some careful grain matching, it's quite possible to get the look of a solid piece on the ends - but you'll need to use quarter-sawn or rift-sawn stock if you're trying to match end grain - plain-sawn stock with it's &quot;arches&quot; would be almost impossible to match up.
I do concrete countertops for a living and i have to say you did a nice job! Way to go its not easy, the only worry i would have is the sealer being so close to the high heat of the fireplace but i don't have any hard facts on it being a problem.
Thanks :) So far the adhesive hasn't been a problem - the stone surround actually stays fairly cool to the touch during use, and I don't think the adhesive ever really gets near it's failure temperature. The insert has an air space and firebrick between it's inner and outer skin, and is designed to sit right next to bare wood - so it doesn't get that hot. If I was running something other than a &quot;for show&quot; gas fireplace, however, I would have probably opted for mechanical fastening.
I meant the sealer not the adhesive, should be fine from the sounds of it.
Ah - my bad. So far, no problems at all :)
WOW that came out beautifully! Like a mix of craftsman and shinto! I must admit I glanced throught the pictures before doing much reading and couldn't resist commenting early :P . . .now, to go back and read!
Great Job!! Very well detailed and documented. Thanks for all the pictures!
Great Ible indeed, Love the end result, very elegant and modern.
This is quite beautiful. I really like the clean lines and simple yet stylish design.
Awesome job! Well detailed.

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