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Living RoomKarla Swoveland

Two and a half years ago, when my husband and I were house-hunting, we found an ad for our current house in a local flier. It was a beautiful home, but a bit outdated. We're handy people, so we bought the house anyway.

One of the biggest offenders in our new house was that hideous mauve-tiled fireplace surround you see in the photo above. After we moved in, we did our best to make our home feel more contemporary, cozy and homey. But no matter what we did, those ugly mauve tiles remained the focal point of the family room.

I suppose the title of this post should really be:

"How to cover up those ugly mauve tiles from 1995 that are surrounding (what could be) a beautiful fire place, without much demolition and even less money."

Sure, that title is a little too long. But that was our mission shortly after we moved in.

True to our plan, we came up with a solution that would make our ugly fireplace disappear, but require very little demolition and very little cash.

Skill Level

Tools & Supplies
- 12"x12" slate tiles: We cut corners by scoring tiles that were left over from a big kitchen remodel that my best friend and her husband had just finished. Check your local Craigslist or Kijiji for cheap (and sometimes even free) tiles.
- Construction Adhesive
- Medium density fiberboard (MDF)
- Wood Glue
- Cement Board
- Gallon of paint
- Router
- Table Saw
- Skilsaw
- Brad nailer
- Level
- Measuring Tape

4x8 sheet of MDF- $22
12" tiles (if you can't score them for free) go on sale frequently, so depending on your style you could get them for about 99 cents apiece
Cement Board- Approximately $10
Gallon of paint- $22

Check out what we did to get rid of this outdated fireplace surround -- and what the new surround looks like today!,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=871898&pid=871897&uts=1271779399

Fireplace Surround Makeover

This is what our fireplace surround looks like these days. But it didn't always look this good...

Fireplace Surround Makeover

Two and a half years ago, when my husband and I were house-hunting, we found an ad for our current house in a local flier. This is what the living room looked like in the ad. Not surprisingly, it looked just like this in person too.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

After we moved in, we did our best to make our home feel more contemporary, cozy and homey. But no matter what we did, those ugly mauve tiles remained the focal point of the family room. We knew we needed to change that fireplace surround. So we got to work.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

First, we removed the mauve tiles that were acting as the hearth (the floor-level extension) of our fireplace. This took some time. There was a lot of mortar holding those tiles down, so they had to be broken apart and chipped away.

Using the pry bar, we were able to remove the tiles and existing cement board, leaving us with a nice, even subfloor. It was loud, messy, and eye protection was a must. We nailed down a new piece of cement board and with the floor now completely level, it was time to install the new tiles.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

The depth of the hearth measures 15" from the wall. Unfortunately we don't own a tile saw, so we took three of the tiles to Lowe's and they cut them to the dimensions that we asked. The best part: they do it for free! So no worries if you don't have a tile saw of your own either.

We laid out our 12" x 12" slate tiles right next to each other. That way, we wouldn't have to grout in between them. We wanted the overall look to appear as seamless as possible, giving the illusion of a solid slab rather than individual tiles. We used construction adhesive piped onto the back of each tile to secure it to the cement board.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

Once the hearth was finished, it was time to start on the facade (the wall-mounted portion of the surround). We wanted to avoid removing the tile surround; we just didn't want to invest the time, the mess, or the work involved with removing those 11 mauve tiles. The solution: just cover them up. Using medium density fiberboard (MDF) would keep the project cheap and efficient.

To start, we cut 2"-wide strips of 1/2"-thick MDF that we nailed into place around the perimeter of the tiles. This strip would act as the new frame and give us something to attach the new facade to.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

Once we had the 2" strips secure and in place, we cut a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/2"-thick MDF down to size. We then cut out an opening in the center for the fireplace box. We attached the MDF to the tiles by piping construction adhesive onto the back of the MDF and setting it in place. We then nailed it into place around the perimeter, right into the 2" frame that we had attached prior.

The next step was to attach a few raised panels to the new facade; we wanted to keep the look clean and contemporary, but also three-dimensional. We plotted out the look right on the facade. We actually used our 4' level as a ruler to make it easier on ourselves. We flipped the level on its side, lined it up at the outside edges and inside edges, and traced the lines right onto the MDF. The boxes that we had as a result of the lines ended up being what we used for the dimensions of our decorative panels.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

We used the router to give the panels a decorative edge. We decided on a 5/32" Roman Ogee bit to produce this look.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

Once we had our decorative panels cut (two tall rectangles for each side, one long rectangle for the top, and two squares for the corners), we spread wood glue on the backs of each, set them into place and nailed the corners down.

We also used the router to create trim for the bottom edge. We couldn't match our existing trim exactly, so we cut two strips of MDF that matched the height of our existing trim, then used the router to give it a decorative edge as well, then glued and nailed it into place.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

We always use spackling on the cut edges of our MDF. It creates a much cleaner looking edge for the final product. If you don't seal the edges, the paint will soak into the fibers and will leave a rough finish. A thin coat of spackle and light sanding ensures that the paint will have a consistent look overall.

Fireplace Surround Makeover

  • dJmadier

    Most often ,yes. Most all gas fire places now are very efficient and be direct vented straight out the back of a wall.
    So you can have them installed Any where on an out side wall with just a small vent sticking out.

  • Brad

    Looks nice and good work, however when deciding on the facade material check the safety information for the fireplace. My fireplace, ventless gas, requires a certain amount of the facade surrounding the fireplace to be noncombustible material. Usually 12 to 20+ inches depending on the fireplace. MDF, wood, is combustible. Hence why the tile was there before.

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