This is a story about a makeover of our slate covered 90s gas fireplace. There is another story of a different makeover of a wood-burning slate tiled fireplace here.
I detested my glossy green gas fireplace……….
I never thought that I would want a gas fireplace. As a traditionalist, I always thought if I wanted a fire in the fireplace, I would start it the old-fashioned Canadian way, in my wood-burning fireplace with some good local hardwood. (Of course, I never had to chop it or bring it in). But then, our 1890s home came with a gas fireplace in its’ Family Room addition.
Our Family Room is a small room which is likely an old porch, closed in sometime in the last 40 years, with bay windows and a corner gas fireplace added in about 1990. After using the room through one winter, I became hooked on the instant-on warmth of the fireplace. This one unit heats the room and the attached kitchen in a short period of time.
Gas Fireplace Makeover Required
The fireplace was installed in a corner, with a vent through the outside wall – so I had no plans to change its’ location. With the awkward layout (2 windows, a door, a path to the kitchen and a pony wall) of the room – the only logical place for the fireplace was between the two windows – and the TV fits on top. Four focal points – 2 windows, the fireplace and the TV all visible from my sofa.
But looking at that fireplace, there were a few things that bothered me – it wasn’t evenly lined up between the 2 windows, the molding overlapped the window trim of one window, the hunter green fireplace said 1985 to me, and so did the green ceramic tiles on the surround. In fact the tiles were so green that the green fireplace insert wasn’t even that noticeable.
Even though a gas fireplace like this wouldn’t have been built in our 1890s home, we wanted to at least make the room look a little more vintage like the rest of the house. We thought it would be nice to either have a rustic brick or stone on it, or have a formal Victorian mantle.
We asked a local carpenter specializing in historic renovations to take a look – and he quoted us $4500 or so to rebuild the fireplace using the existing gas fixtures. WHAT? we thought – it’s just a plywood box with a fireplace in it and some tiles on top. Not to be deterred, we headed out to shop for a new corner fireplace – but we just couldn’t seem to find any corner fireplaces that didn’t look brand new. So we thought, could we just re-surface the thing?
Kitchen Wall in Antique White Brick Veneer
At the same time we were having one kitchen wall covered in antique white brick veneer by brick-masons. We have done some floor tiling and backsplashes before – but this was a large and very visible area – and we knew our limitations. I would not want to look at a 10 foot brick wall from across the room and see sagging bricklines……..so as much as we like to DIY, we hired the masons for the kitchen wall.
Remove the Green Tiles
So for our fireplace, we decided to wack off the old green tiles – and apply the same white brick veneer that we had in the kitchen but do it ourselves. It seemed like a good plan! The fireplace would look rustic, but the neutral colour would help the fireplace be a little less jarring to the eye.
First of all, we read the fireplace manual and my husband turned off the pilot flame and thermostat.
My husband got to work chiseling the green tiles off. It was messy but satisfying work and underneath the fireplace was just in a triangular plywood box, like we thought. He also removed the golden oak trim. The fireplace box looked a little less awkward without the trim overlapping the window trim. I didn’t feel like it needed to be centred between the windows anymore – once the trim was removed.
Spray Painting the Green Fireplace Insert
I covered the floor and taped over the fireplace glass – and spray painted the fireplace with black spray paint – “Rust-Oleum Specialty High Heat Enamel in Flat Black”. I have had a few drippy spray paint projects, so I was careful to spray in short smooth intervals, so that I didn’t apply too much to any one area. There were no drips but maybe a little bit of overspray on the glass – which scraped off easily. I didn’t take a picture at the time – but the below is a closeup of the spray painted fireplace during the brick application. The flat paint shows the dust from the brick and mortar!
Applying New Antique Brick Veneer
Then it was time to apply the bricks. We had watched the brickmasons apply our kitchen brick veneer and asked them LOTS of questions. This really helped in the project!
Planning Layout and Spacing is Key
From the brickmasons, we learned that they plan a wall before they get started. (This is amazing to me as I rarely plan – but that may be obvious by my many mistakes). They actually calculated the number of bricks to use per each row and experimented with various layouts – and then calculated the amount of space to leave between each brick. They did the same vertically. They planned how many bricks to use to reach the ceiling and how far to space them apart so that they didn’t have to cut bricks horizontally. GENIUS!
Personally, I learned that they did use a level (I don’t know why but I often receive a level in my Christmas stocking – perhaps some of my projects haven’t been level), they liked to use horseshoe shaped spacers – and 2-3 of them together to get the right spacing – and a lot of them! When they were finished we saved their unmixed mortar and grout – to match – and we kept all of their cut bricks.
This was a fairly small brick veneer project and we did plan it out so that we used the vertically cut bricks that we had on hand – and didn’t have a horizontally cut row. We worked on both sides of the fireplace at the same time so that our columns weren’t different sizes – and worked towards having one row across the top of the two columns. It was tricky spacing things out right and we used tonnes of spacers. The brickwork was not as even as the work of the brickmasons, but it’s pretty darned good.
We let the adhesive dry for 1 day, then removed the spacers. After another 2 days, I applied the grout very sparingly between the bricks. The masons had used a squeezy tube – but I just used a putty knife and did one row at a time – cleaning up any overspill as I went – it’s difficult to remove grout over porous brick veneer if you let it sit too long. I took my time – sat back and looked at the grout from afar – and listened to any “you missed a spot” comments – because you really need to know!
When the grout was dry – we painted out the raw wood where the trim had been with a latex paint colour matched to the brick. Who needs trim anyway. We also painted the triangular table top that the TV sits on in the same colour.
We enjoy our gas fireplace, and now my eyes aren’t distracted by the green tiles and uneven golden molding – and I enjoy turning up the heat when I’m watching Netflix for hours on end. We would have perhaps spent $4500 on a new fireplace that was just right – but we didn’t see one, and as it turns out or madeover fireplace is just right.
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