DIY Faux Fireplace Build
Updated: Aug 31
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We bought our house in April 2020, and it needed some WORK! It was livable, but outdated and ugly! Luckily, I love DIY and working with my hands! An ugly house is like a blank canvas! My all-time FAVORITE DIY to date is our Faux Fireplace!
We came around to the idea of building a faux fireplace because I really wanted a wood-burning stove. However, there were many barriers to us installing a stove in our house. One being the cost, and the other being the small space. We needed something that would sit close to the wall, so as to not obstruct the walking path. A wood-burning stove would have had to sit out in almost the center of the room, which just is not an option in our tiny living room.
My husband thought I was crazy when I first suggested we build a fake fireplace! But (like everything else), he eventually came around to the idea! (It’s his favorite build too).
Sure, you can buy them online, but I found that they were all either too expensive or ugly. I wanted ours to look like it was both real and original to the house. I wanted to add character and a focal point in the living room.
I drew inspiration from over a dozen different DIYs I found online. But, like all good DIYs, it needed to be adapted to our specific space, materials we could source, and our style. If you’re looking for inspiration or instruction for your faux fireplace build, here’s how we did ours:
A pre-owned mantel
1 4x4 half-inch sheet of plywood
High gloss paint (in whatever color you choose to paint your mantel)
Miter saw OR another kind of saw you feel comfortable cutting 2x4s with
I started by sourcing our mantel. Again, I wanted the fireplace to look original to the house, so the mantle needed to be old. The best way to do this is to find one used. I found ours on Facebook Marketplace.
This particular mantel had been painted a dozen times with various colors, so I started by stripping down the paint. I used the stripper pictured in the photo, but I've since come around to citrus stripper. It's so much more effective!
I applied a thick layer of stripper and covered it with plastic. I let it sit for about an hour, and then came back and scraped off the paint. After I was satisfied with the amount of paint removed, I lightly sanded it down. I knew I wanted to repaint it later, so I was not worried about perfection.
Jordan, my husband, built a frame to fit the mantel as well as a box that would serve as the hearth. It was a very simple build, using 2x4s and some half-inch plywood. We recycled poplar wood from an old shed we tore down, and that served as the sides and top of the frame, as these would be the only pieces not covered up by either the mantel or brick.
He installed the frame into the wall behind the fireplace, drilling directly into studs in 6 places to ensure it was sturdy. We did not attach it to the wooden floor that it sits on, as we wanted to leave the option for future buyers to remove the fireplace if it was not to their taste.
I won’t give exact measurements here, as we built the frame to fit the mantel. Mantels vary in size, so if you replicate this project, you’ll need to build based on your mantel size. He built it so that an eclectic wood stove would sit perfectly in the insert. We got the measurements online. We also considered the size of the brick tile we wanted to use. I knew the size of the tile ahead of time, and Jordan built the hearth and mantle to be the width of one tile.
We attached the mantle to the frame with finishing nails so that the head of the nail would not be visible. I also came in later with wood filler and filled any holes or cracks before painting.
I chose to tile the inside and hearth of the fireplace with half-inch brick tiles. We purchased ours from Lowes.
To do this, I painted the plywood beforehand with a primer. This is to seal the wood and keep the wood from absorbing the water in the thinset, which would compromise its hold. I laid out my tile ahead of time, making cuts on my tile cutter as necessary.
I only made cuts on the short length of the tile with my tile cutter. To make a cut lengthwise would have required a tile saw, which I did not have at the time. I found that a tile cutter would not cut lengthwise on this particular tile. It would always break in the wrong direction.
Here is the tiler cutter I recommend.
After I had laid out my tile and knew it would all fit, I removed it, spread thinset, and reattached it. For my tile size, I used a trowel with 3⁄16 size notches to ensure a secure bond. When attaching the tile, be sure to scrape and hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle, up in one direction. When you press the tiles in place, this allows all the air to escape from beneath the tile.
For most tiling jobs, spacers should be used to ensure that the tiles are all evenly spaced. However, for a more natural brick look, I opted to just eyeball the spacing, which in my opinion, turned out great!
After 24 hours, the thinset is set. I came back in with grout. I used a dark gray grout, to again, create a more natural brick look. With most tiling jobs, you would use a grout float to press the grout into the spaces, and then use a wet sponge to wipe it away. However, because the brick tile is porous, it would absorb the grout which would change the color. I used a piping bag for this. I piped in the grout between the tiles, and then, by hand, gently smoothed out the grout, leaving a slight indentation, again to look natural.
Learn from my mistake, and wear gloves or use a tool when working with grout and thinset! Grout and thinset both contain small amounts of lye, which is harmful to the skin! A few hours after this project, my skin was so dry it started to flake off!
To finish off the fireplace, and make it look built-in, I used caulk very liberally to make the transition from wall to fireplace smooth. I used it anywhere else where two connection points could be smoothed out. Make sure the caulk is paintable.
After the caulk was dry, I painted everything (besides the brick) with a high gloss white paint. I opted for high gloss because a fireplace is typically touched more than other surfaces.
We have an outlet behind our fireplace, (which was an intentional design choice because we wanted to install an electric wood stove. I went an extra step, mixed up some craft paint, and very carefully disguised the outlet to blend in with the brick around it. I did this so that just in case we wanted to take the stove out and put something else there, like pillar candles, it would still look good.
The last thing we did was purchase this eclectic wood stove! It is a heater, and makes the whole thing feel real! It’s so so cozy in the wintertime! I turn on the flames every day just to have the feel of a real fire going!
I came back a few years later, and painted the mantle a dark brown (almost black), and WOW! I personally LOVE the dark, moody look!
Again, this is our favorite DIY to date! It gives the living room a focal point, adds a ton of character, and feels original to the house! It’s so cozy to decorate during the holidays with greenery and stockings! If you build your own DIY fireplace, please send pictures or comment below!