Less Is More: How to Remove a Fireplace Surround

February 19, 2014   //  Posted in: Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  19 responses

Meet our new fireplace.

Our beautiful flagstone fireplace.

It’s a perfect example of how less can be more. Can’t recall what’s missing? Hint: Shiny gold.

Goodbye, gold fireplace covering.

That particular gold fireplace front looked out of place against the flagstone wall, and we’ve been thinking a lot about replacement options. We received concessions at closing to take care of chimney damage, and we deeply regret not getting around to making those improvements in the fall since it’s the coldest winter we can remember. The main holdup in planning repairs relates to whether we should keep it wood burning, or convert it to gas. We’re not 100% decided on this yet, though we agree that having a high-efficiency woodburning insert would be great considering we have a nearly infinite supply of wood from our own property.

In removing the insert, I was actually setting out to paint the heck out of the gold, even bought two cans of high-heat black matte spray paint with the intention of making due with the fireplace cover that we have until we’re ready to make a more permanent upgrade. It wasn’t until I had it off, that I realized that the new, fully revealed fireplace looked totally kick ass, so there’s no way it’s going back on now, even if it is upgraded to a pretty black finish.

Removing a fireplace cover like ours was actually a lot easier than I expected. Ours attached from within using a series of 4 clamps to lock it in place (one in each corner), and there were no unsightly screw holes or damage to the stone to speak of. Who knew? Not me. Obviously, or else I might have taken this gold feature to the curb last June.

Removing the gold fireplace cover.

Short of making sure that the sliding doors worked during our inspection, we haven’t spent any time playing with the fireplace. In fact, it was loaded with spiderwebs and pieces of insulation, a joyous adventure in dodging wispy webs.

After the clamps are loosened from within, the cover slides right off, like removing the picture frame from a beautiful painting.

Removing the gold fireplace cover.

It’s currently living in the basement; maybe there’s some demand on Craigslist for like-new fireplace covers in this large size. I’ll be exploring that, and maybe redeeming a little more $$$ to put towards the fireplace upgrades.

The fireplace, as it sat untouched by us for the last 8+ months, really just needed a good cleaning.

Preparing to clean out the newly visible fireplace.

We scooped out some residual ash, used the Shop Vac to suck up the micro-debris, and loosened grime on the iron grill with an old toothbrush.

Cleaned out fireplace.

We also upgraded the shiny gold log holder we had on the hearth; that thing is though, what we “upgraded” to is actually much older, possibly the original set that was used with the house. We found it in the basement, and its clean lines are decidedly perfect for (the future display of) wood in the main living space. It’s cool shape has a mid-century flair, and it looks a little bit like antlers, which may or may not be ironic since I picked up that cool metal deer on Fab.com in December. (Side note: Little deer friend was sold as an umbrella holder, but we like it as everyday decor. And we even popped a red nose on it around the holidays for Rudolph-effect.)

Out with the gold log holder, in with something clean and original to the mid-century home.

Now that I look back, the unobstructed stonework is a bit reminiscent of  the fireplace shown in our virtual tear sheet. Time to start thinking about adding a beautiful wooden mantle.

Staging the fireplace with several white birch logs is all I have in me right now, but I do love the simplicity of the look. We had another large white birch branch go down this winter, so I’ll be able to add a few heavier pieces when we chop it up this spring.

Goodbye, gold fireplace covering.

How many of you have let your fireplaces go au natural? Any positive or negative experiences with regards to having active fires and only a screen (not glass doors)?

  • Harper
    4 years ago - Reply

    Our recent home purchase also includes a fireplace with a sliding glass door and screen like the one you removed. I have the black high heat spray paint waiting to tackle it when the weather warms up and I can open the windows for ventilation. Have you found that there is any draft now that it is removed? I’ve always planned on leaving it to keep out some of the cold air during the winter.

    I grew up with a fireplace that was only covered by a screen and had no problems with sparking embers, etc. I think it would work well for your fireplace since it has the raised hearth which would keep the kids a bit further away.

    • Emily
      4 years ago -

      Great minds think alike! I was questioning whether or not it would be drafty before I removed the surround… there were little gaps in the glass doors all along, and when I opened the glass doors it never felt like cool air was coming in, or warm air being pulled out (but I think I’d be naive to think that it wasn’t happening a little bit, even with the flue closed). No complaints so far, the living room still feels just as warm. I’d love to see how yours look when sprayed black! I did think it would be a slick look.

  • Rachel
    4 years ago - Reply

    Looks a million times better!

  • casacaudill
    4 years ago - Reply

    So, I’m in love with that fireplace! I have this idea that we’ll someday end up with a mid-century modern house with a fireplace like that where I can also install a giant mantel from reclaimed barn wood.

    • Emily
      4 years ago -

      Thanks!! It was my favorite feature in the house when we found it. I could never paint it or cover it up!

  • h
    4 years ago - Reply

    Looks awesome.

    You probably know this already, but definitely make sure that wood is super dry and keep an eye on it for creepy crawlies – normally it’s not a big deal if firewood has a few bugs (and it always does) since they just get burned up, but since you’re not planning to burn those, could be an issue.

    • Emily
      4 years ago -

      Good tip! I’m not sure how long those logs have been in the house, but they already felt super dry when we moved in. I like the look, so I didn’t toss them into the backyard campfire. I think it’s high time we figure out an outdoor wood storage concept – somewhere to let the wood begin to dry and begin to rid itself of anything living within! (I did always wonder how designer homes that integrate a whole wall of logs for looks could be bug-free…)

  • Michele
    4 years ago - Reply

    I had that exact same insert and did just what you did–bought the black high heat spray paint but never used it and decided the opening looked better without anything on it. I tried selling my insert on Craigslist for $80, then $50, but never sold it till I got down to $20. I have gas logs so can’t speak to any problems with embers, although a screen should be fine to curtail them. My problem is worrying about insects or squirrels gaining access to the house through my old chimney (my fireplace was once wood burning), so I have to be sure my damper is tightly closed at all times. Other than that, you should be fine without an insert.

  • Frank
    4 years ago - Reply

    Hi Em! The fireplace looks excellent. I envy your slick gray stonework — our fireplace has a similar insert, but ours is kind of dirty-brushed-brass. And we have dark red bricks. We have little kids — any concern with losing the “barrier” (whether perceived or real) that an insert provides? Also – we have not used our fireplace in years; we don’t have a good spot to store wood, and I just don’t have the capacity to deal with all that. But we have super cheap electric where we live, and I’ve often thought of putting in an electric insert — some of them make a pretty convincing-looking fire, from what I’ve seen. Any thoughts on those!?

    • Emily
      4 years ago -

      I’ve never used an electric insert, but we have friends who have used them and love them. I think they’re great, and actually I think that Sherri has one and has spoken highly of it. No concerns (yet) about the loss of a barrier from an insulation standpoint, although I’ll probably be most concerned if someday we have an exposed fire blazing and sparks flying. Also, I worry a little about the soot messing up the front of the stones more than it already has from the previous owners. Any real fireplace I’ve sat in front of is pretty tame though, and flames and smoke go straight upwards with the flue, so… if we keep it “open concept” I guess we’ll just live and learn!

  • Stephanie
    4 years ago - Reply

    Your fireplace looks great!! It’s always nice to have a DIY project that ends up with fewer steps instead of more!
    We have a fireplace that sits flush with the floor (there’s about 18″ of a stone surround and then hardwood) and is open on both the front and one side. It only has a mesh screen, no glass, but we’ve had three winters worth of fires and so far haven’t had any kind of problem.

    • Emily
      4 years ago -

      Great to hear! That sounds pretty… open on the front and the side? I like the sound of that.

  • Chrissy
    4 years ago - Reply

    Looks so much better. We have a mid-century wood burning fireplace with great stonework. We didn’t want anything to take away from it so we were looking for the simplest (yet functional) screen. We chose a Minuteman screen w/ doors from woodlanddirect.com. It’s pretty pricey but I couldn’t find another one with such clean lines with doors. We didn’t want to bother with removing a hot screen since we use it frequently.

    • Emily
      4 years ago -

      Oooh, thanks for the link to that site! I see some pretty nice looking options already.

  • DC Camelia
    2 years ago - Reply

    We have the EXACT same brass cover on our fireplace, however, the former owners used it to cover an ARCHED brick opening, We’d much prefer the arch! The only difference is, the back of our cover has some ‘semi-pliable’ (?) putty type stuff behind it. I have no way of knowing what condition the brick is in behind it or if it will leave an obvious square mark once the cover is removed. Ant ideas or tips? Thanks!

    • Emily
      2 years ago -

      I bet the putty will come off – some of it would likely come off with the brass, and the rest I bet you could carefully use a putty knife to pry it away. I doubt it is as troubling as if they had used an oozy caulk. I’ll hope the best for you!

  • Deborah Mull
    12 months ago - Reply

    Thank you SOOOO much for this tip — I just removed our brass screen and never would’ve thought it was clamped on!

  • Gail
    5 months ago - Reply

    looks great as long as you don’t care about your heat going up your chimney. Fireplace doors keep warm air in your house. Open grates allow heat to escape up the chimney. Removing them will cause you heating bill to go up considerably.

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