Blog Demo Design by Britt Douglas. Powered by Blogger.

How To Update A Stone Fireplace

by - Thursday, August 06, 2020

It's been a few weeks since we finished remodelling our basement for the One Room Challenge. I'm happy with all of the changes we made, but none moreso than our decision to update the fireplace. 

Our stone fireplace makeover happened over a few weeks and was documented on my weekly ORC posts, but I thought I'd create a single post with fireplace makeover ideas, share the step-by-step on how to update a 1970's stone fireplace, and tips on how to frame a fireplace.

update fireplace, how to update a fireplace, stone fireplace makeover, 1970's fireplace makeover

Ideas To Update A Fireplace

Having a fireplace in your home is certainly a treat. Nothing beats sitting in front of the living room fireplace on a chilly winter night with a cup of tea in your hand and warm throw on your lap. But what if you've got an ugly stone fireplace on your hands? What if you think your fireplace is an eyesore, dated, and doesn't fit in with the rest of your home?

Can you modernize a fireplace? How do you update a 1970's fireplace?

If your fireplace functions well, a fireplace makeover is an expensive way to get a whole new look. There are lots of ways to update a stone fireplace or update a brick fireplace. 

Things To Consider Before You Update Your Fireplace

Before you undertake drastic changes, you'll want to take a few initial steps:
  1. Assess the condition of your existing fireplace. Before you begin any renovation or updating, it is important to determine whether your fireplace is in good condition and safe to use. If you have any concerns about the structural integrity or the safety of your fireplace, consult a professional before proceeding with any updates.
  2. Consider your style preferences. Updating your fireplace can be a great opportunity to give it a new look and make it more in line with your personal style and your current living space. Decide on the overall aesthetic you want to achieve, whether it's a modern and sleek look or a rustic and cozy feel.

Style Ideas for Updating A Fireplace

Do you love the existing stone on your fireplace and just want to give it a more current style? An ugly fireplace makeover doesn't need to involve a top to bottom overhal. Perhaps giving it an over-grouted look is something you can do in a day following DIY instructions. Or maybe a simple painting of the brass accents is enough to make your fireplace feel fresh. Changing your fireplace decor is an easy update to consider as well.

Updating an old fireplace can be an expensive undertaking. Looking at Before and After fireplace photos and defining your budget beforehand can help you narrow down options.

If you're craving significant change, you can achieve that with a bit of imagination and DIY effort. Here are six ways to update an old fireplace:

1. Paint the stone or brick fireplace

This is a quick and easy budget-friendly option that can be done in an afternoon which makes it a good choice for older fireplaces that are in good condition. If the old brick or stone is chipped or breaking off, you can hide some of that damage by painting the fireplace stone.

Painting the stone or painting the mortar in between the stones is a look that is currently very popular. Before you embark on this project, ensure that you are using appropriate paint for fireplace stone. Latex paint or chalk based paint are best as they have great adhesion and coverage.

If you like the feel of stone but want to update it in some way, painting your stone fireplace is an option to consider. 

painting stone fireplace, paint fireplace stone, painted fireplace

Here's an example of how Krista at The Happy Housie painted her fireplace brick with a full-coverage paint job in classic white paint. She not only painted the red brick fireplace with latex paint, she also painted the old firebox (no longer used) with black high-heat resistant spray paint and added a new wood mantel. It was an instant update and the end result is completely transformed look!

Peel and Stick Paint Samples:

Picking just the right paint can be tricky so before you embark on this painted fireplace project - or any paint project - I highly suggest that you invest in peel and stick paint samples. These are really a revolutionary and useful product and the easiest way to pick paint!

hello paint sample, samplize paint sample

I like that these samples can adhere to most surfaces and will stick (temporarily) to drywall, tile, or brick. They are reusable and repositionable and you can keep them to use for future projects. 

Samplize (US company, carries Benjamin Moore, Farrow and Ball, Sherwin Williams, and PPG brands) and Hello Paint (Canadian company, carries Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams) are two sites that sell large format peel and stick paint samples. 

Peel and stick paint samples are definitely cheaper than buying multiple small cans of sample paint! See HERE for a quick video on how I used them in my office project.

2. Install a new mantel 

Another way to update your fireplace is to leave the brick intact but change the mantel. If your brick or tile is in good condition, you might be able to create a whole new look just by removing and replacing the mantel

You can achieve different looks with a mantel. Opt for a salvaged vintage wood mantle to add unique character. For a rustic look, consider topping your fireplace with a weathered beam shelf mantel.


Stuck with a mantel that doesn't suit your style? Take inspiration from this project where they've removed a wood mantel and replaced it with a DIY shaker style mantel. Checking In With Chelsea offers free plans on her website on how to build this DIY mantel.


3. Convert to a gas fireplace

Do you prefer less maintenance and an updated look? Converting your existing wood burning fireplace to a gas fireplace can give your fireplace a more modern feel, while heating up your room quicker and easier. 

Gas fireplaces are more efficient, require less cleanup, and easier to use than their wood burning counterparts. There are several methods to consider and different gas inserts to achieve the look you want.

4. Upgrade the insert

If your fireplace is not efficient or no longer working well, you can consider upgrading the insert. This will help to improve the performance of your fireplace, and can also make it safer and more energy-efficient. Additionally, newer inserts will have more modern and updated look.

5. Update the surround

One of the easiest and most impactful ways to update an old fireplace is to replace the surround. This can be done with new tile, stone, or other materials to give your fireplace a fresh new look.

Tiling or retiling a fireplace requires a few days effort, but it can dramatically change the look of your fireplace. The installation method used will depend on whether you are removing the old tile or placing the new tile directly on top. 


If you like the look of real stone or fireplace brick, consider masonry veneers. These lightweight, artificial stone products can update your fireplace while maintaining the warmth and texture of stone. You can achieve a smooth stone or faux brick look to your liking.

You can also retile the surround using ceramic, stone, porcelain, or glass tiles. Depending on the tile design, you can incorporate any style from traditional to modern, ornate to minimal. Laying fireplace tile is a project even a novice DIYer can do so don't be afraid to give it a try.

fireplace tile options

Shown above a few of the tile options we considered for our old fireplace. You can see more in this post

The tiles are from The Tile Shop. They offer a great selection of tiles from glazed to honed finishes, small to elongated tile sizes. Ultimately we went with the Retro Perla Ceramic Subway Tile in 3"x12" which has more of a handcrafted look.

6. Update the hearth

The hearth is the area around the fireplace that sits on the floor. Like the surround, it can be updated with new tile, stone, or other materials as well. The is is a budget-friendly way to get a new look as you won't require a lot of material for the job.

You can use the same materials for the surround and the hearth but it is not absolutely necessary. Another option is to use materials in the same colour family or same material type, but use them in different sizes. For instance, use a grey marble mosaic on the surround and a marble slab on the hearth.

7. Reface or resurface the fireplace

Cladding the fireplace in a new material, such as pine boards, MDF, or a granite slab, can bring new life and change the shape of bulky stone fireplaces. This is a more labour intensive change but if you want to entirely eliminate any visual remnants of an old, dated fireplace, you might consider completely refacing it.

8. Update the accessories

Once the fireplace has been updated, a final change you can make is adding accessories. Adding a fireplace toolset or screen will help it to look polished and complete. You can enhance the look further by hanging artwork or a mirror above and adding items onto the mantel such as candlesticks, decor items, or plants.

Our 1970's Stone Fireplace Update

    In our situation, there was no way to retain the materials and shape of our 1970's stone fireplace when what we craved was a clean-lined, modern coastal look. We were not fans of this ugly fireplace with its multi-coloured, almost "fake" looking stone and how the fireplace appeared recessed into the wall with a large hearth. I love stone fireplaces in the right context but this updated, modern basement was not the right fit.

    Our desire was to have a fireplace that was more of a focal point in the room and was contemporary and fresh in it's style. We decided to proceed with making several changes and updated the surround and hearth, resurfaced our fireplace using shiplap, and adding new accessories.

    home improvement planner, renovation planner, remodel planner, printable renovation budget

    How To Frame Around An Old Fireplace

    Our floor to ceiling fireplace makeover involved updating every surface, from the stone, to the hearth, surround, and gas insert. I recognize this complete transformation might not be to everyone's taste, but we were able to get an entirely new look without having to rip out the old fireplace. 

    We don't shy away from DIY projects and I'd consider this one as an intermediate level project. Here's the step by step instructions we followed for our DIY fireplace makeover and how to frame around a fireplace:

    Step 1: Consult With The Professionals

    Before any fireplace remodel, you'll want to ensure your fireplace is in good working order. We considered getting a new gas insert but it was surprisingly difficult to find one that fit this small firebox. The insert was in good working condition and could be updated with a new coat of high heat paint, so we decided to work with it.

    Our fireplace hadn't been serviced in quite some time so the first step was to call in a fireplace technician to clean and service the unit. The technician also confirmed that we could safely move the unit forward 2", so that it would sit in front of the new tile surround. 

    As you'll see, we also had a licensed electrician bring in power to within the fireplace framing, for the insert plug and for a new TV which would hang above the fireplace. Bring in the professionals before proceeding with any structural changes.

    update fireplace, how to update a stone fireplace, stone fireplace makeover, 1970's fireplace makeover

    Step 2: Construct The Fireplace Framing

    Our new fireplace design involved building a new frame in front of the old stone fireplace. We felt new fireplace framing would be much easier than attempting to remove the old stone, or trying to mortar the old stone and create a new level surface. The three stone shelves were easily knocked off with a hammer and new wood framing around the fireplace was built using 2"x3" studs from The Home Depot.

    update fireplace, how to update a stone fireplace, stone fireplace makeover, 1970's fireplace makeover

    The fireplace framing sat flush against the face of the stone, and extended two inches beyond the left and right sides of the stone. Proportionally, this would look good against the planned tile surround and gas insert frame. We decided we keep the fireplace simple and would not have a mantel.

    Step 3: Create A Chase for Cables

    As we planned to have a TV above the fireplace, we used this opportunity to build in a way to hide the TV cable wires. You definitely want to anticipate any needs like this upfront so that you end up with a clean look at the end.

    Using plumbing pipes, we created a chase from the middle of the center stud down to the bottom right corner of the fireplace. The plan was to have the cables come out at that location and then feed them down to a media cabinet on the right side of the fireplace. The media cabinet would hold our cable box.

    tv cable wiring above fireplace, hiding tv cable wires, tv above fireplace

    tv wiring fireplace, hiding tv wires, tv above fireplace

    To feed the cables through the chase, we came up with this solution. We fed a long piece of floral wire with a jingle bell on the end through the chase. We kept some extra wire at the top entry point, and wrapped it around the stud to hold it in place. 

    Once the TV was installed, we would wrap that top end of the floral wire around the TV cables and pull them through the chase, without worrying they would get stuck inside. The openings of the chase would be covered with electrical brush plates to allow the cables to move freely.

    Step 4: Install The Substrates

    update fireplace, how to update a stone fireplace, stone fireplace makeover, 1970's fireplace makeover

    This fireplace design required two substrates, or layers of material sitting beneath other materials. The first was the plywood substrate to support the TV. Having this backing in the general vicinity of the TV would make installation of the TV easier than trying to secure the TV to individual studs.

    The second substrate was the cement backerboard for the tile. The building code requires that you have non-combustible material within the first 6" from the fireplace face. We cut the cement board to fit the surround area and to within 3" of the insert. The gap between the cement board and insert would be covered by the gas insert cover.

    Step 5: Install The Cladding

    With everything in place - electrical, wire chase, substrates - we could then close up the structure and add the cladding on top of the framing. 

    update fireplace, how to update a stone fireplace, stone fireplace makeover, 1970's fireplace makeover

    For the cladding, we chose to wrap the entire fireplace in shiplap that we had leftover from our craft room renovation. At 11 1/2" wide, the shiplap would bring a modern and crisp look to the fireplace. 

    We started with a first full piece lined up along the top of the surround and working our way upwards to the ceiling and downwards to the hearth from there. The left and right edges were mitred to ensure a clean wraparound on the sides. 

    Step 6: Paint The Shiplap

    After install, we filled any gaps with Dap DryDex and painted the shiplap in Benjamin Moore Simply White, to match the rest of the basement.

    fireplace update, painted hearth, old fireplace makeover

    Step 7: Install And Grout The Tile

    Tile installation came next. We used Retro Perla, a glazed ceramic tile with an irregular edge. The organic, natural feel of the tiles contrasted nicely against the clean lines of the shiplap.

    fireplace update, painted hearth, old fireplace makeover

    fireplace update, snow white polyblend grout, old fireplace makeover

    We paired the warm grey tile with sanded grout in Snow White by Polyblend. It provided a subtle contrast that wasn't too stark and bright.

    Step 8: Paint The Hearth

    Next step was to paint the hearth. I wanted to use paint I already had on hand and swatched many different colours. I ended up selecting a colour that was close to the original concrete hearth. The small tester sample was more than enough to paint the hearth. I applied it with a foam roller brush to ensure good coverage and even application.

    fireplace update, snow white polyblend grout, old fireplace makeover

    Step 9: Finishing Touches

    This fireplace makeover wouldn't be complete without a few final touches. 
    • We added baseboard beneath the hearth, to hide the original stone base. The baseboard was cut down to size and painted in Simply White as well. 
    • We spraypainted the gas insert frame with high heat paint in matte black
    • We added a stained wood wrap. Because of the new framing, the tile surround sat recessed and we needed to cover the transition between the tile and shiplap. A simple wood wrap added warmth and tied in the other wood elements around the room.

    Step 10: Hang The TV

    The last and final step was to mount the TV. Surprisingly, we were able to secure the small cable box behind the TV using velcro straps; we didn't need to use the cable chase after all! We've kept the floral wire and jingle bell in place though, just in case we need that functionality in future.

    fireplace update, stone fireplace update, old fireplace makeover

    It took some time and a lot of steps, but we're thrilled with our updated fireplace! This beautiful fireplace has made a huge difference in our enjoyment of the basement.

    One more fireplace Before and After and you'll see how we took this from dark and dated, to bright and fresh.

    update stone fireplace, fireplace before and after
    update fireplace, how to update a stone fireplace, stone fireplace makeover, 1970's fireplace makeover

    See more of this basement transformation here.

    You May Also Like