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How to Frame a Fireplace

Paul has been upgrading his home for the past five years. This labor of love has proved to him that learning is a lifelong journey.

My DIY Fireplace Surround

My DIY Fireplace Surround

How to Frame a Fireplace

Everyone loves the idea of having a fireplace to add ambiance and warmth to their home. A fireplace will add value and appeal to your home when you decide to sell one day, but more importantly, you get to enjoy the benefit of a warm, inviting room every day of the year.

There are two main areas to consider when installing a fireplace. The location and position of the fireplace will determine what kind of frame designs are possible. Budget will also come into play. The two main costs will be the purchase of the fireplace (including related installation costs) and the fireplace mantel and surround. You can either hire someone to frame in the new fireplace and build the mantel and surround for you, or you can save a tidy sum of cash by doing it yourself. The latter also allows for your inner creative self to plan and build something unique. The following steps will illustrate how to frame and finish a fireplace surround and mantel. Included at the end of this article is a list of tools and materials required for this project.

Building the Fireplace Base

Building the Fireplace Base

How to Frame a Fireplace: Building the Base

Once you have picked out the desired model of fireplace, the supplier can provide you with the minimum size measurements. Depending on the model and placement, the base size can vary greatly. Besides width and depth, height must also be taken into account. There must be enough clearance from the top of the fireplace to allow the vent channels to be installed. The clearances are all part of designated building codes for your area. Always ensure you are following building codes for safety and insurance reasons. If you purchased the fireplace through a local supplier, they will provide you with all pertinent information.

The base must be installed prior to the fireplace being installed. For my fireplace, I chose a corner placement. In this case, the base looked like a right-angle triangle. The base is constructed of 2" x 3" spruce studs, which are measured and cut to form rectangular walls 7.5" in height. The additional plywood cover sheet brings the total height to 8" off the ground. The base is secured to the concrete floor with a Concrete Nail gun. The studs and plywood are all fastened together with deck screws. You can be creative in your design too.

For the bottom half of my fireplace, I have chosen to build a rounded edge to the walls, so my base is angled into the wall for the last 6". Once the base is completed, you are ready to have the fireplace installed. All studs in the entire frame are secured together using deck screws.

Build the Base: Fireplace Installed

Build the Base: Fireplace Installed

How to Frame the Lower Section of the Fireplace

I split my frame into three sections. The base is first by necessity, next I frame the lower half of the fireplace surround up to the height of the mantel. The framing consists of constructing rectangles out of the 2" x 3" spruce studs. Again it's important to note the height of the mantel in your design. The top of the lower frame will be used as the support base for the mantel. The top of the fireplace unit has some metal flanges which provide the minimum clearance gap required between the framing and the fireplace unit.

Build one side of the frame and then secure it to the base. Then assemble the other side of the frame and secure it to the base as well. Join both sides together with an adjoining stud secured over top. Again this is where the mantel will be attached.

Building the Left and Right Side Lower Sections With Adjoining Stud Over Top

Building the Left and Right Side Lower Sections With Adjoining Stud Over Top

How to Frame the Top Section of the Fireplace

You need to carefully measure the height to the ceiling from the top of the lower frame section. You will need to build the upper frame about a half-inch shorter. The framing is built in the same manner as the lower section and base. Measure and cut 2" x 3" spruce studs and fasten into rectangles of desired height.

Just like the lower section, the upper surround is also built in two sections. First, the left section is built and then the right side is completed. The two sides are separate in design to fit around the venting.

Building the Left Frame: Building Rectangles out of 2" x 4" Studs

Building the Left Frame: Building Rectangles out of 2" x 4" Studs

Building the Cubby Holes for the Fireplace

For my design, I chose to build in two cubby holes. For the cubby holes, build duplicate rectangles and then secure together with more spruce studs. I am using maple board that is 8" deep for the base of the cubby holes. That depth will determine the length of stud pieces used to fasten together the front and back frames of the cubby holes.

The cubby hole sizes are different as required by the venting. Just like the framing, the left side cubby hole is built first and then the right side cubby hole is built.

Completed Framing of Fireplace

Once the upper sections are completed, secure another spruce stud to the back of the lower section top stud and provide a support base for the upper section. Lift the top section onto the lower section support base and secure. Use a level to monitor the vertical to be perpendicular to the floor and secure the top of the frame to the ceiling.

Secure Upper Frame Left and Right Sections - Complete

Secure Upper Frame Left and Right Sections - Complete

How to Build the Mantel

The mantel is constructed of a 2" x 4" spruce frame covered with maple planks and trim. Maple is used to allow for a darker stain. Build the frame to a suitable size. In this case, I have angled the mantel into the wall. Secure the maple to the bottom of the mantel stud frame. Then secure the maple to the top of the lower fireplace frame section. Add additional screws to secure the mantel 2" x 4" frame to the base as well. Now add the top and front mantel planks and finish off with maple trim. Leave the staining for the very end. Once the stone is adhered to the drywall, sealed and grouted, you can stain the mantel.

Maple Fireplace Mantel Completed

Maple Fireplace Mantel Completed

How to Cover the Fireplace Surround (Curved Surface)

Now that the frame is up, you need to cover it with drywall. Check with the Fireplace specs on the type of drywall to be used. Fire code rated drywall or cement board may be required in certain areas. Before applying the drywall, stonework, and grout, cover the fireplace surface completely. I used painters tape and clear plastic sheathing. For the lower half of the surround, the surface is curved. Simply score the drywall vertically every six inches. This will allow you to break the surface and mount to the frame in a curved fashion.

Covering the Lower Fireplace Surround for Curved Appearance

Covering the Lower Fireplace Surround for Curved Appearance

How to Cover Flat Surface of Fireplace Surround

The upper section of the fireplace is flat surfaced. Measure, cut, and secure the drywall to complete the cover. Cover all the seams with drywall fiber tape and a thin coat of drywall compound.

Fireplace Surround Drywall Installed

Fireplace Surround Drywall Installed

How to Complete the Fireplace: Installing the Stone Work

Once all the drywall is installed, you are ready to adhere the desired stone to the fireplace. You can use border trims to keep the corners clean. install the border trims first, then continue with the stone. A wet saw is a must when working with real stone. It's easiest to use pre-mixed mortar as long as the stone is not heavy. The stone I used for this fireplace is thin and comes in a square mesh so is easily secured with premixed mortar.

When the stonework is completed, you must apply a stone sealant to all stone surfaces. The stone must be sealed before applying the grout to prevent the grout from staining the stone. After the stone has been sealed, you then apply the grout. Again you can use premixed grout as it is easier to work with.

Once the grout has been applied, seal the entire stone and grout surface one more time. Now you can stain the mantel and your fireplace is complete.

Stonework Completed

Stonework Completed

Tool and Material Required to Frame a Fireplace

The following list of tools is what I used to frame the fireplace and build the surround and mantel.

Power Tools

  • Radial Adjustable Mitre saw
  • Power Drill
  • Jig Saw
  • Wet saw

Hand Tools

  • Hammer
  • Screwdrivers
  • Nail Punch
  • Level
  • Straight Edge
  • Utility Knife
  • Adjustable Square
  • Putty knives
  • Grout tools
  • Concrete Nail hammer

Materials

  • 2" x 3" x 8' Spruce studs - 12 Frame and Base
  • 3/4" x 4" x 8' Maple - 1 Mantel
  • 3/4" x 8" x 8' Maple - 2 Mantel
  • 3/8" x 4' x 8' drywall - 2 Surround
  • 1/2 " x 4' x 8' Spruce plywood - 1 Base
  • Drywall tape
  • Drywall Screws
  • Premixed Drywall Compound
  • Grout - Colored
  • Premixed Mortar
  • Stone
  • Desk Screw
  • Drywall Screws
  • Finishing nails
Warm and Inviting: Fireplace Surround Is Complete

Warm and Inviting: Fireplace Surround Is Complete

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Paul Cronin