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DIY brick fireplace

Supplies

* If you are intending on using your fireplace as a primary heat source, please be sure to do your own research on safety measures you need to take to prevent house fires.

Helpful tools

Finding measurements

The first step of our project was to figure out measurements, which was the most challenging part of the entire project. We did it in tandem with purchasing materials as we figured things out. We purchased the insert first and planned everything around that to ensure a perfect fit. Your dimensions will likely be slightly different to fit your space and specific insert, but this is the breakdown of what we did.

  • The overall structure is 48” wide x 96” high x 15” deep. We determined the width by how many bricks fit across without having to make cuts. The height was determined by our ceiling height, and the depth was determined by the depth of the fireplace and the width of two and a half bricks.

  • The fireplace insert is about 32″ wide x 25 high x 9 deep. We placed it 12” off the ground because we wanted to prioritize being able to see the fire from our bed.

  • The mantle is 54” from the ground. It is 41” wide x 2.5” high x 5” deep. We followed this tutorial to make a hollow mantle.

It’s important to know how to safely install the insert. Most electric fireplaces require:

  • 3/8″ from the top of the firebox to a combustible or non-combustible material;

  • 2″ from the top of the insert frame to a mantel board above it;

  • 1″ from the back and sides of the insert to the walls around it;

  • no minimum clearance to the floor.

For more information, read this article by Modern Blaze.

Framing

To frame the fireplace, we put up framing wood on each corner as well as on the top and base. We framed a section in the middle to hold the fireplace up and added a beam in the middle so we would have something to easily and securely hang the mantle on. The pieces on the short side are there for additional support.

Remember to account for the width of your drywall when you’re framing! It will add about an inch on to the structure.

Drywall

Normally drywalling can be a pretty tedious job, but it went pretty quickly for the fireplace!

Because it will be entirely covered with bricks, we just roughly covered the seams with tape and mud, did a light sanding and primed it.

Brick

The brick is where this all comes to life! We mixed our mortar with our drill attachment to be a peanut butter consistency. You want it to be spreadable, but not so wet that it slides off your brick when you stick it to the wall. We started with the corners to help make sure everything was level. We used our angle grinder for the more intricate cuts around the mantle, and we used the carbide scoring knife to manually cut the bricks. I used a kitchen spatula to spread the mortar on each brick, and found that it worked best to have slightly more mortar in the center than the edges. It took a little bit of trial and error, but you’ll get the hang of how much you need eventually! And don’t worry about any mortar that squishes out of the sides. It’ll be covered by grout in the end!

The tile spacers we initially purchased from the store were not deep enough to stay in place. This job would not be possible without spacers, and we were in a pinch so we cut down scrap wood to 3/8in. They ended up working really well! We nailed up a piece of wood at the top of the fireplace opening for those bricks to rest on something. We also had to do some extra large spacers for our mantle because we weren’t ready to hang it when we started installing the brick.

If you’re doing this project, I would recommend installing the mantle before installing the brick, and taping it off to protect it from any overflow mortar or dripping grout.

We waited 24 hours after getting all the bricks up to let the mortar dry before moving on to grout. To get your grout in the cracks you need a grout bag. It’s like a heavy duty pastry bag and it’s pretty intuitive to use. I found that it was easier to use when our grout was less stiff than the mortar. I would compare the consistency that worked best for us to buttercream icing. I also learned pretty quickly that I shouldn’t try to fill the bag up as much as I could. It’s heavy and my hands are only able to hold so much! Doing about 2 cups at a time and refilling often was the quickest and most comfortable way to do the job.

I liked working in small sections of piping the grout, and then waiting a few minutes for it to start setting before going back with the brick jointer to really make sure the grout was sticking in place. Then I brushed over it with my fingers. Sanded grout is pretty unpleasant on your fingers (it kind of feels like rubbing your fingers over sand paper) but it really was the best tool for the job. I tried to rotate my fingers often to alleviate the irritation and take a lot of breaks to clean my hands and put on lotion.

For grouting along the edges the meet the walls, we carefully piped the grout in, rubbed it in with our fingers and then immediately cleaned off the surrounding surfaces with a sponge. For grouting along the mantle, we taped it off and removed the tape before the grout dried. The grout takes around an hour to be hard enough to not be able to fix and mistakes, and about an entire day to completely dry. Protecting your floors with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting is a good idea because any grout or mortar that dries can be an issue to clean up later.

Cost breakdown

The cost breakdown for this project came in right under $1,000. We had the drywall screws, tape, mud and primer on hand, so our cost breakdown ended up being: 

  • Wood — $21

  • Sheetrock — $20

  • Bricks — $522

  • Mortar — $15

  • Grout — $39

  • Insert — $320

    Total: $937

This entire project took us three weekends of working on it and we are so happy with the cozy vintage charm it adds to our new construction home!

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