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Covering a fireplace

We’ve already looked at removing a fireplace in our earlier article on the subject, which you can read here. So what to do with the gaping hole in the chimney breast?

You have two basic courses of action open to you. But before we get on to deal with those, first of all you’ll need to tidy up the floor where the superimposed hearth used to be!

Levelling the floor

This is pretty simple if you’ve got a solid floor or if you’re planning to carpet over a boarded floor. Just build up the constructional hearth to the same level as the rest of the floor, using self-levelling screed or mortar. Easy as that!

If you’ve got floorboards and you’re planning to make a feature of them, you’ll have a bit more work on your hands. Using a hammer and cold chisel, cut back the constructional hearth to where the floor meets the chimney breast, so that you can install a new joist and floorboards.

Covering the fireplace

As noted above, you’ve got two basic courses of action. You can cover the opening with a panel on a wooden frame, which will be easier to remove if you ever decide to fit a fireplace again in the future; or you can brick up the opening.

To cover the hole with a panel, you’ll first need to fit battens inside the opening – 50mm x 50mm (2″x2″) should do the job. They’ll need to be set back inside the opening to the depth of the panel, so that the panel lies flush with the plaster on the chimney breast. (Set it back a fraction further – say, 3mm or ⅛” – if you’re planning to add a skim of plaster rather than papering over it.) Then cut a piece of plasterboard to size and nail it to the opening – ivory side out if you’re papering over, grey side out if you’re plastering. Finally, when you’ve decorated, fit a plastic ventilator above the skirting, to prevent condensation in the chimney.

If you’re planning the more permanent bricking-up, then you’ll need to take out bricks from alternate courses, enabling you to “tooth in” the brickwork. You’ll also need to fit an airbrick in the centre of the hole, just above the skirting, to stop condensation forming. Plaster over the brickwork and allow it to dry thoroughly before decorating.

The final touch is to take off the old skirting from either side of the old fireplace, and replace the two pieces with a single one running the full width of the chimney breast.

Capping the chimney

Actually, that’s not quite the final touch! You’ll need to have the chimney capped too, so that air can circulate without rain being allowed in. There are plenty of cowls or caps designed for the purpose that can be used to replace the conventional chimney pot, or you can simply bed a half-round ridge tile in cement.

4 Responses to “Covering a fireplace”

  1. Andrew

    Thanks – useful. But there’s a another alternative: clean out, plaster and use the fireplace as extra storage space e.g. for DVD player and satellite decoder – we want to mount our flat screen TV on the wall above. How do you keep the chimney ventilated in that scenario?

  2. HouseWiz

    Hi, Andrew, and thanks for your question.

    As you imply, you’re still going to need to ventilate the chimney one way or another.

    The least obtrusive way of doing it would be to install a grille in the plasterboard you use to cover the chimney aperture – but then of course you’re likely to get dust, grit and who knows what else falling onto your valuable electronics. So that’s out.

    So It seems to me that you’re going to have to chop out a brick from the chimney somewhere and cover the aperture with a grille (either a straightforward face-mounted one, or one that’s designed to be plastered in).

    Where you do that is of course up to you and your specific circumstances. The best place to conceal it might be on the wall facing into the middle of the room, where the flat screen TV will hide it – which will also help keep the screen cooler, so there’s an extra benefit. Otherwise, I’d suggest somewhere on the side wall of the chimney where it’s less likely to be seen.

  3. joanne

    Hi, I have a 1963 tiled ugly fireplace. I want to take out the whole surround, then cover up, paint and skirt, to add more space, plus I have carpet coming in a few weeks.
    I have taken out the top/wall part of the surround, it was indeed attached by metal lugs and the whole thing was reinforced concrete and extremely heavy ! I am yet to try and do the bottom/hearth part this weekend. What I want to know is ; What do I re cover the brick chimney breast with once it’s all done, is it cement straight onto the bricks and then a layer of plaster or just plaster ???
    Please help.

  4. Adam Field

    Hi

    I’m covering my fireplace with the batten and plasterboard method but the inside of my fireplace is slanted like this:

    ____________
    / \
    / \
    ___/ \________

    How can I make my battens flush with the wall inside the chimney but also provide a flat surface to mount my plasterboard on.

    I think a plane might do the trick but I’d appreciate a second opinion.

    Thanks

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