DIY: How to Frame and Build an Electric Fireplace

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Even before we even moved into our current home, my husband already knew he wanted to build a fireplace in our living room. The living and dining area was an open space, so the fireplace would add some separation while creating a nice focal point. I guess I take it for granted that my husband works in construction because I never had to worry about the “how” whenever we came up with cool ideas for the house.

At that time, I had absolutely zero clue what went into building a fireplace, or even how to create a bump out. So it was definitely an interesting experience seeing it get built from the ground up.

BEFORE

This is what our wall looked like before, just a normal boring plain wall.

AFTER

And this is what it looks like now…

Surprisingly, now that I’ve seen first hand how to build an electric fireplace from the ground up, it’s actually not as complicated as I thought it would be!

If you’re up for a little DIY, here are the step by step directions.

#1: Pick your fireplace location and the size

Where on your wall do you want to build your fireplace? Do you want it centered or off to the side? How wide do you want the fireplace bump out to be? If you have a specific fireplace insert size in mind, you can work backwards and determine the bump out size based on the amount of spacing you want around it.

If you look closely at the pic below, you can see that we actually sketched out on the walls where we wanted the fireplace.

Also, if you’re planning on using large format wall tiles, you might want to plan your bump out size around the size of your tiles so you’re not left with any awkward sizes. We used 12″x24” tiles, so we made our bump out 4’ wide so it would hold two pieces evenly.

#2: Select a fireplace insert

This is the fun part, you get to go shopping and find your dream fireplace! We had our heart set on an electric fireplace from the beginning since it’s easier to install and there are plenty of options. You can technically use a gas fireplace too, but it requires a lot more work with hooking up a gas connection.

#3: Gather all your measurements

Check your fireplace insert specs for measurements for the opening, along with other requirements such as power (gas connection size and duct size if you’re going with gas), etc.

#4: Decide fireplace mounting location

Decide where you want to mount the fireplace. I’m a visual person, so it always helps to actually see exactly where the fireplace is going to make sure I’m 100% happy with the placement. If the fireplace isn’t too big or heavy, you can try holding it up against the wall at different heights to see what location you like the most.

#5: Framing

Once you have all the measurements, you can start framing. You can frame with either metal or wood studs. We opted for metal studs.

 

#6: Rough-Ins

For an electric fireplace, all you would need is to rough in is a new electrical outlet. A gas fireplace would require a new gas line and flue/exhaust. Once you finish your rough-in, install the fireplace in the rough opening and connect it to the electric receptacle or gas line/ductwork.

We added a lot of new electrical between the fireplace and the built-in, look at all the holes!

#7: Testing & Inspection

Before closing in your fireplace, double check that all your connections are secure. Test it to make sure everything is working properly.

#8: Close-in

Now you’re ready to close in your fireplace! If you’re planning on wrapping it with tile, we recommend that you use Durock, a moisture and mold resistant cement board, and drywall if all you’re planning to do is paint the fireplace.

#9: Installing Tile

Prior to tile installation, make sure you’ve decided how you want to lay your tile! Do you want it stacked, in a running bond, diagonal, or herringbone pattern? The possibilities are endless.

Once you’ve decided on your layout, install the tile. If you’re using large format tile like we did, we’d recommend using thinset, a cement based mortar which is stronger and dries quicker than acrylic tile adhesive. We actually started out using acrylic tile adhesive, which didn’t dry fast enough, causing the heavy large tile to slide. So we ended up having to redo all of it. We propped the tile up while it was drying to make sure it dried in place.

Once your tile is fully dry, grout and then clean afterwards. You can also add an optional mantel, which we thought about, but decided not to since we really like the clean look.

Voila, now you have a brand new statement-making fireplace to add a nice ambiance to your room!

If you try this tutorial, we’d love to hear know how it went!


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