Fireplace Renovation

4 Materials
40 Hours

We recently purchased property in Virginia with a small farmhouse cottage (832 sq. ft.) as a vacation home for us. The home was built in the 1940's, while in good repair - needed lots of cosmetic updates. The tiny living room contained this very large brick fireplace that someone had mortared round river rocks on it. While the rocks are pretty, but we wanted to bring the fireplace back to brick - to update the room and gain space. We also soon found out that the rocks were unsafe, many of them were loose and falling off - as well as hiding places for bugs and spiders!

fireplace renovation

Since some of the rocks were falling off - it was easy to see that the brick underneath was in good shape. So we decided to remove the river rocks to reveal the brick.

fireplace renovation

After some research on the best methods to remove the rocks - we purchased a portable jack hammer. Then the long process of rock removal begin and since we were only at the cottage twice a month, it took several months to get them all off and haul them out the cottage.

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Some of the rocks, just fell off - while others had to be removed with the portable jack hammer.

fireplace renovation

There were areas on the brick where the mortar was really stuck on the brick. We had to use a chisel and hammer to remove most of that mortar - very time consuming but we knew it would be worth it in the end.

fireplace renovation

At the same time we were doing the rock removal, we knocked out the walls on both sides of the fireplace (after installing a support beam in the ceiling) to open up the space in our little cottage.

fireplace renovation

The process took months of work and hard labor.

fireplace renovation

Finally - the rocks were all removed and we could see our brick fireplace! We quickly realized that we gained about 6 inches of space on all three sides of the fireplace - what a huge gain for such a small room!

fireplace renovation

After cleaning the brick, I white-washed the brick to lighten up the room. I used chalk paint in white, off white, and gray colors. And painted the inside of the hearth black using heat - resistant paint.

fireplace renovation

We had a piece of walnut from our farm in northern NY that we wanted to use as a mantle. We will be adding gas logs to the hearth - but for now we just put an electric heater inside since the chimney is not clear to use.

fireplace renovation

We are so happy with our new fireplace - really makes a huge difference in updating our living room and with the large rocks and walls removed - the space is more open too.

fireplace renovation

We plan to make a fire pit on our property - similar to this with the river rocks we removed from the fireplace.

fireplace renovation

Here's another photo of the fireplace and the living room - all updated!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 12 questions
  • Carolina
    on Dec 20, 2018

    How did you find this beautiful cottage?

    I thought the riverrock fireplace was exceptional. Thanks for sharing the picture of the beautiful rock fireplace.

  • Jill Ian
    on Dec 29, 2018

    i am dying to do this! is there a difference between brick transformations white wash and what you used?

    • Cindy Hagemann
      on Dec 29, 2018

      This is what I usually do - layer with a very dry brush several light layers of paint to provide definition.

  • Crystal
    on Feb 19, 2019

    I have a painted brick fireplace. Would you know how I could get the paint off of the bricks?

    • Cindy Hagemann
      on Feb 19, 2019

      You can partially remove the paint with chemicals or a wire brush. I painted mine, not interested in removing the paint.

Join the conversation

2 of 177 comments
  • Giselle
    on Apr 26, 2019

    I’m not usually a brick fan but this turned out fantastic! I’m so glad you are going to reuse the rocks, they are beautiful (just not on your fireplace! Lol!). I plan on painting my fireplace and love the look of multiple colours over just one.

  • Marie
    on May 18, 2019

    Wonderful job! What a transformation.

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