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How do I Build a Fireplace?

By Simone Lawson
Updated May 16, 2024
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The process of building a fireplace can vary considerably, depending on the type of fireplace you want to build. Many homeowners choose fireplace kits, which make it relatively simple to build a fireplace. If you are building a fireplace from scratch, the process is much more complicated. In either case, you'll need to do some pre-construction planning, such as measuring the location and creating the design. Construction steps include purchasing a kit, if required, or other building materials, as well as determining what materials you'll need for the chimney installation. Installing a fireplace requires careful consideration, the proper tools and materials, as well as a clear blue print design.

Before taking any steps toward construction, it is best to create your design around the location of the fireplace. Try creating a rough sketch of the design and picture how the fireplace will fit into the room. Take careful measurements in the room where the fireplace will be installed to confirm there is an adequate amount of space to build a fireplace. It may be beneficial to contact local permit offices before beginning construction to determine if a permit is required to build a fireplace in an existing structure.

Building a fireplace from scratch is a complicated project, and it may be best to consult an expert for assistance. A fireplace has an outer shell, usually made of brick or masonry, and an inner, fireproof shell that holds the firebox. You'll also need to build a foundation to support the fireplace, as well as foundation walls and an ash pit.

Fireplaces have an inner and outer hearth, each of which must also be constructed. Each hearth provides protection from the fire for the surrounding area, and must be made without defect. The bottom of the firebox is formed by the inner hearth, while the outer protects the floor in front of the fireplace. In addition to the firebox, the inner shell of a fireplace includes the flue lining and smoke chamber. These parts must be of a specific size and dimensions, or the fireplace will not operate properly.

The outer shell of the fireplace is usually made of brick or masonry, although other materials may be used. A lintel must be installed across the fireplace opening to support the masonry. It will also be necessary to build the throat, smoke chamber, and smoke shelf. The flue, which allows air in and smoke out, connects to the smoke chamber. A damper must be installed to help control the draft.

Building an entire fireplace yourself is a complicated task that requires many skills, so many homeowners choose to purchase a fireplace installation kit instead. Kits range in size and variety, so the purchase will mainly be determined by aesthetic preference and space availability. For safety reasons, it is best to choose a fireplace installation kit that is in compliance with local fire code regulations.

In order to build a fireplace with a brick chimney, a fair amount of time and money is generally required, and the process typically requires consultation with a professional contractor. Most homeowner-installed fireplaces are freestanding, direct-vent gas models. Freestanding units are usually installed with a separate ventilation pipe for extracting fumes, creating a wide range of possibilities for location while simplifying the installation process.

The freestanding kit typically consists of the fireplace unit, burners, vent pipes and fitting accessories. The kit may also contain louvers and doors that match the design of the unit; if this is not included, these items are fairly easy to purchase separately. The mantle is typically purchased separately from the kits as this allows for more opportunity to match existing home decor and design.

It is important to thoroughly follow the instructions that accompany the kit to avoid serious injury or potential fire hazards. Once the fireplace has been built in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, the next step is to connect the gas line. It is possible to purchase units fueled by bottled gas, but for a more authentic looking fireplace, most prefer a unit that is connected to a direct line. The unit may be attached to an existing gas line or a new line may be installed; in either case, connections are safest when performed by professionals.

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Discussion Comments
By BrainyGoat — On Dec 09, 2013
After evaluating the effort and cost to build a fireplace on my own, I think I'm going to talk to a local contractor to see how much it would cost to have one professionally installed. Now I just need to decide if I'd prefer stone, brick, or something else entirely.

Is there anyone out there who's installed a fireplace to warm up a finished basement area? If so, what base materials did you go with, and why? I'd like to keep the cost affordable, but still end up with something that's aesthetically pleasing.

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