This project started as an idea in my mind, how can I change the free electric fireplace that came with the Florida home we bought. You can see the original fireplace in real estate listing pictures from earlier this year. All summer I was indifferent to the idea of a fireplace in Florida with 90+ degree days. I had kept the electric fireplace in another room thinking I would sell it.
But when I came back in November it was freezing cold and I thought how nice it would be to have a fireplace as a source of heat. I love fireplaces as a focal point in living and family rooms, and I’ve always had the idea in my mind to build a floor-to-ceiling electric fireplace in the living room of this house. Instead I decided to remodel the one I have on site. Is it possible? Can I give it a fresher look, that complements the style of the house? What do I have to lose? I’m happy to report my experiment was a success!
The fireplace looks very different from when I started. It has a modern smooth textured finish with clean lines painted the same neutral white as the walls. I have to give it a complete makeover which is not a simple task!
The one below is the one I started with, you can see this is one of the basic pieces that can be bought online, but sadly the style doesn’t suit my beach-meets-modern aesthetic. I don’t like the traditional trim, the thin, routed legs, or the glass and stone tile surfaces. I wanted something a lot simpler, modern, and contemporary, something that would recede into the background and look like it belonged.
I haven’t had a miter saw in Florida yet. I only have one in California, so if I’m going to tackle this project, it will have to be done with basic tools, simple supplies, and help from the woodcutting department at Lowe’s.
I started by deconstructing the fireplace and taking it apart. I have to understand how it’s put together if I’m going to remove some of the pieces and still have a working structure. It turned out to be a hollow MDF frame held together by cotter pins, screws and cam bolts.
It was a cheap construction but quite a structure to work with. I started removing the decorative trim I didn’t want which had to be done carefully so as not to damage the frame I wanted to keep.
Next I carefully removed the tiles on the glass and stone front. It glued pretty well so I’m lucky I remembered to wear glasses and gloves because the shards were popping up everywhere!
Now is the moment of truth, can I put it all back together so it’s structurally sound? Why yes, it is! Just requires a completely different finish.
I knew I wanted a wall texture finish but the wall texture wouldn’t stick to painted MDF, so I came up with a plan to sheathe it in thin hardboard panels, the kind you use to make plank and batten wall treatments or line the backs of bookshelves. I used one of the hardboard panels I found at Home Depot and trimmed it piece by piece with a knife to fit the fireplace frame. I attached it with Gorilla glue and secured it with pin nails.
I purposely taped it with the rough back side facing out so the joint compound I was going to use would adhere to the surface.
This part is time consuming because each piece must be cut to specific dimensions and hardboard panels are difficult to cut with a knife alone. With persistence I was able to do so and covered all the vertical sides of the structure.
Now it’s time for a new coat! I wanted something bigger with a thicker top, so I bought a 16” piece of pine for the top and a 1×3” cut for the sides and cut it to perfect size at Lowe’s in the lumber department. I screwed everything in and up the structure by drilling the holes first with a drill bit and joining them with wood screws.
Lastly to connect the pieces of hardboard panels and smooth out the corners I used jointing tape secured with additional gorilla glue to make sure it stuck.
This is the last frame before applying the compound compound:
I’m a little nervous at this point as I can see the new shape but was wondering if the combined joints would work. I applied two coats of joint compound to the perimeter of the fireplace, letting it dry for 24 hours between coats and sanding in between. After it was dry and sanded I primed it and then painted it the same color as the wall.
Everything came together perfectly as I imagined and the whole project only cost me about $60. Very happy!
Side view from the starting point….
And after that:
I still have to hide the fireplace wires, you can see them sticking out on the side. I made the side walls of the fireplace enough to allow the cord to run through and plan to paint it the same color as the walls so it blends in and use small U-shaped staples to secure it to the baseboard.
Overall I am very pleased with the results! The fireplace proportions fit the walls with space for sconces and chairs. It’s proof that with vision and a few tools and supplies you can tweak the piece to suit your style!
The electric fireplace insert is great, it has multiple flame levels and temperatures and a remote control that comes with it. That night it finished raining so I opened the door and listened to the rain while I sat by the fire admiring my work!
I shared the whole project in a video on Instagram Reels and you can see how comfortable it is at night in the video.
To the living room, I’ve also added a round coffee table to the living room and my couch will be delivered in January, then I’ll add some throw pillows and the room will be complete!
There was a console that I sat against the fireplace wall but I moved it to the far wall so it was next to the front door, the perfect place to put my keys, letters, etc.
This house is for rent January through May so I’m excited about how far it’s come since we bought it in April. I’ll be sharing other room improvements in this home soon. 🙂