My gas fireplace has a hearth that is raised and extends out into the room almost 4 feet. What is the reason for this and can I remodel it so it only extends out less than two feet? It is unattractive and seems like a waste of space.






It sounds like a designer got a little over zealous in his or her design.  A 4’ hearth extension should not be required.  According to the International Residential Code for one and two family dwellings,  there are specific requirements for hearth extensions, both front and sides.  If your fireplace opening is less than 6 square feet, the hearth front extension must be 16” and the side extensions must be 8”.   If the fire box opening is equal to or greater than 6 square feet, then the front extension must be 20” and the side extensions must be 12”.  So you should be able to substantially reduce the front extension. 


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Fireplace tile

Hi Jake, I have a natural gas fireplace insert with about 10 granite tiles surrounding it. There is a firmly secured mantle surrounding the granite tiles. Is it possible to install slate tiles directly over the granite ones? Would this be too heavy for a typical wall? What procedure should I use? 

Thank you, 



You could install the slate tiles over the granite.  Weight should not be a problem.  The best way to do it is to install a ¼” backer board over the granite, like a Hardie board.  You would screw this board to the granite and then you could install your new slate over the top of the backer board.  These boards are available in 3’ x 5’ sheets.  You can find these boards, or something equivalent, at most drywall suppliers, flooring stores or home centers.   

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Lowering a fireplace

We are remodeling our home and would like to lower the fireplace. We a two story home and this is the only opening to the fireplace. We have already removed the harth. What is involved in lowering the fireplace?

- Sara


The fireplace can be lowered.  If you have removed the hearth, you probably found that it is separate from the firebox.  The fire box will have to be lowered.  This should only be done by an experienced mason.  It requires extensive removal and rebuilding of the box, smoke chamber and attachment to the flue.  If done improperly, you could have a dangerous situation on your hands.  Check around the fireplace stores in your area for a list of qualified masons. 

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Fireplace Facelift

Hi Jake,

We have a wood burning fireplace in our living room that is approximately 50 years old. It works fine but it really needs a facelift. 

This fireplace is on our main floor and there is another fireplace directly under this one. It is now a painted brick fireplace with a 3 inch think concrete hearth. It's approximately 6 feet wide and extends the height of the room. The hearth is 2, 3 foot sections wide and it sits about a foot off the floor with the painted brick underneath it extenting out into the living room. We want to pull off the hearth and take out the existing bricks that are under the hearth. Essentially want to drop the hearth down to the level of the floor. 

Once the hearth is off and the bricks are removed we'll reface the front of the fireplace with some nice tile. We will create a new hearth out of some nice tile and make it level with new hardwood that we are putting in. 

We are 2 new do-it-yourselfers so I have a few questions for you. I've chisled away some of the grout surrounding the hearth and I probably can just pull it off (the grout was in bad shape to begin with). Once I remove the hearth what will be underneath the hearth? How do I build that new hearth that will be flush to the floor? There will be some missing bricks from the fireplace and I'll need to make the front of the fireplace flush. What should I use to make the front of the fireplace flush before starting the new facing? As I said it's a painted brick fireplace, what kind of prepwork do I need to perform before I think about applying new tiles on top. 

Any advice that you can send our way would be great. Before I get into this fully, I really want to know what I'm doing. Hopefully you can help with that. 

Best Regards, 



For being new do-it-yourselfers, you are taking on a pretty nice size project.  Here are the answers to your questions:

Under the hearth covering material, you should find a hearth that is 4” thick concrete.  You shouldn’t remove any of this hearth, since it is suppose to be a minimum of 4”.  You can add to the depth by adding more concrete or installing a concrete board like Durock.  You’ll have to determine what depth you need to make up so the new hearth material lines up with the hardwood floor. 

In regards to the missing brick, I would suggest new brick, it doesn’t have to match since you are going to cover it.  You could also plug the missing brick are with mortar, and it might take a few applications if it’s really deep.

When applying new tiles to the face of the fireplace, we often install the Durock board to the brick, mortar and screw it to the brick.  This leaves a nice smooth, non-combustible surface to apply your tile to. 

Remember to maintain the minimal distance from the face of the firebox to any combustible material.  At least 16” from the fire box opening to the edge of the hearth and usually 12” around the sides and tops. 

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Drilling through chimney ciderblock

I have a saltbox home with a center chimney servicing 3 fireplaces. In the partially finished basement the chimney is enclosed in cinderblock and my question is whether I could safely drill into that cinderblock in order to hang a decorative barn-board and entry way shelf?

- Sara


If your fireplace was built correctly, you should be able to penetrate the front surface of the cinderblock, as long as you don’t go through the back side of the cinderblock.  With that being said, I would have the fireplace inspected by a qualified fireplace inspector to make sure it was built properly.  The cost of the inspection is a small price to pay to make sure everything is in working order. 

Posted by Jake Schloegel at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hidden fireplace

Kathy asks: 

We recently bought a bank owned property and found that a previous owner had covered an original wood burning fireplace. The drywall was screwed to a 1x2 which was jammed into the front of the firebox. The firebox seems to be intact, but the hearth and all surrounding brick are gone. Originally (from looking at neighbors') it would have had a brick hearth and surround topped with a wooden mantle. There is a ceramic tile floor that goes to the fireplace wall, and drywall all around the opening. 

Do I need to rebuild a hearth, or can I simply tile around the firebox opening and add a mantle (per local safety codes) to save the floor space?

Jake's answer:


That was quite a find.

You should have the firebox inspected by a licensed chimney inspector prior to using the firebox.  For the purpose of our discussion, I will assume it is a traditional wood burning fireplace.  The 2006 International Residential Code requires a hearth slab thickness of 4”.  The hearth extension in front of the opening needs to be 16” if the fireplace opening is less than 6 square feet and 20” if the fireplace opening is greater than 6 square feet.  The hearth side extensions need to be 8” on each side if the opening is less than 6 square feet and 12” on each side if the opening is greater than 6 square feet.  Combustible materials, such as wood trim and mantels, should not be placed within 6” of the fireplace opening.  Combustible material within 12” of the fireplace opening should not project more than 1/8” for each 1” distance from such opening. 

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A complete fireplace remodel

Ben asks:

How difficult would it be to completely remodel our fireplace? We have a natural fireplace in our living room that is directly over a gas fireplace in the basement. I would like to change the natural to gas, and lower the firebox considerably, and change the brickwork around it to something more modern. What types of contractors would I need to contact, and what could I expect to pay, short of the application of a modern look. 



Jake's answer:


“Difficult” is a relative term.  

Changing out fireplaces can get pretty involved.  The scope of work that you have described has been completed by our company.  You will need a plumber to run the gas line and a mason, that is well versed in fireplace construction, to modify the fireplaces.  

You did not mention the design part of the project – that is what will the new fireplace look like, who will design and draw it so the mason knows what to build.  You might consider hiring a general contractor to manage the project for you.  You will pay more, but you won’t have the hassles of dealing with the subs.  It’s difficult to put a price on something like this, not knowing the particulars of your project.  Taking a guess at it, I think you should expect to pay somewhere between $5000 and $10000. 

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Tile color change

Question from Ron

We have granite tile around the fireplace, would like to change the color - is there a way to cover it, either by painting or gluing another tile on top?

Jake's Answer: 


We have never painted granite tile.  I would be reluctant to paint granite, especially around the fireplace. We have installed tile over tile.  Sand the existing tile and install tile like you normally would.  If the existing granite is in good shape and firmly set, you should have a nice finished product. 

Posted by Jake Schloegel at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fireplaces and home values

Question from Mary

We are considering removing our WBFP with a ventless gas fireplace, will that have a negative impact on the value of our home?

Jake's Answer: 


I don’t think it will reduce the value of your home, it might reduce the desirability.  I am a remodeling contractor, not a real estate expert and you might want to check with an agent in your area that is familiar with your neighborhood.  I would bet that most people are only interested in the fact you have a fireplace, not necessarily what type of fireplace you have.

Posted by Jake Schloegel at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lowering a firebox

Question from Mike

I have a house with a stone fireplace that starts in the basement with one fireplace opening and also has fireplace in a raised floor living room upstairs. I want to lower the raised floor by three feet. The ends outside look like square clay pipes. Can the upstairs firplace firebox be lowered? 

Jake's answer

Mike, Yes, it can be lowered. It will most likely require you to dismantle the chimney down to the new firebox level and rebuild the fireplace from the new floor level on up. If you live in a ranch style house (one story) this may not be too big an undertaking. If you are in a two story, the project will be a little more involved. It would be a good idea to have a qualified mason take a look at it. You can usually find a good mason at the local brick and block supplier. Check his/her references out before engaging them in the job.

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