how to diy a built-in electric fireplace: part 1.

If you’ve been following this little corner of the internet I call my own for a while, you may have read the post I wrote about buying a house back in my home state. It’s not the house I envisioned, nor was it even the house I had first put an offer in on, but it’s my house none the less! And to make that even more abundant, the first project on my to-do list was to add something that I was searching for, and the previous home I put an offer in had:

A fireplace.

What you need for this part of the project:

  • PuraFlame Electric Fireplace Insert
  • 4 – 1×6 cut to 5′
  • 13 – 2×4
  • 1 – 1×6 cut to 16″
  • 1 – 2×4 cut to 4.5′
  • wood screws
  • miter saw
  • drill bits
  • 2 sheets of drywall
  • utility knife
  • drywall screws
  • drywall tape
  • drywall mud
  • drywall knives in 4, 6, and 12 inches
  • sanding block
  • 1 quart paint primer
  • 1 quart interior wall paint

Here’s what I started with:

My living room isn’t insanely large – actually, it’s not large at all. So, I knew this bump out couldn’t be huge, but it definitely needed to be functional. So, my first step was to plan out what I wanted it to look like and what features I wanted it to have. {Insert numerous hours of Pinterest searching.}

Step 1: Plan

I can’t overstate this enough. Not only did I spend numerous hours finding inspiration on Pinterest, I also spent numerous hours watching YouTube videos prior to every step of the process. My favorite video for this project, and the one that assisted with the foundation of my wall, was this video posted by Connor Krebbs. While the steps weren’t completely broken down dummy style – it was enough information for me to figure it out on my own. However, he built a 6ft wall, and since my living room is not that large (I only had an 11 foot wall to work with), I decided to cut everything down to 5ft.

*I knew that I had wanted the fireplace to be on its own circuit (well, along with the television), so when I had an electrician come to install the ceiling fan/light in my living room, I also had them install an outlet that would be directly behind the bump out I was building.

Once I had an idea of how I wanted the bump out to look, I started to figure out the dimensions.

The fireplace insert I chose was nearly 8 inches deep, and I wanted it to have plenty of ventilation, so I decided to make the bump out come out a foot. This would also come in at a smaller depth than my original tv stand, so I would actually be saving some space in my living room.

Step 2: Build the Wall

I didn’t want to have to attach anything to my ceiling or my floor. Which, in hindsight, this wall isn’t going anywhere, so I don’t see why I didn’t. But I digress. The first thing I did was take 2 1x6x10s and got them cut down to 5′. I knew that my walls needed to be anchored to the studs that were in the wall, and this was really the only way I knew how.

Then I took 2 2x4s (measured at 8 feet) and 1 2×4 cut into three 8 inch pieces. I chose 8 inches because the actual thickness is 1 1/2″. 1 1/2″ + 1 1/2″ + 8″ + 3/4″ (to count for the 1×6 attached to the studs) = 11 3/4″. Then once I would add the 1/2″ drywall, I was in the 1 foot ballpark I was aiming for. I attached one of the 8 inch pieces to the top of the 2×4’s, one on the bottom, and one in the middle. Then I attached this piece to the wall at the end of the 5′ wood. I repeated this process on the other side.

Next was probably the most tedious (well, up to this point – this project gets much more tedious). The first thing I did was measure the bottom and top of the frame. Since the structure was going to be 5′ wide – or 60″ – and the wood that was used to build the sides of the bump out took up 3 1/2″ on each side, I made the top and the bottom pieces of the front structure 53″ long. Then I cut 3″ (to account for the 2×4’s thickness) off of 2 2×4’s for the sides of the front structure. Because the main star of this project was going to be the fireplace, I decided to work my way from the bottom up. The width of my fireplace insert is roughly 26″ and the height is roughly 24″, so I cut 2 2×4’s 24″ in length, found the center of the bottom of the frame, and measured out on either side 13″ (to total the 26″ width) before attaching the 24″ pieces to the bottom board. I then cut a 50″ piece from a 2×4 and attached that to the top of the two 24″ pieces. This created the frame that my fireplace insert would slide into.

I knew I couldn’t leave it just like this because the wall definitely wasn’t sturdy enough. So, I took 50″ subtracted 3″ (for the two 2×4’s I was about to add for support), and divided that by 3. I ended up measuring 16″ from each side board, and attaching two 67.5″ inch 2×4’s at the measured spot (96″ boards – 3″ [for the top and bottom 2×4’s] – 24″ [for the height of the fireplace insert] – 1.5″ [for the thickness of the 2×4 on top of the fireplace insert frame]). I also knew that I wanted to attach a mantel at 54″ above the ground. So I placed two 16″ pieces of wood at 54″. And another piece of wood directly in the center of that 54″ measurement and the top of the frame for TV installation – although this was actually done when the rest of the frame was screwed into place.

At this point, I needed a neighbor to come over and help me lift up the frame and hold it into place while I screwed everything in. As you can see from the photo, I hadn’t attached the TV mounting wood yet (although it was shown laid out on the floor where I wanted it in the previous photo). The TV mount ended up being a scrap piece of 1×6 cut to 15″ flanked by two 2×4’s cut to 15 inches at the top and bottom. By this point, I was so excited that I put the insert in and turned it on to see how it would potentially look.

Step 3: Lay the drywall.

Did I say that the frame was the most tedious? Ha ha ha.

Drywall, was in my opinion, an absolute nightmare. Since I had never drywalled anything in my life, I turned to YouTube, and ended up following this guy during his complete guide to drywalling. And I have to admit – I think I did a pretty dang good job. Even if my entire house was covered in a layer of drywall dust.

Notes: After I had put up the drywall, and screwed it into place, I posted photos on social media. There were a few comments stating that I should have laid the drywall horizontal so that I could cover up the seam with the mantle and not have to worry about mudding. This probably would have made my life a lot easier, but I didn’t even think about it because I wouldn’t have been able to lift the drywall and screw myself. Had I really planned everything out, I could have asked a neighbor over to assist with the two person task.

Step 4: Paint

The final steps of building the wall where pretty simple – and the most fun: choosing the color and painting. I really wanted the bump out to “pop” – so after priming the entire thing, I painted it with Sherwin Williams Extra White in an eggshell sheen. I also had to repaint my entire living room (due to mudding the corners connected the wall – and wanting to update the room with fresh paint) and chose Sherwin William’s Icy Avalanche in an eggshell sheen.

Also, I had marked the exact point where the wood for my mantel would go (just so I had the exact center of the 2×4’s), so prior to painting over my markings, I attached a 2×4 measured to about 4′. This piece of wood is what would eventually hold my mantel.

At this point, the possibilities are endless. You could add stone over the entire thing. You could plank the entire thing. But I had this idea in my mind that involved bricks, corbels, and lots of white boxy trim – so stay tuned for part 2!


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