how to diy a built-in electric fireplace: part 2.

My favorite part of any project: when my vision starts to come together.

When I finished my last blog post, we were left with a plain white wall and a 2×4 attached halfway up. As I mentioned previously: at this point, the possibilities are endless. I’ve seen people add stone over the entire wall and then add a mantel, I’ve seen people add wood and plank the entire wall, and I’ve seen people just leave the wall painted a solid color. I, however, wanted to add a little bit of that industrial farmhouse vibe I love so much, so I wanted brick. With a German schmear. And a dark walnut stained wood. With chunky corbels.

So, here’s what you’d need for this part of the project:

Step 5 (if you’re continuing from part 1 of this build): Install your television.

The best part about this build is that I didn’t actually lose any space in my already small living room. The base of my my previous stand was 21″ and the average depth of a tv stand with a built-in electric fireplace is 15″. So, creating a bump out that was 12″ in depth, even with the added drywall and tile, wouldn’t even reach the smaller of the two – which I found quite perfect. Plus, with having an electrician install an outlet on the existing wall behind the bump out, I was able to hide all those annoyingly ugly cords. Total win-win.

If you remember from part one of this build, I planned ahead and added a scrap piece of 1×6 flaked by two 2x4s in the exact middle of the upper portion of the wall (between the ceiling and the mantel). So, when I began the TV installation, I found the exact center again, and measured outward from the center point to the point where I would need to drill each hole for the mounting screws. I wish I had taken step-by-step photos of this, but I had to have a neighbor help with the TV installation in order to get the TV mounted straight. My arm span is a little too small to hold the TV myself and ensure it’s level. However, the instructions that were provided with the TV mount were perfect and so straight forward, that I’m pretty sure anyone could do this themselves.

Although the TV was finally mounted, I still needed a place for that eye-sore they call a cord. You know, the thing that is essential to turn the dang television on. So, I bought a cable access insert, took a utility knife to my newly mudded and painted drywall, and cut a hole to install the plate. I might have had a bout of anxiety leading up to the first cut, but it was so worth it. No visible cords.

Step 6: Lay the brick.

This part was definitely the most fun.

Well, at least the laying of it was. The grouting aspect was a completely different story.

I started by cutting a piece of cardboard down to the exact size of my fireplace opening and then I began laying the brick veneers around it. I knew, due to the size of my bump out, I could only fit one brick’s length on either side of the fireplace – especially if I wanted to do the boxy trim around the entire border as I had envisioned. I also knew that I needed an arch. Not just wanted – but needed. There was absolutely no way I was going to go through all the trouble to make it look like my fireplace was as real as possible, and not put an arch on there. So, I laid it all out with the exception of the little bits that needed to be trimmed down to size, and was extremely happy with the results…

…until I realized that I needed to also add brick below the fireplace insert because I elevated the insert slightly off the ground, and you were able to see the drywall beneath. However, I had the idea of what I was doing in my head, and was pretty positive it was going to work as I had planned it on my floor – maybe with a tiny bit more adjusting here and there. Which was correct. Within one day of teleworking and parenting a pre-schooler, I was also able to get the brick placed on the wall. I followed the steps Ashley Basnight did on installing a brick accent wall in her bedroom and used Loctice Power Grab instead of standard mortar. It made the process SO easy and clean – which I’m so thankful for!

Step 7: Build and install the mantel.

At this point I needed to stop doing the brick portion and start installing the mantel. The reason behind that was because I wanted to do the boxy trim around the brick to add a border for the grout, but also needed to know where the mantel was going to fall so that I could also frame the corbels and add another element of detail to the wall. One thing I knew for certain: this wall needed a chunky wooden mantel and I didn’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars on achieving it. So, I headed to the hardware store, picked up 3 1×6’s, cut them down to 5′ and followed this tutorial on a much larger scale to create a “box”. The only different I made to the tutorial was screwing the end pieces inside the 1x6s and not on the outside. But you could follow the tutorial exactly, just trim down the length of the mantel to account for the 1×6’s at each end so they don’t hang off the wall. Once it was assembled, I sanded everything down, and stained it (and the corbels) with Minwax’s Early American.

The mantel was then going to rest on top of the 2×4 I already had attached to the wall, and then be screwed down into the top of the mantel to anchor it securely. However, before I completely installed it, I needed to install the corbels. So I made a few pilot holes on the top of the mantel, and screwed the wood screws in partially – enough to hold the mantel steady, but not so far in that it’d be a hassle to remove them. I then lined up where the corbels would go, marked it, removed the partially inserted woodscrews from the mantel, removed the mantel, and attached the corbels to the wall. One of my corbels missed all of the framing wood and needed to be secured with some drywall anchors – so luckily the corbels aren’t holding the brunt of the weight – just providing additional support and aesthetics.

Step 8: Install the boxy trim.

I knew that when I started this project, I wanted to replace all of my trim with square edged trim. For one, I think it provides it with a more updated look, and two – it’s easier to clean! So, I picked up some 1×4″ square edge moulding and measured and cut what I would need for the baseboard on the front of my bump out. This way, I had everything I needed to guide me in laying the trim.

I started with the sides. I measured from the top of the baseboard to the bottom of the mantel and cut 4 pieces to the length. Then I measured center the space between each of the pieces of wood and cut four additional pieces. These pieces were installed an inch below the mantel and the same distance from the baseboard up to create a uniform, but unique design. Once I had the sides done, I attached the top piece by measuring from the edge of each inner most side piece. I cut two pieces to this length – one for above the brick and one right below the mantel. I measured the space between the two pieces and cut four more pieces and placed them on either side (next to the inner most side piece) and another at an equal distance from those side pieces – repeating a similar pattern I had used on the sides. Attaching them was super easy – I added a bit of leftover Loctite Power Grab to the backs in case they didn’t hit any studs and used finishing nails to hold them in place.

Step 9: Grout.

Up until this part I constantly thought: this is the worst.

I was wrong.

THIS was the worst part. Luckily, there wasn’t much of it. I used a sanded grout to give it a more rustic feel and this stuff just did not want to stick. I ended up applying it with gloved hands, smearing it all over (luckily I was going for the German schmear look!). I tried working in small sections, but even then, by the time I started wiping the grout away to expose some of that brick, it was so completely adhered to the brick it was insane. I spent the better part of the evening scrubbing the brick ridiculously hard. Not only were my arms sore, I worked up a sweat much like I would if I had ran a 5K, but my living room was absolute disaster. There was small bits of crumbled grout everywhere I looked.

But in the end? I absolutely LOVED it. I couldn’t stop staring. I didn’t want to stop sharing photos of what I just did. Was it difficult? Yes. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

But I definitely think this is more of a two person job. I’ve done tile before, and nothing stressed me out quite like this did.

Step 10: Add the final touches.

After the grout was finished and dried, I put wood filler over every hole and crack. Then I sanded everything smooth prior to adding the same paint that I used on the wall on all of the boxy trim – Sherwin William’s Extra White.

And luckily for me – I finished right before the holidays. Such a perfect place to hang our stockings!

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