DIY Home Decor Lifestyle

DIY: Fireplace Makeover

March 18, 2014

Emily in Alaska Fireplace Makeover

We finally finished!!!!!

In December when Matt was gone for work for almost the entire month, I planned on re-doing our fireplace as a Christmas gift to him and me. It would be a gift for him because he wouldn’t have to do anything, and a gift to me because I thought the fireplace that came with the house was hideous.



Even Christmas couldn’t hide everything I hated about it:

  • White tile on white tile
  • gold accents
  • cords visible everywhere for the TV

So my goal was to redo it with a rustic look, all before Matt got home and I could go “Surprise! Look at the awesome things I do when you’re not here!”

Well, it ended up being a mid-March gift to me.


To start the project, I had to pull off all of the existing tile.

Pulling the floor part of the tile was super easy. A grout scraper, a hammer, and a mini crowbar was all I needed.

easy peasy

easy peasy

After I pulled the old tile up, I layed down the new tile to measure and cut, since I was borrowing my co-workers tile saw.

This is totally safe

This is totally safe

Yay, all cut and beautiful!

Yay, all cut and beautiful!

This is the tile I used: The Marazzi Montagna Saddle from Home Depot. I love the way it looks like natural wood, but obviously will be much more safe to have near a (gas) fireplace then real wood.

Once I had the floor tiles done, I put them aside, returned my co-worker’s tile saw (Thanks Aaron!), and got to work on taking off the wall tile.

This is where I struggled. I struggled hard.

I spent a lot of time reading Home improvement forums to best figure this one. One thing I read is that I could just sand the top layer of the existing tile, and do my new project on top. I tried using a sander with course paper and gentle paper. I even tried using an angle grinder.

I always love an excuse to buy new power tools!

I always love an excuse to buy new power tools!

I even tried prying the tile off, but all that resulted in was destroying the drywall behind the tile that I was hoping to preserve. The results of my effort were not pretty.

Also, the angle grinder on a tile glaze smelled TERRIBLE

Also, the angle grinder on a tile glaze smelled TERRIBLE

So there I was, stuck with a half done project knowing that Matt was going to have to help me when he returned home. So it turns out my Christmas gift to him was “yay, another project for us to do together!”

We finally agreed the best thing to do was pull out the entire part of the wall: drywall, tile, and my hopes and dreams. (just kidding, i really enjoyed it!)

Why is destroying things so much fun?!

Why is destroying things so much fun?!

Since we had the wall open, Matt broke out some super amazing electrician skills and wired the TV outlets to behind the wall!

{Note: Please don’t do this on your own unless you are a certified electrician.}

IMG_5263 IMG_5265 IMG_5267 IMG_5268

Once we had the TV and Roku working, it was time to put the new drywall in so we could have a real wall!

IMG_5276 Once the drywall was done, it was time to address the ugly gold accents. I’m sure it was on trend in 1999, but I am just not a fan.

Rather than replace the gold vent covers (which I honestly wouldn’t know how to do to begin with), I bought some high-heat spray paint for grills and did a quick job.IMG_5303Once the paint had dried, we laid and set the floor tile. Then, it was time to start on the fun part: putting on stones!

Rather than use real stones (which are heavy, pricy, and a puzzle to put together nicely on a wall), we used a newish product I had heard great reviews about called AirStone.

I bought two Autumn Mountain Flat cartons, one Autumn Mountain Natural Edge carton, and two tubs of AirStone Interior Adhesive. The total cost for the AirStone was around $175, way cheaper than real stone. Also, since we live in Alaska and the price is jacked up way more than it is in the Lower 48, I’m sure the price would be cheaper. [Update: I compared the cart cost for these items AK vs SC, price difference of $25. There ya go]

Installation was incredibly easy: You picked out the stone you wanted to place, smeared the adhesive cream on the back like you ice a cupcake, and then push it onto the wall. If you need to cut a stone to fit, you just use a hacksaw. This was probably one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. 

IMG_5427 IMG_5429 IMG_5465Now for the big reveal!

IMG_5816 I picked up some cheap white pillar candles from Michael’s to provide a little more ambiance then what a gas fireplace can do.IMG_5818 IMG_5819 IMG_5822I love the way the fireplace turned out! It makes the room feel much more pulled together, and goes with our personalities nicely. Since finishing it, we’ve spent more time with the fireplace on and I’ll lay on the carpet reading a book while Matt works on his laptop.

The project cost us maybe $300 overall, including the floor tiles, grout, AirStone, adhesives, drywall, recessed outlet box for behind the tv, tv wall mount, and candles.

The biggest cost was time; we would dedicate a lot of Sunday afternoons to this endeavor. Ultimately though, we saved a lot of money by doing it ourselves. Let’s be honest though, since moving to Alaska we’ve become really self-sufficient with building our own furniture, so it makes sense that we would DIY a project like this. Plus, I think we tend to appreciate something more when we’ve put our sweat and blood into a project.

Now that we’ve got this knocked out, I’ve had a few people ask me “Emily, whatever do y’all plan on doing next?” I’m glad you asked, internet, because we do have something on the books! We are going to build a headboard and bed frame for our guest bed. Summer in Anchorage is amazing, and we’ve already got several visitors with booked plane tickets coming soon! Obviously once we finish I’ll share that project with you too!


What do you think of our new fireplace? Does this inspire you to update any parts of your home that you just don’t love?


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  • Reply Evelyn Accipiter March 19, 2014 at 16:50

    Emily & Matt, iI looks beautiful. You two are not only smart but very talented.
    Love Grandma

  • Reply Jess March 20, 2014 at 05:25

    This looks awesome!

  • Reply Briana Olson March 22, 2014 at 22:31

    Wow! It looks amazing. Great job!

  • Reply Uwe March 31, 2014 at 09:21

    It looks great!

    Greetings from Germany

    • Reply Emily Stewart March 31, 2014 at 11:11

      Schönen Dank! A lot of work, but we love the end result!


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