Hello there! I am finally ready to share with you the much anticipated DIY concrete fireplace tutorial. By way of background, in case you have not already read about it in the post about our family room renovation, let me explain the reason behind this transformation. We felt like the stone fireplace was a very “traditional” look that felt out of place to us in our very contemporary home. We really wanted a clean, simple, contemporary look for the fireplace.
I was obsessed with concrete fireplaces and I was willing to hire the job out. But, professionals told us it either could not be done or it would cost us $2,000 to $3,000 and that they “thought” it would work. Ummmm, no thanks. Long story short, I researched a ton and found a phenomenal concrete product called Ardex Feather Finish that I thought would enable us to get exactly the look we wanted for a very small price tag.
This fireplace has received lots of attention since being pictured in my post on our family room renovation. I was thrilled when my family room was featured on Apartment Therapy. While most of the feedback was positive, there were some people who were APPALLED that we removed the stone from our fireplace. I was not surprised. In fact, my family room reveal post noted at the outset that the style would not be for everyone.
Let me just state for the record that I am totally okay with people disagreeing with our choice to remove the stone from our fireplace (though you should know that it had been badly sealed and was shiny and discolored). And I totally get that not everyone loves the look of concrete. It's okay, people! I don't expect everyone to love every single choice I make. If everyone had the same taste, life would be boring. But, for those of you that L.O.V.E. our DIY concrete fireplace as much as I do, please read on to learn about how we did it!
Before I get into the nitty gritty, let me add a HUGE disclaimer. This worked FOR US. We had our chimney inspected and spoke with a contractor and were confident that the stone on our fireplace was merely a facade that could be removed. In other words, we knew our chimney would not fall down if we removed the stone. If you are not absolutely sure about what you are dealing with, seek professional advice! Our tutorial also depends on the presence of brick below your stone facade. With that said, let's get on with it…
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Materials and Tools Needed for DIY Concrete Fireplace
- Demolition hammer (we rented ours from Home Depot for the day)
- Cement board
- Mesh tape
- Electric drill
- Masonry drillbit and screws
- 14 inch Drywall tray
- 12 inch Drywall knife
- Ardex Feather Finish or Henry's Feather Finish (we used about 2 full bags)
- A 5 gallon bucket for mixing the concrete
- A drill attachment mixer (or you can mix by hand)
Steps to Create a DIY Concrete Fireplace
1) If you have an ugly fireplace insert like we did, remove it first. If you have a mantel, remove that also.
2) Demolish the stone facade. We used a demolition hammer to do this and I would HIGHLY recommend it. Joe started with just a chisel and hammer and that got old fast. Do yourself a favor and use a demolition hammer from the start. You should be left with brick underneath your facade. It looked better to us already after getting the stone off! By the way, let me give a huge shout out to my awesome step-dad, Roger, for helping us out with the demolition! You can see him helping out Joe below.
Note that we created a channel in the mortar joints of the brick to run our electrical so that we could have a hidden outlet behind our TV.
3) Use an ELECTRIC drill with an appropriate masonry bit and masonry screws to attach your cement board to the brick. It must be an electric drill. A battery operated drill just does not have enough power to do this job.
4) Tape the seams with mesh tape.
5) Now you are ready for the fun part! Mix up the concrete in your large bucket by adding water to the Ardex Feather Finish dry mix. Add water and continue to stir until you get to a thin pancake batter consistency. The right consistency is KEY! Next, allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes, then mix it up again. This process helps the product remain workable for a longer period of time. This is what it will look like.
6) Trowel the mixture into your drywall tray and start applying the mixture to the concrete board using your drywall knife. I recommend going over the taped seams first. Then work on covering the rest of the surfaces. Use long, even strokes to apply a THIN layer of the concrete mixture. We used our fingers to put it on the edges. Sorry I don't have any steps of this step–we completed the project pre-blog, so I did not bother taking photos of this step. If you want to check out a tutorial about using this product on a different surface that has some photos of this step, check out my DIY concrete vanity post. I will say it was easier to apply than I expected and we had ZERO experience with this sort of thing. If you have ever worked with plaster or drywall mud, you will be on step ahead of us!
7) This is how our DIY concrete fireplace looked after the first coat. It was still drying in this photo. You can see that the cement board seams were still visible. Don't worry, as you apply additional coats, everything will be covered!
See how the seams disappear after a couple more coats?
We did sand some between each coat, but honestly, I wish we hadn't. It made a huge mess and in the end, I don't think it was necessary because LOVE the interesting look of hand troweled concrete, so I did not want to sand out all of the trowel marks. If you have any high spots, you may want to sand those down, but otherwise, I would allow each coat to dry, then apply another coat until you are happy with the finish. We applied either 4 or 5 coats. I lost count. After the final coat, we loved the look of it so much and it was so smooth to the touch without sanding, that again, we did not sand. We also elected not to apply a sealer, since I don't think there is any significant danger of spelling red wine on our fireplace. But if you want to add a bit of sheen to the finish, you can read about the sealer that I recommend in this post.
That's it! For less than $100, we totally transformed our fireplace and created a DIY concrete fireplace. And to think some of the pros we consulted couldn't even figure this one out. HA! We love, love, love the clean, simple lines of our fireplace now. And we are both lovers of all things concrete (countertops, floors, etc.) so we were thrilled to be able to use one of our favorite finishes on our fireplace.
You can read all about how we made that awesome DIY metal, sliding barn door fireplace screen here.
One of my favorite views to compare is the view from our twin girls' playroom into our family room BEFORE:
And AFTER. We've come a long way, baby!
What do you think of our DIY concrete fireplace? Even if it's not your personal style, can you believe that we managed this dramatic transformation for less than $100?!