Our Fireplace Renovation (Before/After Pics)

Fireplace Renovation

Hi, good morning! I’m sitting down and typing out a full blog post about our fireplace renovation. We finished this project a year ago but there was one tiny little thing that kept me from finally writing up this renovation recap…

Why “finally” writing it, you ask? 

Because for the past year it’s had one tiny little little flaw in it that I needed to get fixed. The contractor who did this project is no longer in Austin, so I had it on my to-do list to find someone local to fix it. And during my social media break I finally got around to fixing it, and now it’s complete. YESSSSS.

Back when we moved into our house in 2020, we had a long list of reno projects we wanted to do. The fireplace is a corner unit, so you can really see it from every angle of downstairs. A previous owner had dome some sort of reno on the facade, so this is what it looked like before: 

Not really my thing. Sometimes people would walk in and say “oh my gosh, I love your fireplace!” and I would be like, “wait, you do??” Ha. I think people would say that more because it was something different and unique, not because it was actually all that beautiful. To be honest, I hated the color and design. So I knew I wanted to do a new facade. 

Nate, on the other hand, wanted to completely rip out the firebox and put a new one in. He really wanted a bigger and more rectangular one. I truly didn’t have a preference on this (I just wanted a new facade), but he was pretty adamant that we get a new firebox.

The old firebox was foggy…and our intention was to just remove the glass and clean it, but whoever did the previous renovation had cemented the glass into the facade with the new tiles. Ha! So we couldn’t even clean it. 

Finding a contractor willing to take on this project (in 2020 when everyone was fully booked) was no small feat. Most people weren’t interested in the job, or if they were they were booked 6 months out.

We eventually found a contractor for this project, and he was ok… I’m not going to share his name with y’all for two reasons. First, he’s not working as a contractor anymore. Ha! He was a super young guy (like just out of college) who decided to take a stab at being a general contractor. His dad had done it for years, so he wanted to try too. 

I’ll say this: he was a very nice guy. 

He was also determined and willing to figure everything out. 

But here’s the second reason I won’t share his name with y’all: he was a not a very good general contractor. 😉 

Everything took SO freaking long for him to do. Sometimes he would be in our living room for 8 hours with a gas line specialist he had hired trying to figure out how to connect the new fire box. Ugh.

Finding a contractor for this fireplace renovation in 2020 was no small feat…so we just took what we could get.

We eventually got our end result, though! Here’s what we did:

We took out the old firebox. And Nate was right. Taking it our and replacing it made a HUGE difference! 

We removed the subway tile facade. After the brick guy took these off, we could see the old fireplace structure behind the wall. So this was definitely the second renovation this fireplace has gone through. 

We bought and inserted a new firebox. It’s soooo beautiful! 

We chose a red/pink brick for the new facade. This was my inspo picture from instagram. I really loved the horizontal bricks on the bottom and herringbone on the top:

And then this is the “during” shot of our fireplace facade being installed…

We installed a simple wood mantle. More on that below..haha.

Anyway, we’ve done so many house projects now and I’ll get asked for contractor recommendations, and honestly…we’ve had a lot of experiences like this one. In the end, we got our beautiful new fireplace, but the mantle was crooked and he couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Eventually this kind young man decided that working as a general contractor is not for him, and we paid him and ended everything on good terms. 

But the mantle was still leaning quite a bit. I mean, it was leaning so badly that I couldn’t really put anything on top of it. A candle would slide right off. Here’s a photo of what it looked like:

Oof!! 

It literally looks like it’s about to fall off the wall. It’s not…it was very sturdy. It was also very crooked. 

And the mantle is actually a really cool piece of wood! It’s a solid beam of reclaimed wood from a barn in Wisconsin. We got it as a piece of lumber at This Old Wood in Pflugerville and we had 4 hooks installed on the bottom for Christmas stockings (you can’t see the hooks unless you look under the mantle.)   

I eventually did some instagram hashtag searches and found adobe woodworks, a guy named Allen who lives here in Austin and specializes in building custom fireplace mantles. I filled out the form on his website and asked if he could look at ours and see if it’s something he could repair. And if not, I would just hire him to create a brand new mantle. 

He kindly spent some time looking at it, troubleshooting a few things, and trying a couple different ideas. Eventually he took the entire mantle off the brick wall, and guess what? Our contractor had installed the mount upside down! Ha! That’s why it was leaning so badly!

Allen took the mantle back to his shop and evened it out a bit better. He had to take about a half inch off of it in order to get it level, but that was no big deal. (I mean, it’s clearly a big mantle!) And then he brought it back, cut off the mount (because our contractor had used permanent screws to install it), flipped it the right side up, and re-installed it a little bit higher up and the appropriate height for a mantle. 

And tada! It’s all beautiful now!

Anyway, if you want a fantastic custom mantle in your home, I wholeheartedly recommend Allen! He was so kind, helpful, and really skilled at his craft. 

(I did ask him if I could share his name on my blog, and he said yes, but to mention that he typically doesn’t do repairs like this. It just worked out that he was nearby and had the time to tackle this project. But if you want a new mantle, look at his instagram page! So many beautiful before/afters there!) 

That’s our fireplace renovation in Austin, Texas! I am in love with the end result. Truly, that’s the best part of any project: getting to look at it each day and feel this huge sense of gratitude and joy from this beautiful little corner in the house. 

PS: a few other home projects we’ve done like our mini kitchen reno and my gallery wall, and an update on moving from near downtown to the Austin suburbs.  

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