Tips for Buying and Installing a New Fireplace Surround
If you are replacing an existing surround for a working fireplace, check that the new fireplace surround is compatible with the fire type. Some surrounds are designed for ornamental use and may not be heat-resistant. Building regulations state that fireplace surrounds for working fires need a super-imposed, or outer hearth, which is at least two inches thick, and extends at least one foot from the front of the fire. Before purchasing a new fireplace surround, check the dimensions of the opening and make sure new items will fit. Depending on the fireplace type you have, the inner hearth may also need to be built up to bring it to the same level as the outer hearth that you have installed.
If you want a purely ornamental fireplace, you can fit a surround around a blocked opening, or even on a flat wall. A kit designed for a decorative purpose will usually be cheaper than a fireproof surround.
Installing a Wooden Surround
Wooden surrounds are available in easy-to-install kits. Manufacturers generally offer a range of mantel shelves, back panels and hearths, so you can choose which combination you prefer.
This is normally a very straightforward task that simply requires brackets. The order of work for installing the mantel, back panel, and hearth may vary. Wooden surrounds often incorporate a stone (marble, for example) back panel. Or the back panel area can be tiled.
Installing a Stone Surround
Because of the weight of a stone surround, it needs to be broken down into more sections than a wooden surround, which in turn means that assembly involves joining these sections together. Hearths are likely to come in a number of pieces, as are the mantel and back panel. In the example above, a typical stone fireplace surround is shown but the order of work may need modification according to the particular design you have chosen. Some manufacturers will recommend using a stone sealer on the surround to prevent staining when using the fireplace.
Some manufacturers sell standard sizes and styles of stone surrounds, but more often they are custom-built. The components are very heavy, so you will need help with installation.
Regulations govern the construction of masonry and factory-built fireplaces and chimneys, so seek professional advice if you are unsure of any installation. The construction or installation of a new fireplace, as well as the reconstruction of an existing fireplace, will need to be inspected by the local building safety department. The installation of a gas-fired appliance must also be inspected for compliance with the applicable codes. For both factory-built and custom fireplaces, it is important to provide an exterior air supply to ensure proper fuel combustion.