My brick fireplace is ugly and I want to make it inset contemporary

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I know I could remove the hearth but can I remove the front area of the fireplace? Basically remove 1-2 bricks to make it flush with the drywall. Would that cause any structural issue?

Also what do I cover the brick? I assume there is some high heat drywall ? The new inset firewall will have a glass door

  • P.s. I would double check on the space in front of the door for a real wood burning unit, it may just be an insurance thing.
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 22, 2019 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


I have done similar to what you want to do, first check local code the fireplace even if an insert is being used requires 16 or 18” in front of the fire box opening (hearth or non flammable surface but it can be at floor level). The “face brick” is usually only 1 layer thick but at the opening it becomes solid to the back of the chimney. The hardest part in reducing the brick is usually there is a steel support in the form of an angle iron at the top across the opening 1 brick back possibly 2, so going any further creates a lot of work to properly support the opening but it can be done. As far as the material over the brick, I have used cement board or backer board just like using Sheetrock, several of these I have done with a stone veneer around the opening. Just an fyi trying to use sheet rock within a foot of the opening tends to be a bad idea I usually want several feet. the Sheetrock yellows and starts falling apart due to to the heat over a few months, I have used cement board on 4 of my homes. 2 I lived in for 5-10 years with no issues 1 my family still owns after 35 years and it has only been repainted so it has held up well and my current home has backer and tile but it is only 5 years old (I expect it to outlast me). So look at your top opening see if you can tell where the steel support is as all 3 of the face removals I have done had this on brick chimneys. The steel is needed on my first one I had a brick mason help me / teach me how to support the brick once I had removed the angle iron (basically cutting slots on each side that a new angle was slid into then filled with fire clay to support the brick and seal the opening), I hope this helps , I bet you can also find other ideas but this is how I have done similar jobs with really nice results.

  • I live in King County (WA State) and I remember reading if the fireplace has a door, then no clearance required in front of firebox. That's what I did at my previous house 7 years ago. I still don't quite visualize how you support the bricks. Any photo?
    – HP.
    Jul 22, 2019 at 21:49
  • When all done you can’t see the angle. I used a piece of angle that 1 side was 2” and the other 4” kind of a long L. Once we removed the bricks the mason used an angle grinder at the top left and right and made ~a 1” deep slot going right or 1 inch deep going left the angle now slid in place as it was 2” wider than the opening, marked the bricks at the top of the angle then notched the face off the thickness of of the angle +1/8” on mine the total face cut was 3/8” now the angle will slide in and be flush well slightly inset but you want to make sure it fits prior to mixing the continued
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 22, 2019 at 23:20
  • Clay or refractory cement, I have used both but felt the fire clay was easier to fill and blend. I think the clay took 3 or 4 days to cure make sure to go by the instructions (one time I went two fast and had to pull it out because the moisture boiled and pushed my angle iron out) once the clay is cured then you can have a fire. The mason had me use a 2” -4” angle for more support 4” horizontal with the 2” vertical. The original was 2” angle both sides, he said since we could only cut 1/2 brick deep we needed the bottom to have more support. This has turned out really nice and lasted for years
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 22, 2019 at 23:30

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