So, long story short...

Wife and I were fixing some damaged walls around the fireplace and noticed the brick at the top starting to come loose, we wanted to update the fireplace anyways and decided to take the brick down to about mantle height and have a nice clean flat sheetrocked wall above the brick fireplace/mantle.

The white brick seen in the photo between the studs has some pieces of brick and a lot of mortar that is protruding into the room further than the studs you see on the left and right which would make a flat sheetrock wall nearly impossible.

Is this brick just filler and I can remove some of it to frame out the opening for sheetrock? or is it Firebrick? Our other option is build the upper wall where the brick facade used to be so that we can get a flat wall, the downside is that it will still protrude as the old brick did and wont look as good as we'd like (basically instead of brick to the ceiling it's drywall).

Fireplace Demo'd

  • A picture from the side showing how the brick(s) protrude would be helpful. May 30, 2016 at 12:29
  • 1
    Can you see more properly built chimney behind the ugly brick we see here? May 30, 2016 at 12:32
  • Thanks for the quick comments Guys! Yes, I'm heading over to the house in about an hour or so, I'll be sure to get some pictures from the side and try to see if i can see a more structured chimney behind this ugly brick.
    – Robin
    May 30, 2016 at 12:37
  • That ugly brick is more than that. It is downright a mess. However that said it may have been put there simply as a filler over the fire box so that the upper brick (which you removed) had a backer.
    – Michael Karas
    May 30, 2016 at 14:22
  • Okay, after sleeping and looking at it again, this is definitely fire brick... there are places where I can see soot that has gotten through, I need to seal it really well and just build the wall in front of it (we've since converted the fireplace from wood to vented gas)...
    – Robin
    May 30, 2016 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


Any fireplace than can be used as a wood burning fireplace needs to be built to certain specifications set forth by the building code. The brick you are referring to is most likely backer brick as suggested by Karas but it will be backer for the smoke chamber. The smoke chamber must have a few cracks in it if you seen smoke infiltration coming through. FWIW, it will not need to be fire brick, that is only needed in the firebox only. Anything above, behind and below the firebox can be standard brick. the walls of the smoke chamber and firebox, for the most part the whole chimney, must be 8" of solid masonry everywhere.

Some of that backer may be able to be removed, but you must maintain 8" of solid, tight joint brick. After that the wood framing or any combustible material must maintain a 2" air space to avoid fires.

As you can see, when the fireplace was built, that wasn't too much of a worry. I can only recite what the code requires now....

To get past some of this, metal framing can be used, but the sheetrock must be 2" away from the brick at the smoke chamber and firebox.

If the fireplace was not ever a wood burning fireplace and was made originally only as a gas fireplace, these issues would not be a concern.

  • Thank you for the detailed answer, that matches what I've looked up for my local code. I will be buttoning this up tomorrow by sealing all the cracks with mortar and the new wall in front, which now has 3.25" clearance from the brick!
    – Robin
    May 31, 2016 at 0:43

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