Planning is the first step in any fireplace remodel. While it seems a simple matter to change the moldings or facings around the firebox, there are other steps you need to take before you start buying materials and tearing things out.
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1. Carefully inspect the firebox tiles for damage or cracks. These must be repaired if discovered as a matter of safety.
2. Check the damper. Does it open and close easily? Does it open completely? Does it close tightly? The damper controls the flow of air and smoke up the chimney. If it does not open properly the fireplace will not “draw” correctly and you could fill the house with smoke and sparks. If it does not close properly, you will lose warmth up the chimney during cold weather.
3. Check the clay pipe lining (the flue) inside the smoke chamber. Check for any damage or cracks RemodelOrMove.com: 101 Ways to Save Money When Remodeling by Dan Fritschen because these could represent a serious fire hazard. If you have a tall smoke chamber, you might need to have it inspected by a professional who has the necessary tools.
4. Check the chimney cap and the spark arrestor. This is a device on the outside of the top of the chimney. Its purpose is to catch and extinguish any sparks escaping through the chimney.
5. If you have an ash pit, clean it out and check for any cracks or damage.
6. Make any needed repairs to the fireplace before you start thinking about a fireplace remodel of the area surrounding the firebox. Keep in mind that this is a very good time to have the chimney cleaned thoroughly to remove any creosote or other flammable material that might have accumulated in the flue.
7. Determine what can be done with the existing firebox surround if this is the focus of your fireplace remodel. You will need to determine whether the surrounding materials (stone, brick, mantel, etc.) can be removed without disturbing the fireplace itself. In many older homes the surround is actually part of the structure of the chimney.
8. If your fireplace is old, having a professional inspect it is a good idea. Old fireplaces will almost certainly show signs of age and need some repairs. You might also want to discuss with a professional what your options are for increasing the amount of heat that remains in the room and reducing the escape of heat up the flue.
9. Decide whether to replace or repair any parts or all of the fireplace as part of your fireplace remodel.
10. Choose the design, materials and surround size for your fireplace. Will it include a mantel? Will you use wood moldings around it? What materials will you use? How will the materials work with the design of the room, or are you trying to change the appearance of the room?
Whether your fireplace remodel will be done in a living room, a kitchen, a family room, a master suite, or a den, it is sure to be a focal point in the finished room. It will also make the room feel warmer and more comfortable.
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