This project is part of a paid partnership with Lowe’s.
Most homes (just ours?) have that awkward corner or space that just doesn’t seem to have much use, or don’t decorate well. These areas often benefit most from custom, built-in elements, and with fall approaching fast, we decided to add a built-in electric fireplace to an awkward nook in our bedroom–and it’s something you can add just about anywhere, in a weekend.
Materials used for this project:
Here is the space we started with:
Not much use for this nook, except to hang a TV with wires dangling down the wall. So our first step was to plan out what we wanted this space to look like. Jules shared some inspiration last week, and we learned what we could from the things we liked and applied them to our space. Here’s how we did it.
Step 1: Plan
Can’t overstate this one. We got this project done in two days, but only because we spent a full day in advance planning, sketching, shopping, and scheduling. Here’s what my sketch looked like (I like using the notability app on my iPad for plans):
The space we were working with was a hair short of 60in wide, and we could make the structure as tall as we wanted (up to 8ft, since that’s how tall our ceilings are). We planned to have the mantle 45in up from the floor when finished, so the frame was 5/8in shorter than that so once we added our top board, it would be an even 45. We opted for a thicker, 3/4 board, so it ended up actually being 45 1/8, but that’s negligible.
The wall also wasn’t very deep, and since the doors into this bedroom swing inward, we couldn’t have the structure sticking out in the way. You can see at the top of the image above there is a depth diagram, where I was able to visualize each layer of the structure and how I was going to fit it all in. The wall was only 6 3/4 deep, but I needed extra thickness, so I planned to notch the structure out by 1/2 in on the back side of the top ten inches, then cut out the sheetrock below that. Then I also needed to notch out 1 3/4 inches from the studs in the wall, but only inside the fireplace area. This would allow the fireplace (which is 5.5in thick) to sit back far enough, that our crown moulding (which was 3.5in tall installed) would have enough space.
These are the details it’s important to think through as you plan. Every layer adds thickness, even the mortar behind the tile. Account for everything so there are no (or at least fewer) surprises.
Step 2. Build the Wall & Dry Fit It
I don’t have a progress picture of building the wall, but you do want to build it first. Then set it in place and use the wall to trace where you need to cut the sheetrock. Then cut. Of course, cutting the sheetrock is only necessary if you’re dealing with such a tight space, like we were. If you have the room to build the wall out further, then I would skip this part and just mount your wall in front of the regular wall.
Step 3. Mount the Frame & Run Electrical
Important! – if you’re not familiar with running electrical, please hire a licensed electrician to do it for you. I shouldn’t have to say this, but working with electrical wiring can result in serious injury or worse. Don’t be a hero.
Once you’ve confirmed that the frame fits, secure it in place and begin running any electrical needed. In the image above, you can see that I used a shallow outlet box and mounted it just under where the fireplace will sit, facing backward. This will allow the plug to be accessible after the fact (by removing the fireplace).
Note: in the image above you can see the top ten inches of the frame are notched so the 2x4s can sit flush against the wall where the sheetrock is taken out, and also flush against the drywall. We’re using the top section as hidden storage for TV components, so we wanted the drywall in tact. That part is optional.
We also ran wire to an outlet in the wall for our hidden storage, with a recessed outlet above where the TV would sit. We had some open wall boxes on hand so we just used that for the lower section, but if I were to do it again I probably would have just used another recessed outlet box so there was one inside the fireplace mantle and one behind the TV. Live and learn.
Step 4. Attach Durock Boards
The Touchstone Inset Electric Fireplace is meant to used in the walls of your home. It’s safe to be right up against wood. So the Durock here isn’t for heat resistance, but for our tile. Durock is a bit porous and tile mortar adheres to it really well.
You’ll also notice in the image above that I have angled, exposed boards on the sides and top. Those are our nailers for when we install the moulding around the finished fireplace. Without those, you’ll have a hard time getting anything to stick, so put those in place, screw them to the frame of the structure, and only tile up to them so you can nail the moulding directly into them.
Step 5. Lay Tile (& grout after the tile has set)
The dimensions of our electric fireplace worked out perfect on this wall. We used a 36″ Touchstone electric fireplace, but you can find larger ones at Lowe’s and if you have the space, I say go for that. Lay your tiles out beforehand and try to plan out where your grout lines will fall so there are no random lines here and there. 1/32 tile spacing is pretty tricky in large areas, but since this is such a small space, it works perfect and helps the tile look more seamless. We were going for a marble slab look and used 12×24″ marble tile to achieve it. The tiles that we laid vertically going up either side, we looked for pieces that had horizontal veining to continue the look.
Once the tile is laid and has set overnight, grout the gaps with a good quality, unsanded grout. Sanded grout is too grainy to fit in 1/32 spaces. We used the color Frost and it looked seamless.
Step 6. Attach the Mantle and Moulding
Using a brad nailer, attach your mantle piece first. It’s hard to tell in the image above but ours is actually two pieces – the front piece is nailed in place and the back piece is removable to access our hidden storage.
Once the mantle is in place, you can attach the crown moulding to the sides and top. Brads also work well here, and this is when you’re going to be so glad you planned ahead and added the nailers.
Step 7. Caulk, Paint & Install the Fireplace
Caulking and painting can be tedious, but that crucial step makes the entire project. Once finished, go ahead and set your fireplace in and you’re done! Let’s see some glamour shots.
Below is a short video of the fireplace in action, where we click through all the different settings it comes with (varied colors, degrees of brightness, etc.). It also has several heat settings, timers and can even be turned on without the heat element.
Outside of the fireplace insert, materials for this project came in just over $500. In just three days (one day of planning, two of making it happen) we make this little space into something that makes our room feel so cozy, and even though we’re in no rush for winter, when it does arrive we’ll love this fireplace even more.