S19 E7: All About Fireplaces
By: Date: November 18, 2020 Categories: About,Fireplaces,Uncategorized

In this special episode of Ask This Old House, Tom Silva and Mark McCullough tell you everything you need to know about fireplaces; Tom builds a custom mantel for a homeowner; Richard Trethewey discusses fireplace inserts; Mark replaces the hearth of a fireplace with granite.

Previous episode: S19 E6 | Next episode: Posting on Nov 22, 8pm ET

In this episode:

In this special episode of Ask This Old House, Tom Silva and Mark McCullough tell you everything you need to know about fireplaces. Fireplaces make a statement about your style and your home and there’s nothing better than gathering around a fire. If they are not built and maintained correctly, fireplaces can be dangerous.

To make sure yours is safe, start with a inspection from a reputable company. Tom explains about installing a salvaged mantel versus a stock mantle. He then builds a custom mantel for a homeowner. Richard Trethewey discusses converting to gas burning fireplaces: Sealed combustion gas insert or a gas log style.

Mark improves the appearance of a fireplace by replacing the hearth of a fireplace with granite. He then installs a brick veneer to restore the classic look in another home.

How to Install a Chimney Liner and Damper

Kevin O’Connor creates a safe wood-burning fireplace with the help of chimney expert, Clint Sanner.

Where to find it?

Installing a chimney liner is a professional job that should only be performed by a qualified technician. Expert assistance for this project was provided by Clint Sanner of Hale’s Chimney Cleaning & Repair.

Materials for this project were supplied by Lindemann Chimney Supply. The insulating mortar that was installed in the firebox was Chamber-Tech 2000, manufactured by Ahrens Chimney Technique.

How To Install a Gas Fireplace Insert

Richard and a fireplace expert helped a homeowner install a new gas insert in her wood-burning fireplace. With the electrical outlet already installed in the fireplace, the installer removed the old cap on the chimney and installed two steel liners, one for the fireplace intake and one for the exhaust.

Next, Richard tapped into the existing natural gas lines and ran pipes up to the fireplace to feed the new insert. Finally, the connections were made to the fireplace and the installation was complete.

Where to find it?

Technical assistance and installation was provided by Energy Unlimited of New England, Inc.

John and Richard installed a 34 DVL by Fireplace Xtrordinair. It is manufactured by Travis Industries.

How to Replace a Hearth with Slate Tile

Mark McCullough replaces a common terra cotta hearth with slate tile.

Where to find it?

Mark installed 2×8” Slide Grey slate tile, which is manufactured by Roma Tile. To secure the tiles to the sub hearth, Mark used standard tiling materials, including thinset, tile spacers, a notched trowel, grout, and sponges. These can all be found at home centers and tile supply houses.

How to Reface a Fireplace with Granite

Mark McCullough teaches Generation NEXT apprentice Krysten how to reface a granite fireplace.

Where to find it?

Refacing a fireplace surround is a two-person job. Use caution when handling heavy materials.It’s challenging to match granite, so it makes more sense to order four new pieces rather than just one or two replacement pieces. A local stone fabricator can template the fireplace and cut and round each piece to the appropriate size. In this case, Mark used granite in the color Black Pearl, fabricated by International Stone, Inc.

To adhere the granite to the fireplace, Mark used a concrete construction adhesive manufactured by Quikrete. The other materials Mark used for this job, including the chisel, hammers, and buckets, can all be found at home centers.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by MJM Masonry.

How to Brick Veneer a Fireplace

Mark McCullough replaces a homeowner’s sloppy fireplace surround with a clean, thin brick veneer.

Where to find it?

Mark installed General Shale French Quarter thin brick as a veneer over the old fireplace. He ordered both flat and corner thin bricks to make sure the fireplace opening looked fully covered. He secured the veneer to the wall using Quikrete Type N mortar. To template the brick placement, Mark used a brick ruler, which can be found at masonry supply stores.

The materials Mark used to install the thin brick, including tuck pointers, trowels, and painter’s tape can all be found at home centers. Expert assistance with this segment was provided by the Spaulding Brick Company.

How to Upgrade a Mantel, Hearth, and Surround

Tom helped a homeowner update his old fireplace by installing a new custom-built wooden mantle and polished granite hearth. With the old mantle removed, Tom removed some of the bricks at the top of the fireplace with a hammer and chisel to make room for the new mantle. Next, he removed the hearth tiles to make room for the granite.

Tom then laid mortar onto the hearth as a setting bed for the new granite. While the mortar was drying, the homeowner cut and installed the granite pieces for the hearth and surround. He used a special construction adhesive to hold the marble in place. To fasten the mantle to the wall, Tom screwed wooden cleats to the wall’s framing. He then used finish nails to secure the mantle to the cleats.

Where to find it?

The custom-built mantle was manufactured and provided by Premier Mantles Incorporated. Pre-manufactured mantle kits are available at many home centers.

The marble hearth and surround was provided by InterContinental Marble Corporation.

Additional support was provided by Insul-Mart, LLC and Brosco Millwork Distributors

How to Build a Custom Fireplace Mantel

Tom helps a homeowner build a custom fireplace mantel.

Where to find it?

Tom used 5/4 x8 and 1×8 poplar lumber to construct the mantel, which is available at lumberyards. Tom fastened the mantel together using pocket screws and a pocket screw jig, which are both manufactured by Kreg Tools and available at specialty woodworking stores.

The cordless nailer that Tom used is manufactured by Bostich. The power tools that Tom used, including the portable table saw, compound miter saw, and cordless drill were manufactured by DeWalt.

Original Air Date: Nov 15, 2020 Season 19; Ep.7 23:42

Products and Services from this Episode

Expert assistance:

Hale’s Chimney Cleaning & Repair

Energy Unlimited of New England, Inc.

MJM Masonry

Spaulding Brick Company

Additional support:

Insul-Mart, LLC

Brosco Millwork Distributors

Fireplace materials:

Lindemann Chimney Supply

Ahrens Chimney Technique

Travis Industries

Roma Tile

International Stone, Inc.


General Shale

Premier Mantles Incorporated

InterContinental Marble Corporation


Kreg Tools



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *