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Best Fireplace Before and Afters 2013

You showed dozens of your stately and inviting hearths and mantels. Now see which ones were finalists in our annual Reader Remodel Contest

Sizzling Makeovers

Is it getting hot in here? This year's Reader Remodel Contest brought in a bunch of amazing fireplace renovations, ranging from rustic stone hearths in kitchens to more-traditional living room fireplaces surrounded by elegant woodwork and space for entertainment gear. Here are a few outstanding examples.

Rustic Stone Fireplace: Before

Who: Mary M.

Where: Belmont, MI

We sledged the bricks out, one by one. Then we removed the fireplace insert and gas logs, and we took out the walls, including the outside wall, so we could properly insulate it. My husband had to move the header in order to make the opening larger. He then fashioned a dome insert in order to form the drywall in a dome shape, instead of a square opening. We were in constant communication with the fireplace/stove business owner in Tennessee because installing a stove would need a lot more space "to code," since it would be generating a lot more heat. After all the cement work, we put in cultured stone, a small tiled floor just under the stove, and we tore out carpet and installed ceramic stone tile that looks just like barn-wood slats.

Rustic Stone Fireplace: After

Who: Mary M.

Where: Belmont, MI

It was such a dramatic change, our neighbors were blown away. The stove is so efficient we had to move the thermostat upstairs in order for it to come on and heat the rest of the house. We found a 100-year-old barn door in the bargain corner for $40, and we put it on the walls around the fireplace opening. It is super rustic, and part of the door was chewed by cows or horses, which makes a good story, and it makes the door look rustic and authentically old.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

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Fireplace Becomes Focal Point: Before

Who: Jocelynn G.

Where: Calgary, AB, Canada

We painted the rock backing of the original fireplace. Framed the mantel and columns. Built and installed the cabinets. Trimmed the columns. Tiled the hearth and mantel. Painted and primed. Ran all electrical in through the mantel and column.

Fireplace Becomes Focal Point: After

Who: Jocelynn G.

Where: Calgary, AB, Canada

This remodel brightened our living room and updated it from the 1960s era to 2013. This project created a focal point for our living room and gave us a place to mount the TV.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $100-$500

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Fireplace Overhaul: Before

Who: Charles S.

Where: Mount Airy, MD

We totally gutted the "garden" level of the house. We added new insulation, drywall, radiant-heated floor, ceramic tile, electrical and fireplace insert. The stone fireplace with recovered barn-beam mantel is the focal point of room.

Fireplace Overhaul: After

Who: Charles S.

Where: Mount Airy, MD

We consulted with a fireplace expert and had the fireplace insert and flue liner installed by professionals.

Who did the work: We did most of the work ourselves.

Cost: $5,000-$10,000

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Craftsman-Style Mantel With Surround: Before

Who: Robert B.

Where: Carson City, NV

This project involved woodwork and finishing, which included carving a saying into the mantel. Also, I did tilework and metal work, which involved welding and pounding the copper hood into shape.

Craftsman-Style Mantel With Surround: After

Who: Robert B.

Where: Carson City, NV

We have a 1970s tract home but are in love with the Craftsman era and are slowly remodeling our home one room at a time as we can afford it. I do all of my own work and keep everything on a low budget.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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Old Hearth, New Hearth: Before

Who: Sharon D.L.

Where: Pittsburgh, PA

The hardest part of the remodel from the building perspective was etching out the brick so that the doors would fit. For sourcing, the most difficult part was finding marble that matched in color to the original that we found at the architectural salvage warehouse. Many marble yards no longer carried the color or had pieces long enough.

Old Hearth, New Hearth: After

Who: Sharon D.L.

Where: Pittsburgh, PA

The entire remodel of the fireplace only took two weeks. I had been looking over a year and a half for all the pieces to start this project. With all the work that I do, I try to have everything there before the project begins. By accumulating the parts of the project over time, the cost overrun is minimal.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

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Ventless Fireplace: Before

Who: Erik B.

Where: Sebago, ME

This project consisted of conceptualizing and building a custom TV corner with a fireplace.

Ventless Fireplace: After

Who: Erik B.

Where: Sebago, ME

The homeowner completed all phases of construction.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

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Full Mantel Overhaul With Tile Front: Before

Who: Dean A.

Where: Saratoga, CA

This project involved the design and fabrication of a new mantel for the fireplace during a complete home remodel. The home changed from a typical 1950s California ranch style to a 1900s American Craftsman style. The mantel incorporates a dentil molding decoration that follows the one used in the new front door and other details throughout the house. The wood used is cut from large timbers of redwood salvaged from a redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains, about 20 miles from the house. The 2-by-8-inch 6-foot-long shelf was purposely cut to expose the unfinished bark edge, including a knothole, in the center of the front edge.

Full Mantel Overhaul With Tile Front: After

Who: Dean A.

Where: Saratoga, CA

I like best the way that the mantel fits in with the rest of the Craftsman-style details of the house and matches the entry door exactly. The entire room, furnished with 1920s furniture and oil paintings on the walls, is very restful and pleasing. These details were all done by my daughter, who owns the home, including the choice and layout of the new tile surrounding the fireplace.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100

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Double-Sided Fireplace: Before

Who: Mike H.

Where: Ozark, MO

After working with the builder to have his crew install the firebox and basic frame when the house was built, I was able to finish the fireplace myself. I took some time planning, because this fireplace was located in the unfinished walk-out basement. I applied the plywood according to my own design. The fireplace is double-sided, so I designed the mantel to wrap completely around the fire box.

Double-sided Fireplace: After

Who: Mike H.

Where: Ozark, MO

I enjoy woodworking and love to try new and different projects. I had never designed and created a fireplace surround before, so I enjoyed the challenge and am very, very satisfied with the outcome.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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Entertainment Built-in with Fireplace: Before

Who: Bill and Nancie W.

Where: Somerset, KY

We drew up several designs before finally coming up with one that we agreed on. We did research on putting the TV in the fireplace, but refused to buy a ready-to-install kit. We built the box for the TV and ran electrical and cable. Electrical had to be modified to hide the boxes for the antique French sconces. We also ran electrical in the mantel for Christmas lights and accent lights in the alcoves.

Entertainment Built-in with Fireplace: After

Who: Bill and Nancie W.

Where: Somerset, KY

It turned out better than we thought. It is the focal point of the room. The antique French lights accent the whole project. The curved lines of the fire place really softens the look. The very best part of the project is that we did it together and loved every minute of it.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

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Castoff Mantel Gets Second Life: Before

Who: Ken M.

Where: Glen Ridge, NJ

The work involved gluing the mantel to the wall and having the contractor build the crown molding around it to make it look as if it were seamless and all part of the original design.

Castoff Mantel Gets Second Life: After

Who: Ken M.

Where: Glen Ridge, NJ

We thought adding the mantel and gluing in a mirror would enhance the dining room.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $100-$500

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A Cozy Fireplace Focal Point: Before

Who: Justin H.

Where: Carrollton, TX

I replaced the carpeting with wood floors, removed the picture frame molding and the wall paneling. Removed the popcorn ceilings and had the walls and ceiling textured. Removed the fireplace hearth, boxed in the top of the fireplace with drywall, tiled over brick with travertine tiles and added travertine to the floor in front of the fireplace. Built a custom mantel to fit around the fireplace, which is the focus of the room. Added large crown molding and 10-inch baseboard to scale in the room. Added thicker architectural door casings to scale in the room. Walls were painted a soft green to keep the room open yet cozy. All the work was done by myself except for laying the wood floors and texturing the walls and ceiling.

A Cozy Fireplace Focal Point: After

Who: Justin H.

Where: Carrollton, TX

I stared remodeling this home when we bought it 10 years ago. The first remodel job (the guest bathroom) has many things I would do differently and better. This living room is the culmination of all of the skills I built while remodeling the rest of the house and it is truly a point of pride for me.

Who did the work: I did most of the work myself.

Cost: $5,000-$10,000 (living room)

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New England Cottage Aesthetic: Before

Who: Jeffrey A.

Where: Birmingham, MI

I purchased this, my first home, in June 2008. It was a charming 1927 English-style cottage set in a wonderful neighborhood. I could see the home had great bones but needed work inside and out. My dad, who is retired, and I worked together to devise plans and a strategy to completely remake the home inside and out. We gutted the home to the studs, preserving what we could (roof, original floor, shell, plaster walls where applicable, and interior doors) and rebuilding every square inch of the rest.

New England Cottage Aesthetic: After

Who: Jeffrey A.

Where: Birmingham, MI

I believe the house is truly wonderful. It fits the lifestyle of my new wife and me perfectly. It is in keeping with both the neighborhood and the New England aesthetic that I am so fond of, and everything from color to material choice to execution is exactly how I envisioned.

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: More than $100,000 (whole house)

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Rustic Hearth Renovation: Before

Who: Kaye U.

Where: Lyons, GA

We removed the old floor covering and preserved the original tongue-and-groove pine flooring. Removed gypsum board from the walls and uncovered the original tongue-and-groove beadboard. Leveled the room and repaired rotted floor joists. Repaired the fireplace by pouring new concrete and installing reclaimed brick from an old syrup chimney, located on the farm, as a new hearth. Replaced the subfloor and reinstalled the original pine flooring.

Rustic Hearth Renovation: After

Who: Kaye U.

Where: Lyons, GA

It turned out by salvaging flooring from both the kitchen and dining area we had just enough to put back down in the dining room. Noteworthy: We had one board to spare. Also, there are no more water lines attached to the wall.

Who did the work: We did most of the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

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One-of-a-Kind Fireplace: Before

Who: Joshua B.

Where: Kalamazoo, MI

I removed the tile surround and drywall. Since it was open, I insulated the chimney chase and then used cement board in place of drywall. I applied metal lath and a scratch coat of mortar. Then my wife and I laid out and cut cinnamon-bark ledge stone using a dry-stack joint. I also replaced the floor tiles in front of the hearth with a slate-like ceramic tile. Lastly, I built a mantel out of red oak, adding details of wood inlay banding and inset tiles from an artisan tileworks shop in Detroit (Pewabic Pottery).

One-of-a-Kind Fireplace: After

Who: Joshua B.

Where: Kalamazoo, MI

Even though the project turned out, in my opinion, wonderfully, the best feature is that I did it from start to finish. Numerous trips to the stone yard to speak with the workers there, Internet research for the right tiles for the inset, and speaking to a local fireplace shop helped me gain the knowledge to build this. I am sure some people may not like it, some pros may find flaws in it, but I am happy.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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Curved Copper Ceiling: Before

Who: Jennifer D.

Where: Liberty Township, OH

My husband resurfaced the entire fireplace, added a granite hearth, and did an amazing job on the ceiling. The home has a curved ceiling due to the time period in which it was built. We didn't want to sacrifice the integrity of the home so he created a copper ceiling. It's incredible. He also removed the carpet and laid a hardwood floor with a cherry border.

Curved Copper Ceiling: After

Who: Jennifer D.

Where: Liberty Township, OH

The room is very classic while still up-to-date in terms of design. It's warm and appealing and by keeping the curved ceilings intact, it still has the character it once had.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost:: $1,000-$5,000

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Dressing Up the Ridge Beam and Ceiling: Before

Who: Hallie B.

Where: Valdosta, GA

We didn't like the room's design.

Dressing Up the Ridge Beam and Ceiling: After

Who: Hallie B.

Where: Valdosta, GA

We gutted this room and added custom molding around the ridge beam. We added thick crown molding to the vaulted ceiling and built a custom mantel to replace the old beam-type one that was there before.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

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