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A fireplace serves as the centerpiece of a room, both visually and socially, with family and guests gravitating to the soothing, flickering backdrop. A concrete fireplace surround can be custom molded and sized to fit any space, from an expansive great room to a cramped bedroom. What’s more, like stone and masonry, concrete combines the ideal qualities of fire resistance and heat retention.

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10 Tips for Designing a Concrete Fireplace

Concrete Fireplaces & Hearths
Time: 04:45
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Concrete fireplaces can completely transform an ordinary room into something extraordinary. Before designing a custom concrete fireplace surround for your home, consider this list of tips offered by concrete contractors:

1. When considering the design focus of your new fireplace take into consideration adding foliage, such as leaves, ferns or other elements found on the property, or incorporate architectural details from the home's design. Get ideas in The Concrete Network's Concrete Fireplace Photo Gallery.

2. Consider your home's interior décor, match or complement other design elements in the room, such as a rug, prominent work of art, cherished piece of furniture, or window treatments.

3. Consider extending the allure of the fireplace beyond the traditional living room or family room space, installing them in kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and even outdoors. Two sided fireplaces can be enjoyed from two rooms.

4. Explore your options and decide how you will use your fireplace. Will you want to hang stockings on a traditional mantel? Or will you want to sit on a hearth by the fire? Will it be gas burning or natural wood burning?

5. To keep within a budget, take into account that intricate details and curves will usually add to the cost of the surround. If cost is an issue, consider turning some curves in your design to straight lines, and minimizing small details. Often simple, clean lines create a dramatic focal point in a room.

Pourfolio Custom Concrete in San Diego, CA.Read about how this fireplace was designed and built.

6. Get an idea of how your fireplace surround will impact your room before it is built. Use cardboard cutouts to be sure the fireplace is in scale with the size of the room and to give an idea of shape and placement.

7. Be sure to research photos on the internet and magazines. Show the contractor photos of what you do and don't like.

8. Be sure to pick out a firebox and have it inserted into the surround. Do not have your contractor build one.

9. Once you've decided on a design, have your contractor make a mock-up, and provide color samples so that all parties are on the same page on what to expect.

10. Don't be discouraged by the overwhelming amount of options available. Ask questions, and ask to see a portfolio of work. Contractors know their work better than anyone; they can guide you in the right direction.

Style Options & Color Choices for Concrete Fireplaces

Combining the qualities of fire resistance, heat retention, and moldability, concrete is fast becoming a popular material for fireplace surrounds, mantels, and hearths. Artisans can replicate virtually any look, ranging from ornate to contemporary.

Concrete Fireplace Designs
Time: 01:16
Watch this overview of 10 tips for building and designing a concrete fireplace.

Few materials can compete with concrete when it comes to versatility. It can be molded into any shape, integrally colored or stained to match nearly any hue, and exhibit textures ranging from rough to highly polished.

Style options

"Concrete fireplaces offer a wide range of style options from Old World to modern and complement materials such as stone, tile or metals, fusing them together in a dramatic marriage of texture and shape," says Wanda Ellerbeck of Grotto Designs.

Here are some of the most popular options:

  • Board formed concrete fireplace
  • Modern concrete fireplace
  • Floor-to-ceiling precast panels
  • Wrap-around designs
  • Hand-pressed or steel troweled finish
  • Floating concrete hearth or mantel
  • Corner fireplaces
  • Wood-burning or gas fueled
  • Traditional corbels
In this home in Gig Harbor, Wash., a commanding entry fireplace was created using GFRC in an old-world, ancient-looking surround design.Read about how this fireplace was constructed This four-sided fireplace attracts attention as the focal point in a North Carolina residence. Built in 14 pieces, the fireplace features radiuses, match and kindling holders, lighted mantel, zinc plated electrical outlet, copper inlays, and more.
Read about how this fireplace surround was built.

Color choices

Concrete is also a great choice because of the vast color possibilities. When it comes to brick, stone or marble, there are only a handful of color options. Not so with concrete.

Each concrete contractor offers his or her own unique colors. If it's taupe or mushroom or khaki you're after, your concrete contractor will work with you to achieve the exact shade you're seeking. And many will create custom colors to help you match or complement other materials, whether it's a cherished rug, your favorite piece of art, flooring, or your furniture.

Samples will always be different because each contractor has their own secret recipe and different types and amounts of cement and aggregates. In fact, cement will vary in different parts of the country. There are different brands of pigments, stains, and aggregate colors, so concrete surrounds will always be one-of-a-kind.

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Finding The Right Fireplace Surround

The fireplace is a very important element in a room. Here are some tips to help in your search for the perfect fireplace surround.

Sierra Concrete Design, Inc.

Take accurate measurements of your fireplace opening

Specify the width, height and any details that might limit the mantel or hearth. For homes with space constraints or with uniquely shaped fireplace openings, pre-cast fireplace surrounds may be the best choice as it can be cut to fit, while other materials may not.

Be descriptive and detailed

Give the contractor as much detail about what you are looking for in terms of shape, style and cost, so the vcontractor can provide you with the best service possible.

Ask good questions

Quality suppliers should be able to answer the following questions.

  • Do you have experience working with a variety of "firebox styles"?
  • What does your design selection consist of?
  • Do you design and customize?
  • Do you warranty or guarantee your products?
  • Can you advise in the selection of an appropriate fireplace box?

5 Ideas for Customizing a Concrete Fireplace Surround

If you’ve only ever considered using traditional brick, stone or ceramic tile to build a fireplace, then you’re missing out on all the endless design possibilities you have when using concrete instead. The fireplaces showcased here incorporate custom features that take them to a new level of beauty and functionality, such as integrated shelving, built-in seating, and unique shapes and surface finishes.

Incorporate an Art Display

Instead of putting a painting or pair of vases on top of a mantel, you can form built-in art “nooks” in your concrete fireplace to prominently display your art. This beautiful floor-to-ceiling fireplace is made of two-toned taupe and gray concrete with forged metal band inlays. It also integrates a walnut entertainment center at the right with a recess for a TV screen.

Bring it to Life

This nature-themed concrete fireplace was created using plant life from the client’s property. Real ferns and maple leaves were used to stamp the design in the wet concrete, which was then accented with concrete dyes.

Think Outside the Box

This integrally colored precast concrete fireplace surround, designed by Fu-Tung Cheng of Cheng Design, is given a unique three-dimensional look by alternating the depth of the horizontal panels. The hearth is site-cast concrete with a smooth, polished finish.

Take a Seat

The prominent design feature of this concrete fireplace is the enormous wrap-around fireplace bench with a 10 ½-inch apron. The piece was installed on a wood platform that was built out like a deck around the fireplace. The bench can seat up to 10 people.

Double the Pleasure

With a two-sided concrete fireplace, such as this one, you can enjoy your cozy fire from two rooms, such as a kitchen and great room. Think of it as a room divider with a lot more functionality than a plain old wall.

Glass-Fiber Reinforced Concrete

Glass-fiber reinforced concrete, or G.F.R.C, is a cement mixture that contains alkali resistant glass fibers. It is perfect for casting high-strength, lightweight fireplaces.

Sierra Concrete Design, Inc.

Benefits of G.F.R.C.

  • Using fiber reinforcement yields a higher strength to weight ratio than unreinforced precast concrete.
  • As a result, the product is durable and lighter in weight, which significantly reduces the cost of freight transportation and installation.
  • The fiber-wrapped skin is more resistant to environmental degradation and corrosion under the attack of chemicals.
  • Easily adapts to any shape of the concrete allowing flexibility in design.
  • An environmentally friendly composite made of natural raw materials with low energy consumption.

Read a comprehensive overview of G.F.R.C.

Find GFRC Mixes for Precast Concrete

An alternative to a precast GFRC fireplace is using a vertical overlay designed for skim coating walls. These mixes can be colored, stamped and carved for a custom look. Plus they are a better option for a DIY concrete fireplace and more budget-friendly.

Related Information
Outdoor Concrete Fireplaces Get design ideas for adding a concrete fireplace to your outdoor living area.
Concrete Furniture Learn what makes concrete ideal for crafting tables, benches, bookcases and chairs.
Fireplace Catalog Learn why concrete and fire are the perfect blend and see examples of traditional and contemporary fireplace designs.

Grotto Designs
Sierra Concrete Design, Inc.