Removing a fireplace surround: The essentials

fireplace removal
(Image credit: Getty Images/sonnydaez)

Removing a fireplace surround is a job that is carried out for various reasons. Perhaps your fireplace has been fitted with a rather unsympathetic surround that is not at all in keeping with the rest of the house at some point in the past, or maybe the existing surround is in an unrepairable state.

In some cases an old surround just won't fit in with your new fireplace ideas, in which case, taking it off the wall and replacing it with something that does will have an enormous effect on the look of the space given what a prominent position fireplaces usually occupy in the home.

In the case of timber fire surrounds you will need to first uncover the battens or brackets that are attaching them to the wall. 
"Timber surrounds are usually held in by picture plates (brackets) that are plastered over, or battens fixed to the wall and screwed into through the side of the fire surround," explains Tristan Rowe, director at Chesneys
"Before attempting to remove anything make sure the fire surround is propped up securely and safely so it cannot topple over when the brackets and fixings are released," continues Tristan. "You should note that this is minimum of a two person job.
"Once propped you can then cut the plaster away from the brackets and undo the screws holding it into the wall. Alternatively, look for the filler over the screw heads in the side of the timber, dig it out and undo the screws to release  the surround from the batons.
"In both cases the fire surround should be free to pull away from the wall when the props are removed and lain down on the floor."

In many ways, removing a cast iron fireplace surround is a very similar process to that for timber — although the cast iron surround is likely to be much heavier than a timber model.
"The fixing points for cast iron surrounds are at the top of the outside of each leg and are cast into the chassis of the fireplace," says Tristan. "Occasionally there are additional ones further down the legs too.
"If the cast iron surround is greater than 1350mm wide and 1250mm high then this should be referred to a qualified fireplace installer as there can be multiple fixing points on the fireplace and it can well exceed 100kg so is not suitable for DIY removal."
Sometimes you might find you need to chip away the plaster around the edge of the surround to reveal lugs. Remove the screws to release the surround from the wall.
In both cases, ensure the surround is supported so it doesn't fall off the wall — a helper will really come in handy here.
This is where things have the potential to get a little tricky. 
For both stone and brick surrounds it is common to find that they are made up of separate elements, held together with mortar or similar. The sit directly on the hearth below and will often be secured to the wall with metal wall ties, dowels or brackets. 
You will usually need to start by chipping away at the mortar to release one section (or brick) at a time, also chipping any ties out of the wall as and when you come across them. 
"Stone surrounds are often recessed into the wall and the plaster may be contributing to the shelf being held in position," warns Tristan. "In this case, removal should be carried out by a qualified fireplace installer as the weight of a standard fireplace can easily exceed 300kg, making DIY removal vey dangerous — it is not something we would recommend."
Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.