Here's How: Install an Attractive Concrete Fireplace Surround
Dear James: I was at a recent home show, and I saw a beautiful concrete fireplace surround. Is this something I could install on a new fireplace I am having added to my living room, and is it good? -- Gary D.
Dear Gary: A concrete surround can be installed on any fireplace. Concrete is one of the best materials to use for a fireplace surround. It is very durable, attractive and nonflammable. The design flexibility is virtually unlimited because it is poured into a handmade mold, which can be any shape you desire.
People often think of concrete as the dull gray stuff used for sidewalks and driveways, but nothing could be further from the truth. Today, concrete is also often used for kitchen countertops and other indoor surfaces in a home where durability is a consideration.
Concrete is made basically of cement, aggregate (stones, gravel, sand, etc.) and water. By using a relatively fine aggregate -- instead of gravel, which is commonly used for outdoor sidewalks -- the finished concrete surface can be very smooth and uniform.
Concrete can also be colored. The colorant is combined with the water when all of the concrete components are mixed together. By using this method, the color goes completely through the concrete. If its surface does get marred or damaged in some way, it will be less apparent.
Installing a concrete fireplace surround is not usually a do-it-yourself job, but if you design a simple one, give it a try. The materials are inexpensive, so if you end up having to call a professional, you will not have spent much money.
Installing a concrete surround sounds as though it takes a lot of strength to handle and install the heavy materials. Actually, a concrete surround is made in several smaller sections, which are mounted separately against the wall around the fireplace opening. By installing it in several sections, each section can be made with a different colorant for a unique appearance.
The first steps in making a concrete surround are to design it and make a full-scale template. A simple rectangular shape, which is all on the same plain, gives it a contemporary look. A mantel, made from a smoothly finished wood beam, can be placed between the upper two sections.
Once you have the template completed, place it against the fireplace to make sure it fits perfectly. The concrete used for the surround will be only about 3 inches thick. Note on the back of the template any protrusions from the wall, which will interfere with the placement of the concrete sections.
The final forms, into which the concrete is poured, can be made from three-quarter-inch thick melamine. Melamine is strong enough to hold its shape when filled with concrete, and it has a very smooth surface. This should yield a similarly smooth surface to the finished concrete sections.
Use a dry concrete mixture to fill the molds. For larger pieces, install reinforcing steel rods or mesh in the mold so the concrete is forced through it. If you use mesh, make sure the holes are larger than the aggregate in the concrete. Steel ties, which attach the sections to the wall, should also be placed along the edge. Allow the concrete to set up for several days before attempting to hang the sections on the wall.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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