Our Outdoor Fireplace Reveal
Wow! I am so glad to (finally) be putting this reveal post together! Back in April I shared why we chose to move forward with an outdoor fireplace and the inspiration behind it. If you are curious about it, you can check it out HERE.
But today, about 2 months later, I’m ready to show you the finished product.
Now, before we get started let me be completely transparent with you. While I may call this a DIY project, we did not do this completely alone. We had multiple people help us to make this project possible. We knew upfront that we did not have all the knowledge needed to build the outdoor fireplace in my mind. There were a lot of elements that we needed guidance on, and some that required more than guidance and actual hands on learning/watching/asking a million questions.
We are thankful to have incredibly talented people our family, and one of my (basically) Uncles is a professional. He took on this project with us and all I can say is that we couldn’t have done it without him. He gave me strict instructions that I was not allowed to put him on any social media or the internet, so even though you wont see pictures of him, know that he was the glue that held this whole project together. He helped us in every phase from framing guidelines, and keeping things to code, to helping with the insert, waterproofing, and teaching us to stucco.
Edwin, if you ever read this, THANK YOU so much for everything! We are beyond grateful.
With that being said, we gained so much knowledge and documented the whole process so get ready because we are sharing it step by step. Now our process was a little different than what I recommend because honestly we learned a lot in the process… so I’m also sharing tips and what we learned/should have done.
Step One: Find Inspiration and Plan Ahead
You all know that I am a planner and that I love to research projects before I get started. That’s how this whole fireplace idea happened. I knew we wanted a fireplace and I figured we could DIY one. I found this blog post by some of my favorite home bloggers, Chris Loves Julia, and decided we would tackle our own fireplace too.
But the designer in me kicked in and after looking for some inspiration I decided on the shape and finish of our fireplace, which instantly made this DIY a little harder than we anticipated. So again, this DIY turned into more of a hands-on learning experience with the help of people who know what they are doing.
So what should you do when planning ahead?
Find inspiration. Figure out what you want, where it will go, and how it will work. Do you want a wood burning or gas insert? What type of finish do you want- Stucco, brick, rock?
Once you know what you want, make a materials list.
For reference, we knew we wanted our fireplace to be on the corner of our back deck. Which meant that we would have to frame it accordingly.
We also knew that we wanted a wood-burning fireplace because my husband claims there is no greater stress reliever than chopping wood. Men…
I also knew that I really loved the look of stucco. It is simple, timeless, and cheaper than brick or rock.
Here is the list of materials we ended up using. (Please keep in mind this is customized to our exact fireplace and how it sits on our deck.)
(5) 4’x8’ sheets of ½’ plywood
(1) 4’x8’ sheet of ¾” plywood
(2) Rolls 30lb roofing felt
(11) Sheets of metal lathe
(2) Boxes of thin brick pavers
3 Inch screws
(2) 5 Gallon buckets (one for mortar mix, one for water)
(5) Bags of Type S mortar. (Do NOT get the mortar/sand premixed stuff…just mortar)
Load of masonry sand
(2) Gallons of paint
(1) bag Quikcrete
*All lumber needs to be pressure treated.
We also recommend putting together a list of tools that you will need, and make sure you have access to them. Trust us, we almost messed up big time… but I’ll explain that later.
Here’s our list of tools:
Pneumatic staple gun
1 inch staples
Shovel/ Post hole diggers
Snips (for metal lathe)
Once you have made your lists, and checked them twice, go ahead and order the materials so you have them on hand as soon as you need them. We did not, and ended up having to wait a couple weeks for our insert to be delivered.
We also highly recommend getting the exact dimensions of your insert while ordering, so that you can frame everything properly.
Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once
Anybody else have a wood-working Papa with these famous words?
In this case, its more like “measure twice, dig holes once” because in order to start framing your fireplace you need to dig the footings and set some posts!
We used post-hole diggers to make this part easier but you can always use a shovel. (By “we” I mean Mitch and his family.)
Once you have dug the holes, put the posts in place and make sure they are level. Really… make sure they are level, its important.
We used Quikcrete to set the posts in place and let it dry for a day.
Step 3: Frame it up
Once the posts were secure and set, Mitch and his family started framing the fireplace. It amazes me that I can simply show them a rough sketch and they make it happen.
Again, it is very important to know the dimensions of the insert you are using, because in order to meet code the wood must have at least a 1-inch clearance from the insert. You also need to accommodate for the height of feet on the insert (that hold it off the plywood platform,) and the face of the insert if you don’t want too much of it showing above your hearth.
Our deck sits off the ground, so we knew we would have to build up a platform to hold the insert. They used 2x6” floor joist to reinforce the ¾” plywood base. Our deck is roughly 30” above the ground, and we wanted a 15-18” hearth height. So they built the platform to be 45” tall.
We also wanted to store firewood for the fireplace, and realized we had empty space below the platform. We cut a hole in the back of the fireplace and framed it out to make it look better.
Step 4: Install the Insert
There are so many different options of outdoor fireplace inserts. As I said earlier, we chose to go with a wood-burning insert, but many people would rather have a gas insert instead.
If you are using a gas insert, now would be the time to have your gas company come run the gas line and get everything connected and in place for you.
If you are using a wood-burning insert, we recommend also purchasing a matching shroud or chimney cap, because wood-burning fireplaces require a vent to stick above the top of the fireplace by 12(ish) inches. The shroud helps cover that vent to make things look much nicer. When ordering the insert you can also order the prefab shroud to go with it. This saves time because it can all be installed together. We didn’t know that, and had to wait for the shroud to arrive.
Again, being completely transparent here, we had some help with the insert and getting it in place. We knew we didn’t have the proper knowledge and know-how to make sure that this was done correctly and with it being so close to our house (and next to our wood deck) we wanted to make sure it was safely installed. After seeing the installation process, I think we might could have handled it. But I would much rather be safe than sorry, especially when dealing with fire.
After the insert was installed, we finished framing around the insert. We put our fireplace “facial boards” on, and finished framing the hearth- raising it a few inches to accommodate for the black border surrounding the insert.
Step Five: Waterproofing
Even though the lumber is pressure treated, you want to make sure that water cannot get inside your fireplace; because, mold, mildew, rot, and just lots of gross and not wonderful things can happen.
So we used 30lb roofing underlayment as the waterproofing barrier (and only knew to do that because of Edwin.) When they originally called it “felt” I was definitely confused because any crafter knows that felt is… well, not waterproof. But this is something entirely different.
We learned that when laying the felt, you always want to start by hanging it horizontally and at the bottom, wrap the corners, and have a 3-4 inch overhang when layering each piece.
We used a staple gun to secure it to the frame, and made sure that no wood was showing and that we didn’t have seams that would allow water in.
At this point I started questioning if I should paint the fireplace black because it looked so modern when looking out our windows
Step 6: Metal Lathe
First let me say that before you ever touch this sheet of sharp metal, put on gloves because one wrong move and your hand will be sliced to pieces.
Let me also say, that if Edwin had not been here to help us at this point, our fireplace would have already fallen apart. We started hanging the metal lathe with our standard staple gun and what we assumed were a lot of staples. We were wrong. Edwin showed up and saved the day with his pneumatic staple gun and plethora of one-inch staples. Had he not, the weight of the stucco would have pulled the metal lathe right off the frame. So yeah, thank goodness that Edwin helped.
But now we know, and you do too!
The metal lathe is made to lock in with the other sheets and it contains “cups” in the metal shape that help hold the stucco in place.
When hanging the metal lathe, we learned that you want to hang it horizontally, and wrap the corners so they don’t crack. Use a generous amount of staples, and make sure that there is no give between the lathe and the frame. Otherwise, the stucco is going to crack. You want everything tight against the frame.
Step 7: Scratch Coat
This is the part that I was most excited about- the stucco!
I’m not entirely sure why, but the thought of learning to stucco fascinated me. Edwin literally gave up his own time to teach us how to stucco, and help on the fireplace.
First, we learned what materials we needed.
We used Type S mortar, but make sure it does not have sand premixed into it. He likes to mix in his own sand by hand to make sure the consistency is right. As a rule of thumb he uses a ratio of 7 shovels of masonry sand to half a bag of mortar. Slowly adding in water until it reaches the right consistency. You don’t want it to be watery. We mixed it in a wheel barrow with a hoe and it worked great.
We used a trowel to apply the scratch coat (first coat) of stucco, starting at the base of the fireplace and working our way up. It definitely took some learning, but I loved it. But boy is it messy work. I recommend laying down some type of tarp or paper if you are doing stucco on a finished surface.
After finishing the first coat of stucco, be sure to clean off the insert to get any excess stucco off before it dries. The scratch coat needs to dry for about a week.
Step 8: Finish Coat
Once the scratch coat had dried, Edwin came back to show us how to do the final coat. It was the same process as the scratch coat, but once it sat for a few minutes, he went back over the stucco lightly with a wet sponge. This is called a Sponge finish and gives a smoother and more tailored finish.
I simply wanted the rough texture to be smoothed out. Stucco is mortar and sand, so naturally it will have lots of texture, but I wanted the texture from the application to be smoothed out.
When applying a sponge finish, the more wiping you do with the wet sponge, the sandier the texture will become. Edwin just lightly went over our fireplace, and it turned out exactly how I envisioned it!
Again, the stucco was something that we had no previous knowledge or experience with, so we wanted to get help and guidance from a professional that knew exactly what he was doing. He let us learn and showed us a few tricks, but also fixed any mistakes we made so that our fireplace would still look great!
Step Nine: Brick the Hearth
We wanted a brick hearth because it is sturdier to sit on, and it is more durable against embers that may escape the fire.
As soon as we finished the sponge finish, we started on the brick hearth. We laid down the metal lathe on the hearth to help support the brick. We used the same mortar mix for the brick mortar and spread an even coat across the metal lathe to lay the bricks on.
We laid the bricks in a standard straight pattern to match the base of the insert, and used a tile saw to cut the brick when needed. Once the bricks were in place, we covered the brick with more wet mortar to fill the gaps between the bricks. Then Edwin took a wet sponge and cleaned off any excess mortar from the bricks.
Once that was finished, we cleaned off the insert again, and let the second coat or stucco and the bricks dry for another week.
Step Ten: Paint
Once everything was completely dry, I went ahead and painted the fireplace. It made such a huge difference!
I wanted a very simple white fireplace. I went with the paint color Pure White by Sherwin Williams and I used a paint and primer in one. It took a little less than 2 gallons of paint to cover the fireplace evenly.
I painted the fireplace like I would any room. I used a paintbrush to cut in around the insert, shroud, deck, and ground, and then rolled everything else. It was easy but time consuming. Absolutely worth it though!
I mean just look at that finished product!
I also promised a budget breakdown, so here is a rough estimate of what it costs us to build this outdoor fireplace from the ground up:
Metal Lathe $100
In the end, this fireplace turned out better than we could have imagined. We have spent so much time just admiring it.
We are so proud of it, and how hard we worked to make it happen.
We are also so grateful for the help we had along the way, because it clearly wouldn’t have gone right had we not had help.
But the important part is that we learned something new, and can share our experience with you.
If you are looking to build your own outdoor fireplace, I highly recommend doing your research, make sure you have the right tools and materials, and be sure you have the knowledge and skills to do it properly (or someone willing to help you!)
This was definitely not as easy as we originally thought it was going to be, but that’s partially because of my design plan and the finish I chose.
But it was absolutely worth it, and I would tackle this project 100 times over to get our outdoor fireplace!
I hope you love it as much as we do!