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Which comes first, the fireplace or the surround?

With all of the images of finished living spaces available online, it has become quite easy to determine likes and dislikes when it comes to the appearance of other people’s homes. A lot of folks create collections of images on Pinterest and Houzz of their likes and use those images for inspiration when planning home remodeling projects of their own.

We meet with clients all the time who bring in their portfolio of ideas and share with us their desires for various rooms. One of the most common images we are shown by clients is that of a fireplace with a roaring fire and a stone fireplace surround. “This is exactly what I want for my great room,” the client says in an excited tone, and then the question and answer session begins.

One of the things we are best at is listening to our clients. When you tell us about a very specific fireplace surround for your home, it's important to us to provide what you want whenever possible, but often times there needs to be an explanation of what the process will involve to achieve those desires.

The image below represents a fireplace surround that we carved and installed for a client, and this same image was brought to us by a different client very recently. The fireplace surround shown in the image is in limestone, in a room that measures approximately 20’ by 30’ with ceilings at 14’ high. The firebox is constructed of masonry at 36” into the room off of the rear wall to which it returns at the sides and has a custom iron insert at the opening. The firebox opening measures 40” wide by 35” high and is raised 6” above the finished floor. Our new client would like this fireplace surround in their home exactly as it appears in the image.

elegant limestone fireplace surround and mantel

After meeting at the client’s home to measure the existing conditions begin the design process for their fireplace surround, we discovered it would require a substantial amount of work to exactly replicate their desires and meet code. As you can see in the client's home below, the project would have required demo of the book shelves, reframing, extending the hearth, expanding and lowering of the firebox, and adding side returns.

client's existing fireplace

While a client may really want the exact appearance of a certain fireplace surround, unfortunately their budget and room size might dictate otherwise.

Ultimately, we designed a fireplace surround that fit perfectly for the existing conditions of the client’s home and their budget while also meeting the design and style they liked, but this example goes a long way to answering the question….what comes first, the fireplace or the fireplace surround?

Our answer? Whenever possible the fireplace surround should come first.

The fireplace surround is one of the focal points of any room, and it should be designed with the parameters of the room in mind as well as the design style of the home. In the end, the finished result should be the determining factor for every other decision along the way. The best part is that we can design in reverse order the sequence of events to ensure the fireplace surround we create for our clients is exactly what they want.

We do this by first designing the fireplace surround and then determining how and to what size the firebox and surrounding areas should be constructed. This information is then given to the firebox fabricator and/or mason, framers, plumbers, etc. so every trade involved in the process can know the game plan before it ever occurs.

Our goal at Stone Source is to always provide for our clients exactly what they want. And if they keep in mind their fireplace surround comes before anything else in the room, then they shouldn’t ever be disappointed with the final outcome.

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