How to Install a Gas Fireplace with Tile Surround and Wood Mantel

This post contains material sponsored by Build.com. All design plans, thoughts, and opinions are my own.

Our 1952 home did not have a fireplace when we bought it. We’ve gone without one for the time that we’ve lived here, but every fall and winter we find ourselves saying “I wish we had a fireplace!” We live in Minnesota, and there’s nothing better than a fire on a cold winter’s night. When we were planning our basement remodel, we knew we had to add one!

I wanted to share the process with you all, in case you’re considering adding a fireplace to your home. Disclaimer: we are not professionals and I would highly recommend hiring a professional if you have absolutely no idea how to do any framing, gas line work, or mechanical work (venting).

First things first: the design!

The finished product didn’t stray too far from my initial design plans. I wanted builtins on either side, a wood mantel and tile surround, and sconce lights above, framing a TV.

We chose a Napoleon fireplace from Build.com. I had wanted something sleek and modern with an all-black firebox and realistic-looking logs. Build.com had so many options to choose from! There are many things to consider, such as venting mechanisms, heat output (BTUs), appearance, size, and operating mechanisms. If you have any questions while you’re shopping, Build.com has an easy customer assistance chat option and you can get immediate help! Otherwise, a quick phone call or email is also an option 24/7.

Something you should do while you shop for a fireplace is…

Look into your local code requirements

I would highly recommend checking into your code requirements and prior to making any purchases or starting installation! We needed a direct vent fireplace in order to meet code requirements in the state of MN. There may also be clearance requirements for the vent height outside of the house- in St. Paul, MN, it is 12″, to prevent any snow buildup from covering the vent. There’s also a regulation for how close the vent can be to a window. Because our fireplace was installed in the basement, there are regulations about the location of the vent in proximity to the floor above. You will need a permit for the gas line and the venting.

After you’ve confirmed your local code requirements, pulled necessary permits, and decided on your design, it’s time to get installing!

Step 1: Install the fireplace, gas line, and vent

We did this step a little bit backwards, so don’t make our mistake! We actually built the fireplace frame before we installed the venting, and it made the venting quite a bit more difficult to install. Next time around, we’d definitely do the framing afterwards.

We had pulled a permit to install the new gas line, and Josh did that himself (he had prior experience doing this). We decided to hire out the actual process of hooking the gas line up to the fireplace and the vent installation. We figured that if we installed it incorrectly, we could have very costly and potentially lethal complications, so decided to leave it to a pro. To find an installer, I searched “gas fireplace installers” and ended up calling about five different companies, only to be told that they only installed fireplaces that were purchased through them. I asked one of them if they could recommend any independent installers and was lucky enough to get a referral!

The installer hooked up our gas line as well as ran the venting outside, which involved drilling a hole in the foundation and front of the house. The vent then had to be inspected by the city inspector prior to use.

Step 2: Build the Frame

We planned to drywall around the fireplace and then install a tile surround, with built-in cabinetry on either side. We also had plans to wire lighting and TV hookups above the fireplace. Josh built the frame with those plans in mind. An important thing to note is the clearance required behind the fireplace. The one we chose required less clearance that we actually used, but we had specific plans for the cabinetry depth, so we set the fireplace in the location based on that.

Once the frame was built, we ran the wiring to the lights and the TV. The switch you see on the left is to turn on the fireplace.

Step 3: Drywall & Paint

Once the framing is complete, it’s time for drywall! We decided to hire out the drywall for our basement remodel, because of the scale of the project. They hung drywall around the face of the fireplace and then mudded and taped the seams, as well as the rough edges around the fireplace.

We chose to paint the fireplace wall the same as the rest of the walls- Extra White by Sherwin Williams.

Step 4: Tile Surround

Once painting was complete, it was time to install the tile surround. Based on my design plans, I wanted roughly 6″ of tile surrounding the fireplace. I chose a marble small-subway style mosaic tile.

We determined the pattern of the tile prior to installation. We then measured and drew a pencil line around the fireplace, and used a laser level to create guidelines so everything stayed level.

When it was time to install the tile, I spread mortar on one of the sides, cut a line of the mosaic tiles, and then “back-buttered” the tiles as well. Josh cut the individual tiles that were filled in on the sides on our tile saw.

I worked my way around the entire fireplace until all sides were complete.

We gave the mortar 24 hours to dry, and then I grouted the tile using a soft white grout.

Step 5: Install lighting and outlets

Josh installed our sconce lights and outlets just before I installed the tile. There’s not exactly a right or wrong time to do this step in relation to tile installation. I selected some modern traditional sconce lights from Build.com, and our outlets were also from there. We put the sconce lights on a dimmer switch for an added cozy factor! The recessed outlet for the TV was the perfect option so that a flat TV could be hung above the mantel. I was impressed at the selection of options for both lighting and outlets/switches on Build.com! There were so many choices, and although I knew just what I wanted, it was nice to know that help was just a message or call away.

Step 6: Install Flooring & Cabinetry

After tile was complete, we installed the cabinetry and then had a crew install carpet. This step could really be done at any time after drywall installation, but that is the order we took!

Step 7: Build the Mantel

Based on my design plans, Josh built a 6″ wood mantel around the fireplace. I had wanted something sleek and modern, and we also needed to create a bit of a barrier between the fireplace and the TV to protect the TV from the heat created by the fireplace.

Josh installed 1×6″ boards flat around the fireplace using the framing nailer and drilled holes to attach the other boards with his Kreg jig. We used Aspen boards- they were the cheapest option and would look great when painted because they were nice and smooth.

He then cut the boards for the sides, with 45 degree angles on both sides of the top board as well as the top side of the left and right boards.

He then cut three more boards for the inside face of the surround. He nailed them into place using the framing nailer, and then I filled nail holes and caulked all of the seams.

After seams were caulked and nail holes filled, it was time to paint! I primed the wood and then painted the same color as our trim- Crushed Ice by Sherwin Williams in a satin sheen.

And with that, we were DONE! I am so happy with how the fireplace turned out. We actually sold our home just after the basement was complete so we won’t get to enjoy it, but it will be so nice for the future owners to have a fireplace to hang out in front of during our cold Minnesota winters.

photo by Spacecrafting

The fireplace and builtins are absolutely a focal point in the living room and add a “wow factor” to the basement. It is so much cozier!

Photo by Spacecrafting
Photo by Spacecrafting

I am so happy with how everything came together- the fireplace and lighting add a cozy, modern touch to the basement. The black fixtures are a striking yet beautiful contrast against the white walls. The fireplace surround with marble tile and Crushed Ice mantel ties into the rest of the basement decor as well as our home. Overall, we are in love with the results! I am so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Build.com to make this project come to life.

Feel free to comment below with any questions about the process!

Photo by Spacecrafting

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Author: Laura Sima

Hey there, I'm Laura- creator of Sima Spaces. I'm a home renovator, designer, and blogger based in St. Paul, MN. When I'm not designing or renovating homes, you can find me working as a pediatric ICU RN, snuggling my dog or cat, skiing in CO, or enjoying a glass of wine on our patio.

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