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Updating Fireplace Hearth: No Demolition Required

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Easy DIY fireplace hearth update with concrete skimcoat, so you can get a new look without demolition.

Quick and easy hearth update

The houses in my neighborhood were built in the mid-1980’s.  They still carry many telltale signs of that decade.  And not necessarily in a good way.

Shortly after I moved in, I was chatting with a neighbor in my living room, and mentioned the ugly exposed aggregate concrete hearth.  She told me they had the same thing in their house, and wasn’t it hideous.

I asked “What did you do about it?”  And she said, “Nothing.”

For a few years, I didn’t really know what to do about it either.  I couldn’t think of any inexpensive changes I could make that wouldn’t require major demolition.

Until one day, when I walked into a local concrete store.

I just walked up to the counter, and told them my dilemma.  They pointed me to the concrete skimcoat, and now I have a clean, classic looking hearth.

Here’s how I did it (and the materials cost under $100).

Before Pictures: Old and Ugly Fireplace Hearth

My house has the slightly unique feature (for such a small and modern home) of having two fireplaces.  One is in the living room, and the other is in the master bedroom.  They’re both built with lovely red brick.

Ugly fireplace hearth makeover
I tried to dress up the living room hearth, but it was still ugly.
old brick fireplace
The bedroom fireplace was even worse.

The only thing I didn’t like about the fireplaces were the hearths.  They were made of exposed aggregate concrete (feels and looks like little pebbles).  

Not only did the slab look outdated, but it always looked dirty.  It was hard to get it really clean between the stones.

DIY concrete hearth update

Applying a simple top coat of concrete skimcoat gave my outdated hearths a whole new look.  (This is the same sort of product that can be used for concrete countertop updates.)




1. Prepare the work area

First, it’s important to clean the hearth as much as possible.  I put down a drop cloth, and then used a bucket of warm water and scrub brush to clean the aggregate stones.

I also applied masking tape along the front of my fireplace insert, to keep it clean.

Concrete hearth update
Clean the hearth, put down drop cloths, and tape off the fireplace.

2. Apply the concrete

Mix up the concrete skimcoat in a bucket, according to the package directions.

Apply the mixture to the hearth with a trowel.  It’s kind of like icing a cake.  Take your time, and smooth it on evenly over the entire surface, including the sides.

Concrete skimcoat hearth update

3. Seal the surface

When the skimcoat is dry, you may want to apply a sealant.  I did this to mine to protect the surface from staining, but also to add a little shine.

Let the sealant dry. Then you are done. Yes, it’s that easy!

After Photos: DIY Concrete Hearth

This is how my concrete fireplace hearth turned out:

DIY concrete hearth update
Before and after concrete hearth update

I think it looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s modern and minimalist. The hearth looks like it was always meant to be that way.

And the fact that I could update my hearth to look more modern for under $100 – and that the DIY project was so easy – is crazy to me!

DIY fireplace hearth makeover

Even better, there was no demolition involved. So often, making your own fireplace hearth might involve jack hammers, crow bars and lots of elbow grease. But not this fireplace makeover!

DIY guide download


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