Before building a fireplace

Do you want to add a fireplace to your interior? We can already guess what your first question is: “Where do I start?” You may be good with your hands, but building a fireplace is not the same as renovating a hardwood floor or building a wall. Not many handymen can boast that they built a fireplace in their home.

If you’re looking for a guide to build or renovate a fireplace, Marie-Pierre Dubois Petroff, architect by training, shows the steps to take in her book, La cheminée, plus de 120 réalisations.

From the beginning, she obligates you to ask the fundamental question. Do you want a central fireplace, a fireplace connected to the wall, one that is built-in or suspended? Or do you want to install it in a corner of the bedroom, the kitchen or the living room?


All these fireplaces have their have their decorative charm, but each one imposes its limits on renovators, due to their location and the structure of the building, especially if the idea is to add a fireplace in an existing room. Questions arise as to the evacuation of the smoke, the air intake, the heat radiation if the fireplace is more oriented towards heating than the spectacle of the burning flames.

Many factors must be taken into consideration. For example, the dimensions of the room determine the choice of fireplace for efficiency reasons. There’s no two ways about it: renovators have to remain patient.


There are no shortcuts in building a fireplace. Calculation mistakes can cause problem after problem. Two examples: if the duct is too wide, the smoke tends to return to the ground, which reduces the draw effect; if a door is located to close to the fireplace, the slightest movement could cause a breeze that destabilizes the flames.

Does it bother if you the ducts and hood are visible? If so, they will have to be recessed, which gives a whole other effect to the work.

Building a fireplace requires many calculations if you don’t want to end up with inefficient heating. You have to ensure an adequate proportion between the various components of the fireplace, between the fireplace and the duct, between the opening of the fireplace and the opening of the duct. In her book, Ms. Dubois Petroff provides the calculation rules to succeed.


Among all the works consulted, the one by Ms Dubois Petroff is the most complete. Everything is finely detailed. However, Making Mantels de David Getts is more technical, due to the numerous extremely detailed sketches, explanatory photos, list of required tools (surprisingly short) and information on the smallest details, such as mouldings and friezes.

For additional information, visit specialized sites, like the ones below.

If you prefer to call an expert, this information will help you to make an enlightened decision and ensure that everything will be done the right way.


La cheminée, plus de 120 réalisations, collection recettes d’architecte, Marie-Pierre Dubois Petroff, Massin, 2009, 95 pages

Making Mantels, David Getts, Linden Publishing Fresno, 2002, 200 pages

Fireplace and mantel ideas, John Lewman (design, build and install your dream fireplace mantel) Fox Chapel Publishing, 2004, 129 pages