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Fireplace makeover!

Fireplace makeover

The fireplace in our study is all fixed up, and it even provides heat now! We gave this disused fireplace some cosmetic updates, and last week we had a heat pump installed inside of it. ICEBOX NO MORE.



The first stage in fixing up this fireplace was to build a brick hearth at its base. (I also painted it all white, while I was at it.) We knew that we’d get a heater installed in there, so once the hearth was cured and painted, I got to work cleaning up the rough interior.

The back was badly patched with mortar, so I spent a few days applying mesh tape and giving it heavy passes of joint compound to fill it all in. (I used a sponge to wet-sand the ridges.) Once everything was wiped down and ready, I painted and primed everything.

So far so good. With the insides painted black it looked like a little moonscape diorama. All I needed to do was finish off the floor inside it.

We got a quote and scheduled a date for a heat pump install… and then learned that the floor model would not be freestanding. The heat pump would need a wall or surround to attach to, and the installers planned to bolt a sheet of MDF + colorbond onto the face of the fireplace.

So not only did I waste a heap of time prettying up the interior, it’d have an ugly surround to boot. Oh.

The heat pump guys were happy to let us make our own surround, though. They gave us dimensions of the heat pump (and comped us $80 on total install) and let us know that it could be recessed, so that only about 50mm of the heat pump itself would protrude past the surround. Nice! They were good to work with.

Jamie attached a simple frame inside the fireplace, and cut down a sheet of 12mm plywood to use for the inset surround. He used a hammer and cold chisel to bash out extra bricks, and then cut another couple pieces of plywood to lay flush at the base. He used hardwood framing timber and plywood, for durability.

(The base of the fireplace had already been smashed clear through for heating hookups, possibly when the previous owners had a gas heater installed in the lounge. So that was convenient.)


And then, the heat pump guys came around and installed the thing. This was the first time we’ve had to hire out work, and it was GLORIOUS. They turned up with plenty of tools and knowledge, got the job done in half a day, and then cleaned it all up afterwards. Fan-tastic.

We just had to apply a couple of finishing touches: caulking the seams in the plywood surround, and then painting over it in charcoal stone-effect paint. (I used Dulux Tuscan Effects, the only brand that came in a sample-sized pot.)

All done!

Now, as far as aesthetics and ambience go, a heat pump is not my #1, #2 or #3 choice. It’s not a cozy focal point, and frankly it’s kind of an eyesore. (Kinda wish they had a model in black.) Mid-century modest, indeed.

These were our reasons for installing one:

So yeah. Function > form.

Cost wasn’t a factor so much. Jamie had earned a decent stipend from three weeks’ work in Papua New Guinea, so we had that earmarked for heating. Floor models are dearer than wall-mounted heat pumps (a $500 difference seemed to be standard) but the whole shebang, including installation, was well under $3K. We had thought it was going to be more expensive than that, so we were totally okay with that figure.

It almost feels strange, not having this room be a total icebox. Almost.


All the stuff on the mantel is freebie posters, thrifted goodies, or sentimental artifacts. Images of places in Australia (terrace houses on some street in Melbourne) and the western USA, posters from local creative events. The ‘let’s have a toast to modern art!’ print was from a letterpress classmate in art school. I admit that I’m not great at styling or vignetting, but I figure that a good place to start is with objects that mean something to you.

The magazine holder to the right holds paper stock swatches and other sample products. The plant on the left is a group of fake fake fakey fake monstera leaves from Freedom. It’s a dark room, I’ll live with my tacky fake plant leaves.

What do you think – is it a fireplace makeover success? Anything else I should know about a heat pump? And how do you feel about f-bombs and other swears on a blog? Because there’s a sneaky one pictured above.

Check out the first stage of the fireplace makeover: Building the brick hearth.

Other updates in the study: Initial plansfurnishingsflat file storageDIY linen-weave roller blinds.

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