How to Remove a Fireplace Surround

Removing the fireplace surround may be just what you need if you’re looking for a way to give your home an instant face-lift. Removing the wall around your fireplace can open up your living space and make it feel more modern. If this appeals to you, read on for instructions on removing a fireplace surround.

We will go over how to remove a fireplace surround and what tools are needed. Removing a fireplace surround can be done with basic hand tools but can also require more powerful equipment such as saws and drills, depending on the type of materials used in your home’s construction.

In addition, it is important always to wear safety gear when working around power tools, including gloves, eye protection, earplugs, dust mask, and protective clothing.

How to Remove a Fireplace Surround

Seven Reasons Why You Want to Remove Old Fireplace Surround:

1. Exposed Wood:

You can see the wood rafters and floor joists, or there may be a gap between the fireplace surround and the ceiling.

2. Weak Surface:

The drywall cracks easily if you push on it; otherwise, it doesn’t produce any visible effect. This is usually due to water damage that rotted away the supporting layer of wood.

3. Leaks:

Water gets through the floor joists, causing visible damage on the surface below.

4. Sagging Fireplace Lintel:

This is composed of two horizontal braces that support the weight of the fireplace surround. They are nailed to it and the rafters or ceiling joists.

5. Broken Mantle:

This part of the fireplace forms a shelf and encloses the fire chamber. It’s attached to the surround and ceiling by wood nails and metal brackets.

6. Extra Load:

The weight may cause sagging or breakage in upstairs rooms or other areas directly above the fireplace.

7. Fire Risk:

The wood may catch fire and spread to the rest of the house.

Note: One of the first signs that you may need to remove your fireplace surround is when one of these problems starts affecting your home. If you notice any of these issues, it may be time to seek professional help to remove your old fireplace mantel and replace it with a new one. Luckily, we have provided some guidelines below on how to remove a fireplace surround to help you do your work more easily.

10 Ways on How to Remove a Fireplace Surround:

1. Remove all the Wall Drywall

All you have to do for this method is remove the fireplace surround drywall. This will expose the studs and any blocking that might be in place to secure the fireplace surround. You can then hammer away at it until it gives, but if there are studs behind it, you need to be careful not to hurt yourself or damage the studs.

2. Remove the Stove

This method is similar to the first, but you have less work because you remove just a small piece of drywall covering the fireplace surround. You will only have to worry about removing the stove pipe and clearing away any debris that might be blocking your path.

3. Take Apart the Fireplace Surround

This is definitely a job for two people who know what they are doing because it can be dangerous, especially if you happen to take apart the wrong components and make the fireplace unsafe. You need to know how everything fits together and how much force you can afford to put on each component.

4. Remove the Trim and Drywall

If you have a fireplace surrounded by a very thick trim board, it might be a good option to remove it. You will need to use either a sharp chisel or a circular saw equipped with a wood blade to cut through the drywall and trim. By cutting through the drywall, you are exposing the studs that will support your new surround.

5. Remove the Brick or Stone

This method is especially useful for removing fireplaces with brick, stone, or even concrete surrounds. The idea here is to remove bricks until you have enough space to get behind it and pull out whatever supports are in there. You might have to use a sledgehammer for this process.

6. Remove the Masonry Veneer

If you are working with a fireplace that happened to be built before 1990, there is a chance that it might have masonry veneer instead of brick or stone surrounds. If so, you need to remove the mortar between bricks instead of the bricks themselves.

7. Use a Jackhammer

This is definitely not an easy or safe way to remove a fireplace surround, but it may be the most effective. You need to know exactly where everything is behind your brick, stone, or block, so you don’t damage anything important when using this method.

8. Use a Mechanical Saw

Use a Mechanical Saw for a Fireplace Surround

Many people who have a lot of experience with removing a fireplace surround will use a circular saw equipped with a wood blade to cut through the drywall and trim. Because this method requires a precise setup, it is not recommended unless you have had some practice first.

9. Remove the Hearth

This process will definitely need more than one person because there needs to be someone on each side of the fireplace to pull out whatever supports. It would be best if you were very careful with this method because, without the hearth, you have no support for your floor above, so be sure you know what you are doing before trying it.

10. Use a Chipper Shredder

This might not be the first method people think of for removing a fireplace surround, but some have succeeded. To use this method, you’ll need to ensure the machine can fit in the space and begin chipping away at the surround with either the chipper or shredder side. Remember to prioritize safety!

Precautions and Safety Measures:

Before and during your fireplace surround removal and re-installation, always take the following precautions:

1. Keep flammable items away from the fireplace; this includes wood, wood products, and fabrics.

2. Keep children and pets away from the area; they could get hurt and damage your project.

3. Turn the power off at the circuit breakers, remove fuse/breakers or unscrew the appropriate fuses to disconnect electrical wiring behind your fireplace.

4. If you remove a gas log system, turn off the gas supply before beginning work. Check with local utility companies for further information on who controls your area’s gas system.

5. If possible, turn off any HVAC systems in your home before starting your work dust will be stirred up when doing this kind of work.

6. Detach any vents connected to the fireplace with screws or bolts, not nails.

7. Ensure proper PPE (personal protective equipment), including eye protection, ear protection, gloves, and dust masks (if necessary).

When You Know Contractors Will Be Required?

1. Your fireplace surround is in such poor condition that it needs to be replaced immediately.

2. The floor joists and rafters in the ceiling are in such poor condition that they need to be replaced.

3. Your fireplace surround is so old and rickety that it’s hazardous to use.

4. You want to open up the back of your fireplace.

5. You’ve just moved into a new home, and your landlord or the previous owner didn’t tell you that there was no fireplace in the living room as you had expected, only an empty hole in the wall.

6. You’ve changed the look of your living room by removing a wall between it and another adjacent room, but you’d rather have a fireplace there instead.

How Easy Is It to Change a Fireplace Surround?

Before you pull out your hair in frustration, do a quick mental check to see what type of surround you’re dealing with. For example, if it’s an inset surround (the fireplace opening is inset into the wall) and there is no mantel involved (i.e., the firebox has an exposed side), then removing the surround will be a relatively simple process.

First, you’ll need to remove the side pieces of the firebox, which are usually held in place with two to four metal screws driven into wall studs. Next, remove the mantel supports that run along both sides of your fireplace opening. If they’re unattached to anything, just give them a gentle nudge, and they should pop right out.

Once you have those pieces removed, reach into the fireplace opening and remove all visible screws from the surround’s back. At this point, your surround should just fall free of its own weight, but if it’s a bit stubborn, there is a trick to getting it off without too much effort.

First, pry at the top of the surround near the ceiling with a flat-head screwdriver. When you have pried it enough that there is a noticeable gap between your fireplace opening and your surround, try to bend the surround in half by gently pushing down on one side while pulling up on the other. That’s how you’ll be able to remove it without any major damage.


Removing the fireplace surround isn’t as hard as one would think, but it takes a lot of time and patience. Make sure to cover all the steps mentioned on how to remove a fireplace surround.

Next, remove any debris and dirt from around it, find where the nails are holding up your old mantel or hearth board. You should see them through gaps in the boards; if they were nailed on securely, use a pry bar to remove these nails.

If you’re not so lucky as to find any visible nail heads, just go ahead and yank off whatever is still secured with brute force! The board will come right off without anything securing it.

Once that’s done, remove any screws/bolts attaching your new mantle or hearth board onto your wall. It is important to have a strong support system when removing your fireplace surround.

Hire professionals if you are not confident in your ability to take on the task alone, and be sure you follow all safety precautions for this type of project. 

Jennifer Branett
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