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DIY Fireplace with Electric Insert

Learn how to build a DIY fireplace surround on a wall with an electric fireplace insert!

We are starting our living room makeover and I knew I wanted to add a DIY electric fireplace surround! It’s the perfect way to add coziness and character to a living room or family room!

Plus, I’ve been wanting to have a mantel to hang our stockings from for several years now!

diy electric fireplace with woman woodworker

For the design of this DIY electric fireplace, I was inspired by this fireplace photo from Studio McGee. I absolutely love the look and wanted to create a similar design. But I decided not to do the raised hearth to avoid low sharp corners with a little one running around!

Note, this post contains some affiliate links. For more info see my disclosures here.

This project cost me about $550 total for both the lumber and the electric fireplace insert in the 22 13/16″ wide size.

DIY fireplace build before painting and after being painted with electric fireplace insert

There are a lot of steps to this project, but it is mostly just working in layers. All of the layers and trim work are what make it so beautiful, custom, and classic/modern! Make sure to get the printable DIY fireplace plans below!

Final DIY Fireplace Surround Dimensions: 41″ wide x 44″ tall x 11 1/2″ deep

diy fireplace with doors open

How to Build a DIY Fireplace:

get the printable build plans button

Materials:

  • (1) 4ft x 8ft @ 3/4″ thick plywood*
  • (5) 2×4 @ 8ft
  • (1) 2×2 @ 8ft (furring board)
  • (2) 2×2 @ 8ft (premium boards)
  • (2) 1×2 @ 8ft
  • (2) 2″ cove or base cap molding (I used this board)
  • 2 1/2″ self tapping screws (or wood screws)
  • 3″ self tapping screws (or wood screws)
  • 2″ and 1″ and 1 1/4″ brad nails
  • Wood glue
  • Spackle
  • Wood filler
  • Primer & paint
  • 22 13/16″ Fireplace electric insert

Tools:

*I prefer to use this formaldehyde free plywood that is also pre-sanded!

**Make sure to use all wood for the trim on this project and not MDF or vinyl as there will likely be sanding needed for a seamless trim job!

DIY Fireplace Video Tutorial:

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel here!

1. Remove the baseboard on the wall

Brandon used our Dremel tool to cut the baseboard out of the wall where the fireplace was being installed on our wall.

Dremel tool cutting baseboard

To remove the existing baseboard, score the top caulk line with a utility blade. Then, use a prybar and hammer to remove the baseboard from the wall.

using prybar and hammer to remove baseboard

Although this fireplace surround is 41″ wide, we decided to remove 41 1/8″ of the baseboard to make sure we had a little wiggle room for the installation process and we knew that the extra gap would be caulkable.

Make sure there is an outlet nearby too for easily plugging in the electric fireplace insert!

baseboard removed from wall for DIY fireplace install

2. Make initial lumber cuts

Click here for the printable DIY fireplace surround plans which include the cut list and step by step building steps with easy to follow diagrams!

Make the initial lumber cuts from the 2×4 and 2×2 framing lumber for the frame of the fireplace.

Use a miter saw and make the following cuts from the 2×4s:

  • (6) 2×4 @ 3 ¼” (for front frame)
  • (3) 2×4 @ 8″ (for middle support frame)
  • (10) 2×4 @ 5″ (for sides)
  • (4) 2×4 @ 43 ¼” (for front & back frame)
  • (3) 2×4 @ 23″ (for front frame)
  • (2) 2×4 @ 32 ½” (for back frame)

Make the following cuts from the 2×2 furring boards:

  • (2) 2×2 @ 43 ¼” (for front frame)

NOTE: There will be additional lumber cuts for the plywood and trim in step #8 and #10. It’s best to make these cuts after the frame of the fireplace is built.

3. Add pocket holes to the boards

Make sure the Kreg Jig is set for 1 1/2″ thick wood. Use a Kreg Jig and add pocket holes to both sides of the following 2×4 boards:

  • (3) 2×4 @ 23″ (for front frame)
  • (2) 2×4 @ 32 ½” (for back frame)
pocket holes on 2x4s

Then, add pocket holes on one side for the following boards:

  • (6) 2×4 @ 3 ¼” (for front frame)
  • (10) 2×4 @ 5″ (for sides)
pocket holes on 2x4s

4. Build the front frame of the DIY fireplace surround

Note, you can see all of the below steps in action in the DIY fireplace how to video here!

Begin to construct the front frame of the fireplace by attaching the 2×4 boards @ 23″ with pocket holes between two of the 2x4s @ 43 1/4″. Use 2 1/2″ Kreg screws for attaching.

Attach one board 8 1/2″ up from the bottom of the 2x4s @ 43 1/4″, a middle board 22 1/4 up from the top of the first board, and one board along the top.

attach front 2x4 frame together
front frame of fireplace with 2x4s and pocket holes

After attaching these boards together, I found it easiest to lay the frame down on the floor to attach the rest of the boards.

Next, attach three of the short 3 1/4″ boards into one of the 2x4s @ 43 1/4″ at the top, middle, and bottom using 2 1/2″ Kreg screws. I also clamped the end 2×2 @ 43 1/4″ board in place as well at this point.

attaching front frame together with kreg screws

Attach the 2×2 @ 43 1/4″ into the three boards with 2 1/2″ self tapping screws (or wood screws). It helps to add scrap wood under the frame for this part.

Also, I used self tapping screws so no pre-drilling was needed.

attaching front frame together with clamps and screws

Repeat this process on the other side.

front frame of fireplace assembled

5. Build the back frame of the DIY fireplace

Construct the back frame of the fireplace by attaching the 2×4 boards @ 32 1/2″ between the two remaining 2x4s @ 43 1/4″. Attach one board 8 1/2″ up from the bottom of the ends and one board along the top.

back frame of fireplace made with 2x4s

Attach four of the 2x4s @ 5″ using 2 1/2″ Kreg screws into the middle 2×4 boards @ 32 1/2″ on the back frame, 8 1/4″ in from the sides as shown below.

attaching side frame boards to back frame with kreg screws
back frame and side frame boards attached

Then, attach the remaining six 2x4s @ 5″ along each end at the top, middle, and bottom of the 43 1/4″ boards.

back frame and side frame boards attached

At this point, I attached the back frame into the wall studs using 3″ screws. We determined it would be easiest to build the rest of the frame while being attached to the wall. Use a stud finder to find the wall studs.

attaching fireplace frame to wall studs with screws

6. Attach the front frame to the side and back frame

Once the back frame is secured to the wall studs, the front frame can be attached.

Line up the front frame with the back frame. I used clamps to help hold everything in place.

attaching front frame of DIY fireplace surround to back frame with clamps and screws

And then I used 2 1/2″ self tapping screws to attach the front frame to the side frame boards. I installed one screw through each of the ten 2×4 boards @ 5″.

attaching front frame of DIY fireplace surround to back frame with clamps and screws

The last frame step is to install the three 8″ middle support 2x4s for the electric fireplace support using 2 1/2″ screws through the top of them into the 2×4 frame.

2x4 middle support boards installed on DIY electric fireplace surround

Here is how the completed DIY fireplace surround frame now looks:

side view of DIY fireplace frame
front view of DIY fireplace surround

7. Test the electric fireplace insert for a good fit

At this time, we did a test fit of our electric fireplace insert to make sure it was a good fit, with the plug plugged in, to make sure no adjustments needed to be made.

There will be 3/4″ plywood in front of the frame, so I used some scrap wood for the test fit.

testing the fit of the electric fireplace in the DIY electric fireplace surround

8. Make the plywood cuts

Click here for the printable DIY fireplace surround plans which include the cut list and step by step building steps with easy to follow diagrams!

The plywood measurements are listed below but it’s best to measure your actual build for these measurements in case there are any slight variations based on your frame build.

Make the following cuts from the 4ft x 8ft plywood:

  • (2) boards @ 8 1/4″ x 20 3/4″ (layer one – sides)
  • (1) boards @ 10″ x 39 1/2″ (layer one – bottom)
  • (1) boards @ 12 1/2″ x 39 1/2″ (layer one – top)
  • (2) boards @ 5 1/2″ x 43 1/4″ (layer two – sides)
  • (1) boards @ 5 1/2″ x 28 1/2″ (layer two – top)

Make the following cuts from the 4ft x 8ft plywood with 45 degree beveled edges on the corner pieces:

  • (2) 10 3/4″ x 44″ from long point to straight edge (for sides)
  • (1) 10 3/4″ x 41″ from long point to long point (for the top)

For the top corners of the plywood, Brandon beveled the edges using our circular saw and a straight edge guide, but a table saw or miter saw can be used as well.

plywood cut with a beveled edge
side board plywood cuts with beveled edges

9. Install the plywood over the fireplace frame

Install the side plywood boards (two boards at 10 3/4″ x 44″) with 1 1/4″ brad nails into the 2×4 frame. Then, install the top plywood board (10 3/4″ x 41″) with beveled ends on each side.

side plywood boards attached to fireplace frame with brad nails

Next, attach the bottom plywood board (10″ x 39 1/2″), followed by the side plywood (two boards @ 8 1/4″ x 20 3/4″), and then the top plywood (12 1/2″ x 39 1/2″) with 1 1/4″ nails to finish covering the fireplace frame.

first layer of plywood installed on fireplace frame

After the first layer of plywood has been attached, install the second layer as shown below. Two boards @ 5 1/2″ x 43 1/4″ for the sides and one board @ 5 1/2″ x 28 1/2″ for the top.

second layer of plywood installed on DIY fireplace frame

10. Trim out the DIY electric fireplace surround

Now the trim can be installed! I used 45 degree cuts for the trim corners.

The measurements for the trim are listed below, but again it’s important to measure your actual fireplace build in case there are any slight variations in the actual measurements that should be accounted for!

Use a miter saw and make the following cuts from the premium 2×2s, 1x2s, and 2″ molding with a 45 degree cut on one end and a 0 degree cut on the other end:

  • (2) 2×2 @ 37 3/4″ from long point to straight edge
  • (2) 1×2 @ 44″ from long point to straight edge
  • (2) 2″ molding @ 42 1/2″ from long point to straight edge

Make the following cuts from the premium 2×2s, 1x2s, and 2″ molding with a 45 degree on both ends:

  • (1) 2×2 @ 28 1/2″ from long point to long point
  • (1) 1×2 @ 41″ from long point to long point
  • (1) 2″ molding @ 38″ from long point to long point
trim for fireplace

See all of these steps in action in the DIY fireplace how to video!

First, I installed the 1×2 trim boards on the outer edge into the plywood with 1 1/4″ brad nails and a little wood glue.

1x2 trim installed on fireplace

Then, I installed the 2x2s with 2″ brad nails onto the DIY fireplace.

2x2 installed on diy fireplace

The last step was the cove molding, which I confirmed my measurements on these first after installing the 1x2s.

cut molding for fireplace trim

After cutting the 2″ cove molding, but before installing it, I realized it stuck out a little over a 1/16″ past my 1×2 edge.

edge of trim on fireplace that needs sanding

I didn’t want to sand it down in our living room, so I drew a line on it where it was sticking out. Then, Brandon took it outside and sanded the edge down to the line.

This worked perfectly for making the 1×2 and cove molding perfectly flush with each other and saved a lot of inside sanding work!

sanded trim on fireplace

I installed the molding with 1 1/4″ brad nails into the plywood and a few 1″ brad nails into the 1×2 trim.

nailing cove molding to the fireplace surround
diy fireplace surround before caulk and wood filler

11. Prep the fireplace for primer and paint

There was a bit of prep work involved with all the molding and cuts on this build.

We filled the nail holes in with spackle. And then we used wood filler on most of the trim seams for a seamless look. Then, all of the wood filler was sanded for a smooth finish.

The last prep step was caulking along the larger gaps and seams between the plywood and trim and wall.

diy fireplace with caulk before paint and adding electric fireplace insert

12. Prime and Paint the DIY fireplace

After the prep work was complete, we primed and painted the DIY electric fireplace Simply White by Benjamin Moore in a satin finish. The wall is the same color but in an eggshell finish.

13. Install the electric fireplace

The very last step is to plug in the electric fireplace insert and slide it into the fireplace surround.

We couldn’t find anything in the fireplace insert directions about securing it with screws to the surround so we just screwed ours in through some top holes we found.

screw for securing electric fireplace insert into DIY fireplace surround

Here it is all painted and finished!

diy fireplace surround with electric fireplace
diy electric fireplace wall

I absolutely love how our DIY fireplace turned out. It’s the perfect mix of modern and traditional/classic! It adds so much coziness to our living room and I love just relaxing on the couch watching it!

angle view of diy electric fireplace surround

And here it is in the morning light, you can really see the fire!

diy fireplace in morning light with electric fireplace insert

Let me know if you have any questions below! Make sure to follow along to see the rest of the living room makeover projects and the big reveal! Follow along on Instagram and YouTube!

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