Are you considering a fireplace a makeover? Perhaps you want to mount a new TV above your fireplace mantel and need some advice on how to do it.
Before and After Pictures:
Our Fireplace Makeover Project with TV Installation
As part of our ongoing blog series on home remodeling and personal finances, I’ll be sharing our home improvement project of lowering the height of our fireplace mantel and installing a new 60″ 4K Samsung Flat Panel TV with a Bose Soundtouch 300 sound bar.
As you can see in the before and after pictures (and the larger before picture above), our original fireplace mantel was ridiculously high for the wall it was on. Even though our living room has 9 foot ceilings, the fireplace mantel shelf came to rest awkwardly between the two smaller windows on either side of the fireplace and forced us to mount the original 50″ Panasonic plasma TV above the height of the windows. Additionally, we have outgrown our clunky old 5.1 channel surround system and were looking to install a cleaner and better sounding music system.
Lowering the Fireplace Mantel
The first part of our fireplace remodeling project was to remove the existing fireplace surround to see what was behind it. From looking at old construction photos of our house, I was pretty sure that there would be a gap behind the surround that would need to be filled in with drywall.
Adding New Drywall
As expected, when the fireplace surround was removed, we found a 10″ gap between where the original drywall ended and the brick facing of the fireplace began. If we were going to lower the height of the fireplace mantel anymore than it currently was, we would definitely need to fill in this gap with more drywall.
Fortunately, I had a few Lowes gift cards kicking around that have been waiting for a moment just like this. I picked up 4 X 8 sheet of 1/2″ drywall for about $11 and cut out the pieces I needed to fill in the gaps between the fireplace facing and drywall opening and screwed them into place.
Smoothing Drywall Gaps with Joint Compound (Drywall Mud)
Next I coated the seems with 3 coats of drywall mud aka “joint compound” to smooth out the transition between the old and new drywall. I had never done any drywalling before so it was definitely a challenging experience. I don’t know if I would have been confident doing a larger area, but doing the small drywall patch job was a relatively straight forward process with all of the DIY drywall tutorials available on the internet.
Matching Paint Colors
Once I had the drywall patched up and smoothed out, I tried experimenting with a couple different paint samples to match the existing light blue paint on the walls. After not having much luck with an exact match, I ended up repainting the entire wall the same color blue to minimize any detectable difference between the old and new drywall.
Running HDMI and Power Cables behind Drywall
The next step was to measure out where I would need to cut openings in the drywall to run power and HDMI connection cables between the cable box, DVD, TV and new Bose Soundtouch 300 sound bar we planned to install. I made sure that the opening I made would either be hidden by the new mantel or behind the new Samsung TV we were planning on installing.
The Finished Project
Once all the power and A/V cables were run and connections were tested, we reinstalled the old fireplace mantel. We considered purchasing a whole new fireplace surround but at the end of the day we decided to reuse our old one and save the $1,000 we would have spent on a new mantel. We had to cut off about 8 inches from the bottom of our old mantel to make the mantel shelf end at the correct height. While the difference in the before and after pictures is subtle, the results are actually quite drastic when you are in the room. There is symmetry between the various elements in the room, the old clunky speakers have been removed from the wall, and the actual viewing height between the old TV and the new TV is about 10″ lower even though the actual TV screen is bigger. Additionally, the fireplace actually looks like a fireplace with the appropriate amount of scale for the room.
The Difference Between HDMI Connections and Component/RCA Connections
Another added benefit of our new TV and speaker system is how much cleaner the connection cables installations are between the cable box, speakers and TV. Our old system required dozens of wires, cords and cables to make everything work. Thanks to HDMI’s ability to send multiple video and speaker signals through one cable, there is virtually no clutter behind our media cabinet. I happened to take a before and after picture of the A/V cables behind our media center for comparison.
That’s it for this home improvement project. I hope the pictures and descriptions helped answer any questions you may have. If not, feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.
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