A brick fireplace surround can add a cheery, classic look to any hearth. Accented with brass or cast-iron fireguards or a custom mantle, a brick fireplace can help create at atmosphere of cozy, traditional warmth. As with any building material, there are some pros and cons that should be considered before installing, renovating or removing a brick fireplace surround.
Brick has several advantages as a fireplace surround material. Compared to stone, brick is light and easy to lay out, requiring neither heavy lifting nor complicated designs. The variegated colors of bricks help give a brick fireplace surround a textural, dimensional appearance that keeps the area from looking bland or plain. Bricks are often less expensive than other materials such as tile or stone, and are very easy to clean.
A brick fireplace surround also has the advantage of being naturally fire resistant. This can be important, both for the safety of inhabitants and to prevent possible building code violations. While caution should always be taken around any source of flame, using brick can lower the risk of accidental fires. Any materials used to frame or accent a brick fireplace surround, such as a wooden mantel or faux finish, should correspond to fire safety requirements in order to further reduce the risk of an accidental fire.
There are many design styles that can easily incorporate a brick fireplace surround. Traditional country French or shabby chic aesthetics go very well with brick fireplaces, as do classic hunting lodge decor styles. Painted or uniformly-colored brick fireplaces are often a hallmark of mid-20th century architectural design, and may go well with a retro or mod design style.
One of the major downsides to a brick fireplace surround is that brick does not age very well. Though it requires minimal cleaning, the bright burgundy and rust hues will likely fade into a variety of pinkish hues that may seem unattractive. Additionally, the connecting mortar may yellow with age. The look of brick fireplaces can sometimes be restored by stripping the bricks and resealing them occasionally. It is also possible to paint bricks for a uniform finish, or to cover them with a faux stone or tile layer for an entirely new look.
Experts generally recommend hiring a professional contractor to install or restore a brick fireplace surround. While bricks are easy to lay out, they need to be mortared and layered correctly for maximum stability. Professional assistance is especially recommended in areas prone to earthquakes, as improperly secured bricks can be a fatal danger during a seismic event.