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Easy DIY Plaster Fireplace With Electric Insert

An easy way to build a DIY plaster fireplace on a small budget using an electric fireplace insert and Venetian Glaze plaster paint.

Have you ever wished, hoped, and dreamed for years that a home improvement project would happen on a particular area of your home? For me, one of those project dreams was a porch fireplace.

porch fireplace limewashed brick and haint blue ceiling

Our back porch had this one beadboard wall section jutted between our brick that once held a mini fridge and TV. But it seemed like the absolute perfect spot for a fireplace, don’t you think?

back porch before with mini fridge niche and TV

We finally set out to make it a reality with this DIY plaster fireplace using an electric insert and plaster paint to make the entire process easy.

If you’re a beginner carpenter, this project is a great one to try.

Collectively, it takes about a week and totaling around $1,300 for a fully functional working fireplace.

easy diy electric fireplace on a back porch with faux plaster

What is Venetian Plaster?

Traditional Venetian plaster is composed of eco-friendly lime and marble dust creating a 3-dimensional effect with lustrous movement. Applying Venetian plaster requires quite a bit of practice.

As an alternative to help our limited knowledge in plaster, Romabio supplied Venetian Glaze to us. It’s a plaster paint made of Italian slaked lime to save time and remove some of the guesswork. The end result creates movement with a plaster look when applied with a trowel.

It’s a good idea to practice on scrap drywall before using it, but it doesn’t have nearly as much of a learning curve as real plaster.

romabio venetian glaze, microgrip primer, and clear matte top coat

DIY Electric Fireplace with Plaster Paint

I pulled inspiration from many DIY fireplace ideas, but ultimately we landed on this simple design with a beautiful DIY fireplace surround inspired by Chelsey Freng and Angela Rose.

I’ll share their tutorials for the surround toward the bottom of this post, but the basics of building an easy DIY fireplace frame is fairly straightforward to allow all kinds of different styles in the finishing work.

finished plaster fireplace with electric insert and limewashed brick

Supplies

Tools

Steps

sides constructed for a fireplace frame with 2x4s

Step 1 – Build the Sides of the Fireplace Frame

Write down the measurements of the area where you plan to put your fireplace. Use your electric insert as a guide to determine the depth and width you need for your fireplace frame.

Make a frame for one of the sides using 2x4s (pictured above) secured with 3-inch deck screws.

footer and header on fireplace frame
footer board of DIY fireplace frame

Decide on the height you want for your electric insert to determine the height of your footer securing together more 2x4s with deck screws. Build an identical sized footer parallel to the first one you installed to use as a platform for the firebox insert later.

Attach two parallel 2×4 boards long the top of the fireplace frame as a header.

fireplace frame building out insert

Step 3 – Frame the Electric Insert

Use your electric insert as your guide to determine the size of the opening you will need for this step. Build a frame for those dimensions screwing more 2x4s into the existing frame.

finished fireplace frame build

Step 4 – Finish the Fireplace Frame

Finish the rest of the framing with 2x4s built on top of the insert section to the ceiling. These will act as bracing for the drywall next.

screwing moisture resistant drywall to a porch fireplace frame

Step 5 – Hang Drywall

Use a utility knife to cut the drywall sheets and attach them to the fireplace frame with drywall screws.

cutting out a fireplace insert using a rotary saw

Step 6 – Cut Out Insert Section

Use a utility knife or rotary saw to cut out the section of drywall for the fireplace insert. A utility knife does just fine for this, but the rotary saw makes the process faster and easier, if you already have one.

purple drywall hung on a fireplace frame
taped drywall on a fireplace

Step 7 – Tape the Drywall

Once all drywall is hung, apply mesh tape to all of the drywall seams and attach corner bead to the corners with drywall screws.

applying joint compound to drywall seams

Step 8 – Mud and Sand the Drywall

Apply joint compound liberally and smoothly to the drywall seams and corners. Let it completely dry for 24 hours before sanding smooth with an orbital sander and 100 grit sanding pad. Repeat the mudding process again with a second coat of joint compound followed by a 24-hour drying time and sanding again.

mudded drywall on a fireplace

Step 9 – Prime

Once the drywall is sanded smooth, it’s time for the fun part! But first, it needs some grip. Roll on 1-2 coats of Romabio Microgrip Primer. Be sure to mix it with water using a mixer drill bit according to the instructions on the back of the canister.

We applied 2 coats of primer to cover the purple drywall better since the primer was very thin. Wait about a day for the primer to fully set before moving on to the Venetian Glaze step.

mixing Romabio microgrip primer with water
rolling microgrip primer on fireplace drywall

Step 10 – Apply Venetian Glaze

I highly recommend practicing the Venetian Glaze application process using a scrap piece of drywall first so you can get used to it.

We found it was easiest to apply the first coat of plaster paint with a brush on a 1-2 square foot section at a time and immediately move a clean trowel over top of the wet glaze in half-moon circular motion to create the textured plaster look. Hold the trowel as a slight angle as you move it over the glaze to control the pressure.

It does not have to be perfect AT ALL! Part of its beauty is its embracing of imperfection. It’s actually fun and a bit of an artistic process as you get the hang of it.

brushing on Romabio venetian glaze
applying Romabio Venetian Glaze plaster paint with a trowel on a DIY plaster fireplace
applying Romabio Venetian Glaze plaster paint with a trowel

It’s best to apply 2-3 coats of the Venetian Glaze. You can also slightly dilute it with up to 5% water to create a little contrast and depth from the first coat.

We used the color Bianco White, so it’s difficult to see much contrast in such a light glaze. With Romabio’s darker colors, the variation and movement in the layered coats of glaze is much more noticeable.

applying Romabio Venetian Glaze plaster paint with a trowel

Step 11 – Finish With a Top Coat

Once the Venetian Glaze plaster paint is completely dry, apply the Romabio Matte Clear Top Coat.

half finished minimalist fireplace idea on a porch

If we wanted to at this point, we could have just added a finishing trim to the top and bottom of the fireplace, placed the insert, and called it done. It’s a great minimalist fireplace idea if that’s your style.

If you wanted to skip the insert, you could just paint the interior black and make it a faux fireplace.

But we wanted to soften the minimalist modern fireplace look with a more intricate surround.

building a DIY fireplace surround with 1x2 boards, 1x12 boards, and 1x4 boards

Step 12 – Build a DIY Fireplace Surround

We can’t at all take credit for thinking up this beautiful surround, so you can refer to Chelsey Feng’s DIY fireplace insert surround tutorial and Angela Rose’s DIY fireplace mantel and surround tutorial if you want to take this project a couple steps further.

We attached 1/2-inch x 2-inch trim to the crown and base of the fireplace with a brad nailer to finish it.

brushing fireplace surround with plaster paint

Step 13 – Apply Plaster Paint Method to Surround

After building, caulking, wood filling, and sanding the surround, we repeated the Venetian Glaze process on it.

We didn’t want to work around applying the glaze on the entire fireplace with the surround as an obstacle, so we chose to do the flat, plain fireplace first. There’s no right or wrong way if you want to glaze the entire fireplace unit.

electric insert fireplace with a molding surround

Step 14 – Place the Insert

Once the fireplace was dry, we plugged in the electric fireplace insert, positioned it inside the niche, and sat back to enjoy it. I’m so surprised how real it looks! I love that it has glass doors and air curtains to make it look even more convincing.

We can turn it on without heat just to enjoy the look of a fire, since it’s so blazing hot outside. But in the cooler months, it has a low and high heater setting that pushes the hot air outward. It also has some convincing crackle sounds.

easy diy plaster fireplace with electric insert on a porch

You could absolutely build a fireplace design like this in a living room, dining room, or bedroom too.

Can you believe this before and after?! I’ve wanted to do a DIY plaster fireplace out here for so long it almost makes me excited for fall and winter… almost. 😉 I’m still a summer girl through and through.

back porch before
finished diy fireplace with electric insert

Have you ever built a DIY fireplace with an electric insert before? It’s totally do-able if you’re a DIY newbie, I swear.

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33 Comments

  1. Hi Lauren,

    Just beautiful! Love that you have a vision and then you and Robert bring it to life! How fun that you guys enjoy working on all these projects together (and still like each other afterwards, LOL) We are sort of the older version of you guys! (My husband served in the army for 10 yrs, we have 2 daughters and we now reside in SC) We’ve been at it for 36 years. We were DIYers before it was popular! You both are an inspiration and your house has come a long way into a beautiful home! Enjoy it!

  2. Beautiful job! Would you possibly give me information about the wicker sofa with the light cushions in the picture?

    Thank you for sharing your talents!