Living Room

Published on January 3rd, 2013 | by Jules Yap


Bye Bye Bricks – a magnetic cover up


Materials: Spontan Magnet Boards, plywood, screws, rare earth magnets

Description: We were tired of looking at the original brick fire place in our main living space. The open fire box was changed into a gas insert many years ago and the room has been painted over 4 times, but the brick work remained.

As the brick work has to be maintained without being permanently altered, tiling it over and painting it over weren’t viable options. Another idea was to add wood panels over but there is a safety concern.

An inspiration struck when we repainted another room and needed to take down the older style Ikea magnet boards in that room. The boards appeared to be the perfect candidate to be used as the cladding panels over the brick fire place.

I then devised and designed the plywood under structure to support the Spontan boards and in order to secure them to the frame, I made cleats with embedded rare-earth magnets.

Please see the result via the steps and photos.

1) Made the 2 vertical supporting pilaster frames out of 3/4″ thick plywood. Each frame was tailored to the pilaster and friction fitted over it. 3 screws were screwed into the inside of the frame, with the shaft of the screws just penetrating in between the vertical brick mortar joints. The screws added security.

2) 4″h Horizontal cross bars (t-shape to add rigidity) were mounted to the vertical frames in 3 positions. At the very top, middle and lower portion to support the horizontal joints of the boards. The lower cross bar was placed well above the fire box.

3) Side frames were added to either side of the fire box. The plywood was positioned beside the brick surround of the fire box. There is no plywood in any direct or adjacent contact to any of the fire box metal frame

4) The Spontan boards come with keyslot mounting holes in the back but were only meant to be hung from the top. It did not suit my requirements so I made plywood cleats 1.5″h (fitted between the folded in edges of the Spontan). The cleats were drilled for 1/2″ diameter rare-earth magnets, where were glued in with PL400 Construction adhesive. The glue has to cure for 24 hours before using.

5) Using a long level, I drew the first line at the top of the frame. Allowing for the thickness of the Spontan, to the ceiling in the center, I screwed the cleats in one row. Each cleat was spaced from the next one by 2″. Each board required 2 cleats – top and bottom. There was some fiddling around of the cleats to ensure that each board was tight to the adjacent one.

6) Once the top row of boards was established, I secured the second set of cleats. For the exact spacing between the boards vertically, I used a 12″ long steel ruler (which was just shy of the thickness of the Spontan. To get the correct thickness, 2 layers of masking tape were added to the ruler). Working sequentially, the second set of top cleats were mounted with screws). The best method was to mound each top cleat, put on the board to see the alignment. If slightly off, then re-mount the cleat until perfectly aligned. Once the top row of cleats was all positioned, then do the bottom cleats.

7) Two rows of boards were mounted. For our fire place, serendipitously, the Spontan boards worked out perfectly. 2 boards wide equalled to exactly to width of the fire box. The two lengths also exactly reached from the ceiling to the top of the fire box.

8) Besides the fire box, modification was required to fit the boards. I made the necessary cuts and notches using my 7-1/4″ circular saw fitted with a Metal
Cutoff blade. Be sure to wear all safety gear as it creates a lot of noise, sparks and odour.

9) The modified boards were mounted with the cleats and the same method.

10) for the hearth, I was going to use the same Spontan but just happened to have some surplus veneered shelves from another source so that was used to cover the hearth bricks.

11) Finally, I again used an aluminum cabinet hanging cleat from another source to frame the inside opening of the fire box.

The end result completely transformed the room and covered up the eyesore of a tired looking brickwork.

The added bonus is that the entire Spontan cladding now acts as a giant radiator panel to distribute the heat from the fire box, so the fire does not need to be turned up high.

This is not recommended over a wood burning fireplace.

Thank you,

~ Peter, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

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The Author

Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

35 Responses to Bye Bye Bricks – a magnetic cover up

  1. josy says:

    On creativity and aesthetic results, this is magnificent.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Considering the obnoxious ways some people commented, Peter is a real gentleman. So rare. But refreshing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I thought the brick looked fab. It gave your room an authentic retro touch, went great with the colors-especially the cushions on the couch-and really livened up the room. Brickwork is an artwork in itself. The green walls really showcased it too.
    Now it just looks like….panels stuck to the wall.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Um, he’s Canadian…

  5. icerabbit says:

    Nice hack. Love the friction fit + wood + magnets + panel approach. It looks nice and sleek.

    But, I have some safety but primarily liability concerns as well.

    Clearly the gas insert is an entirely different heat source and a lot safer than the original wood burning fireplace. So, you don’t need all the brick. The unit likely sucks in cold air at the bottom and blows it out the top warmer while in operation. No scalding burning radiant heat as with a wood burner. The metal casing likely is even be cool/safe to the touch. Things above and around a heat source always get warmer. Doesn’t mean they’ll automatically catch fire.

    Restrictions and clearance space are different for wood burning and gas burning units. Some inserts and/or stoves allow for direct wood contact with framing etc and are suitable for use in mobile homes. Etc. So it could be a lot of worry about nothing.

    Look up the brand & model’s fireplace installation guidelines. That will give you the indication of clearances to combustible materials.

    When we got insurance for our cabin, there were concerns about the location & clearance of the wood stove. It had been there for years like that when we bought it, so it had been safe enough in practice. Luckily it had the manufacturer’s clearance requirements right on a metal plate. As it didn’t comply with those, we moved the unit slightly, made a sketch & took a few pictures which we submitted that to the insurance company.

    Note also that insurance and local building code don’t always have the exact same rules. One may be more stringent then another as code & safety rules change. In our state for instance it is allowed to have a shared chimney for the oil furnace & fireplace, but the insurance won’t have it.

  6. Sakari says:

    From original article,
    “This is not recommended over a wood burning fireplace.”

    Well yeah, I wouldn’t do this to *any* open flame fireplace due to high heat radiation. Also you mentioned that it’s originally open fire box wich makes it fairly useless for heating.

    But it’s not my fireplace being covered in wood, though. So good luck to you Peter on living with this hack.

  7. Claudia says:


    I think this looks stunning and it could (and should) be in a design or idea magazine. And you are a very gracious person in your comments above. Congratulations and thanks for sharing and inspiring !

  8. Robj98168 says:

    Peter- the negative comments aside… your hack looks simply Fabulous! I have and “electric” fireplace and think I will copy this brilliant hack. Great looking

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Rob,

      Thank you and if you need any pointers, just let me know. Please ensure all safety concerns are considered.


  9. Anonymous says:

    I am the “hacker” of this project and having read all of the comments, I do want to clear up the concerns and to ally the fears of a potential fire hazard.

    While Anonymous was very direct in voicing his or her opinion, I can certainly appreciate the conern for safety and don’t wish to enjoy a spontaneous barbecue within our home.

    The Fire place is a gas insert with a sealed glass front and for anyone thinking of doing something similar to this, please do check all related regulations and insurance policy. While the photo does seem to suggest that the wood frame is adjacent to the firebox metal frame, the wood frame is actually in no way touching any part of the metal, with at least 4″ of air space. I did take that into the design and the construction of the wood framing. However, I do like the idea of the metal studs and may actually replace the wood with the metal studs for that extra layer of safety.

    So thank you for the poster who suggested that idea.

    For the poster who mentioned about the Curie Temperature of Magnets, you have taught me something that I did not even know about. However having now Googled the working temperature of Rare Earth Magnets, I can assured you that at typical temperature of room heating, there is no chance of the magnets being subjected to the maximum of 150 Celsius (302 F). If such temperature is reached, Anonymous will have proven the point of the forced and most unwelcomed barbecue. We keep the room to about 18-20 degrees Celsius at the most while we are in the room. At night the fire place is turned way down to the minimum flame.

    To those who like the brick, you have a point (bonus points for those who get the pun), and the owner of the house agrees with you. Therefore I had to go about the long way to achieve the Modern aesthetics that we wanted. It is completely reversible without leaving any sign of damage to the oriignal brick work.

    Finally, to those of you who like and appreciate the project, I thank you very much for the positive comments and we sure enjoy the end result. As the metal Spontan boards radiate the heat from the fire box, the flame can subsequently be set at a lower setting than when the Spontans weren’t there.

    Thank you for ALL of your comments – negative, constructive, positive, and otherwise.


    • NonnyMus2 says:


      I was the one who suggested metal studs. Please check the building codes for your municipality ASAP. I’m certain they specify more than a 4″ clearance for plywood surrounding a heat source!

      Also please realize that, in general, if you have made modifications in your home which violate building codes and there is a fire, your insurance and/or your landlord’s insurance will not pay for damages. If you are in the U.S., your health insurance may not pay for treatment of your injuries and/or your family’s injuries.

      Insurance companies make money by diligently and actively searching for reasons to deny claims. It won’t be hard for them to deny any claims stemming for a fire caused by building code violations.

      Additionally, if you live in a multi-unit building, you would be liable for damages and injuries to those units and the people in them. And that’s just one part of the financial side of things. Imagine how you would feel if you caused a fire! Imagine having to replace your possessions and mourning the loss of the irreplaceable items.

      I’m going to urge you to replace the plywood with metal studs as soon as possible. That way you can have your interesting hack andsafety. That’s the best way to hack.

    • Peter,

      In addition to NonnyMus2 comments I would also urge you to remove the plywood ASAP.
      The code in Sweden is that you should have an distance of 20 inches between the fireplace and wood. This can be limited to 10 inches if you have a radiation shield atleast 4 inches from the wood. (Ie, brick, cement-board or something like that, *not* metal since it conducts heat.)

      The big problem isn’t that it might cause a fire today, but for every time the wood is heated it dries out more and more and it starts to char. I have personally had a fire at my home because some sloppy contractors didn’t follow the code and installed a fireplace with a smokestack that had a too small distance to wood without any radiation shield and insuficcient insulation.
      It worked out great for 15 years, then one day, completely without warning, the limit for the chared wood was reached and it ignited within the wall.
      Luckily the firebrigade arrived quickly, so I just had to rebuild a wall, some of the roof and repaint the top floor…

      So, even if you think it works right now, you have created a timebomb that won’t be covered by insurance.

  10. Sprocketgirl says:

    Wow – things are really ‘heating up’ in this comment section! :) I think it looks amazing – a very nice job. (Maybe because I grew up in Burnaby – we have good taste?)

  11. Anonymous says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I like the look. But the original brick mantle is a good indication of the distance you need between combustible materials and a heat source.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know about the safety aspect, so I will not comment on that except to say that I would want to make absolutely sure it is safe. However, as for the look, very nice! I love the modern, clean look of it far more than bricks, but that was very smart to preserve the bricks (for future buyers?) because some people like that look. Love the green wall too! This would look nice with the silver spontan boards too.

  14. Anonymous says:

    How many of you have gas logs! I do. First of all, there IS noventing at all for ours. Secondly, the heat level is limited and the flame limited AND there are no sparks. The fire isn’t going to jump to the surround like a log fire. Like home inspections which in my five experiences find and harp on minor issues to justify the expense and every time missed the real problems and like many “codes” justify the levying of yet another “tax,” some of you mean Morons have not done you homework with regards to gas fireplaces. Sure, it COULD be a a problem. And you are more likely to get hit by a bus on the street.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because you have a crappy home inspector, this makes it ok? Do you know what happens if you take this approach and for some reason there is a fire in the house? Insurance will deny you 100%. If a licensed contractor put this in a the inspector signed off on in improperly then you are fine, but if you do it yourself, you are still liable. It doesn’t matter if it is a gas fireplace or not, the code for the surround is the same.

    • Anonymous says:

      The hacker said the tile gets warm, not hot. Plywood will not spontaneously self combust due to heat transfer from a gas fireplace.

    • Anonymous says:

      It doesn’t matter if it won’t “self combust”. It is against code plain and simple. Say there is a defect in the gas fireplace that causes a real fire. You will get denied by insurance because it is against code. Plain and simple.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again…. everyone predicting certain doom due to a perceived lack of safety.
    Ever looked at traditional fireplaces? Wooden mantels are very common. Yes they’re typically at a distance from the actual opening, but so is the plywood on this hack. Looks to me like there is a metal surround around the glass doors. Also, this is a gas fireplace. The flames will not all of a sudden flare up uncontrollably and leap through the glass doors.

    People, give it a rest!

    Btw. Great looking mod surround. Love it.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, the plywood is not “at a distance” from the opening. It butts right up against it! Mantles are several feet above a fireplace opening. Also the metal surround? Yeah, that conducts heat. The heat is what you have to worry about, not the flames. The worry about the safety isn’t a perceived issue. This is building code, pure and simple. And this breaks that code.

  16. Anonymous says:

    the white looks good with the green paint on the room. and while it be important to check on overall safety of the boards (wood) against the heat / fire, a soft black instead ofthe green paint wouldve enhanced the brick instead. or have the bricks cleaned up.. but then again if thats the case there wont be this hack.

    praise for the modern look :) but safety checks too pls

  17. Anonymous says:

    I would imagine this goes against fireplace code. The rules we have is that combustible materials should not be within 12 inches of the fireplace box. I can’t tell for sure but it looks like venting on the fireplace may now be covered up.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I wouldn’t use this around a fireplace but think using magnets and magnet board may be a great hack for covering walls that cannot be painted. I’m filing this one away in my brain for a day when it’ll be useful.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I like it though a bit too modern looking for me. Great idea.

    The many concerns about wood framing the hidden brick (thank goodness, I have the same brick and hate it) forget that most mantels are made of wood and they don’t catch on fire. By the looks of the gas fireplace logs, they don’t look like they emit much heat. You don’t have a gas fire insert, just fake logs so you get more ambiance than heat. I take it you’re in a rental so couldn’t cover the brick with paint, or tile.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think the hack LOOKS great but if you actually use the fireplace then I’d have to agree with other comments that the plywood is a bad idea. I second metal studs.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Nice Look – but nevertheless an epic fail in terms of usability and safeness…

  22. NonnyMus2 says:

    I’m going to echo the safety concerns. You mention that the metal boards heat up… that means the plywood underneath is also heating up, drying out and becoming more combustible. If you do have a fire and survive it, your insurance isn’t likely to cover damages because of the unsafe modifications you have made.

    For safety reasons, I’d recommend replacing all the wood with metal studs.

  23. Arend Hart says:

    I like the look, I would warn that the standard FeNbB rare earth magnets have a very low Curie temp, and will lose their magnetism as low as 150F. Not sure how hot things get above the fireplace, but if panels start falling that might be the culprit. They are harder to find, but SmCo rare earths will hold up to 800F.

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is the lamest hack I have ever seen, or just plain evil.

    Framing the fireplace with wood is an obvious and extreme fire hazard. There was a reason for the bricks… Duh.

    Enjoy the barbeque.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your comment is lame and evil, not this hack.

      Gazillions of fireplaces have wooden mantels.

      My victorian house has 3 woodburning, fireplaces (all working) and all with their original wooden mantels. The mantel columns and top shelves are just as close to the fire box openings as the ply on this project. Plus my fireboxes are not enclosed with glass, they’re open grate, so are even less “safe”. We use all three fireplaces, and have the chimneys cleaned once a year, and yes, they get a clean bill of health every time.
      According to your insults above, our house should have burnt down with thousands of others just like it more than 120 years ago.

      Seems the only thing barbecued, is your brain.


    • NonnyMus2 says:

      People expressing safety concerns are not insulting you and your work. They are expressing safety concerns.

      Comparing your hack with Victorian mantels is incorrect since Victorian mantels are made of solid wood and your hack is made from plywood. Solid wood is less combustible than plywood, especially plywood dried out over time from exposure to heat.

      Think about it. Plywood is made of thin veneers glued with polymer adhesive (usually epoxy). As the plywood is exposed to heat, as it is from the metal plates, it dries. The layers might even be pulling back and creating air spaces which add to combustibility.

      The other reason why your comparison to a Victorian mantel is inaccurate is that Victorian mantels are exposed to heat on one surface and the other side is vented. Your design heats the plywood on more than one surface and prevents venting.

      Please don’t let your pride blind you to danger. I’d recommend replacing your plywood with metal studs. The build will look the same, but will be much safer.

    • Anonymous says:

      NonnyM: I don’t think the above reply is from the hacker. It’s from a fellow commenter. The hacker rents and obviously does not live in a victorian with original mantles.
      And yes, the above comment is rude and insulting only, versus constructive criticism.

    • Drew Holland says:

      I sell plenty of gas fireplace inserts. They are all zero clearance just like the one pictured. However it is dangerous to change anything inside of the fireplace this could be dangerous and would definitely void the warranty. Gas fireplaces are certified to a standard. They should not be altered.

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