Renovating homes for a living is of course a numbers game. Buy low, have a reasonable renovation budget to work with, and hope to turn a profit in the end. The buying and selling are reasonably simple. It’s the in between part that can get tricky for investors! What, where, and how do we invest in a renovation project often becomes the deciding factor in the outcome of the overall investment. But also, paying attention to WHEN (what season) your renovation will sell can often help you decide what part of the house to invest money in.

With winter approaching, fireplaces always make it on my renovation budget list! A great makeover for the fireplace goes a long way with helping to sell a house during those cold winter months! What if the house doesn’t have a fireplace? Then I add one! Taking a house from cold to cozy can easily outweigh the cost and time it takes to add a fireplace to your renovation. I have found that even here in California, buyers during the winter months will not even go see a house if it has no fireplace.

Because fireplaces are the focal point of a living room, family room or great room it can often affect a buyer’s first impression of a home. More than likely these rooms are often the first rooms the buyers will step into when they view a home. So, a great looking fireplace will help to immediately give buyers a sense of warmth, comfort, and coziness, which everyone wants to feel in their home. Starting with designing the fireplace first can often help lead you to your overall renovation design for the whole house.

Today, the different products available for fireplace makeovers are endless! It may be that we are still using a lot of brick, stone, and wood as in the past. But the selection and the creativity in design that has come about in recent years has opened a whole new world for designing fireplaces! From big box hardware stores, lumber yards, paint stores, mason yards and even antique stores for mantles, all are full of endless products great for giving any fireplace an updated look. Depending on what design style you’re going for, the application can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

For the fastest and least expensive way to update a brick fireplace, think about painting the brick. Today this is one of the most popular applications out there, and of course white is the most used color for this. Other popular choices are black, gray, and even blue. Give it an antique painted look by not painting the mortar. Or try adding a wood mantle and wood trim to your newly painted fireplace to add depth and contrast. Painting an old red brick fireplace white may not sound exciting but paint the walls on either side of it a darker shade and watch how that fireplace now pops and makes a statement in the room!

Stack stone is another look that is getting a lot of attention these days! The stone can range in price depending on if it is a natural stone or a manmade product, which would be the lesser priced of the two. It is very easy to work with and comes in dozens of colors. Stack stone is a great look for many different design styles. It works well in a farmhouse design, rustic design, and even a mid-century modern design! It can be applied to several different surfaces including going right over old brick. I can tell you firsthand that buyers are drawn to it! Many home buyers look at homes online, look through magazines, or they have seen stone displays at hardware stores. But when they see it applied in a newly renovated home, their reaction is honestly priceless!

If you’re willing to allocate more of your renovation budget towards the fireplace, try building a whole wall unit around the fireplace. If the fireplace sets inside the room, you will be left with some wonderful space on either side of it to work with. This space is a great place to add benches, bookcases and even cabinets for more storage. Using ready-made lower cabinets and building open shelving above will help to give any fireplace a custom feel. Adding a mantle to tie it all together will help complete the look!

What if your next renovation has no fireplace? Consider adding one! If you’re not a contractor, you will have to hire one who is familiar with building codes. Adding a new fireplace to an existing home is not as hard as it may sound. It will just require a few more decisions for you to make. Your decisions start with choosing between a direct-vent gas, wood-burning masonry, or a zero-clearance fireplace. The deciding factor for any of these will start with where it will go in the house. If it’s up a flight of stairs, a wood-burning fireplace may not be your choice; buyers may not like the idea of carrying wood upstairs. If it’s going on an outside wall you may decide to go with a direct-vent gas fireplace. Or if you’re just looking to create ambiance to a home that a fireplace adds, try adding a zero-clearance fireplace. These are the least expensive of the three and can be added to any part of the home.

Paying attention to some of the details surrounding your next renovation, including what season you’ll be selling the home in, can help lead you to making better decisions during the renovation process. Bringing back to life that sad looking fireplace or even adding a new one altogether can only help to draw buyers in and help the home to have a warmer and more comfortable feel to it. All of this will encourage buyers to stay longer and to take a longer, harder look at the home. A fireplace truly is the “Heart of the Home!” Investing a little more of your time and money towards this part of your next renovation can only increase the appeal.

ABOUT THE DESIGNER: Growing up assisting my father building and investing in strip malls, it was clear at an early age that real estate investing was a natural path for me to take. I received a formal education in design from the Interior Designers Institute of Newport Beach, California, and have more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate development, custom home building, and flipping houses. Contact me at or

Tags | Design
  • Michele Van der Veen

    Michele Van Der Veen, host of Good Day segments including Flip It, Decorate Like A Designer and Stage To Sell, started her career in real estate investing over 30 years ago. A published author herself, she has also been recognized and featured in international magazines for her unique approach to interior design. Acquiring a formal education from the Interior Designers Institute of California, Michele’s experience stems from building custom homes to flipping over 100 homes and working in commercial real estate development alongside her father at a young age. Not afraid to push the limit on her own designs/investments, she will often be heard reassuring her team about her decisions by saying “Don’t worry we are the comps!” For more on Michele’s work or to contact her go to

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