12 DIY Fireplace Surrounds Using Reclaimed Wood

Interiors of a modern living room
Eric Audras / Getty Images

Reclaimed wood, especially in the form of wood shipping pallets, is often free for the asking, allowing you to create innovative wood masterpieces for next to nothing. All manner of treatment is fair game. Keep the wood raw and unfinished, nail holes included; stain and add a clear coat for a more distinguished appearance; or paint it solid white and distress it.

Pallet boards are a great choice for this type of use since they are short and easily fit the dimensions of fireplace surrounds with minimal cutting required. But there are many other sources of wood that is distressed and weathered.

How to Find Reclaimed Wood

There are many sources for finding reclaimed wood. Some of the makers in this gallery were fortunate enough to have access to barn wood at relatives' farms. Much reclaimed wood—the most desirable kind that comes from warehouses, barns, bowling alleys, and school gyms—is costly to purchase from retailers. However, some reclaimed wood from online retailers can be fairly affordable. Reclaimed paneling from distributor Elmwood Reclaimed Timber typically costs $6 to $10 per square foot range, though that does not include shipping and handling.

Pallet Wood

Wooden shipping pallets are generally built from rough-sawn hardwood or softwood lumber. They are sometimes manufactured right at lumber mills for sale to shipping companies, but there are also specialty manufacturers that build wooden pallets to specifications from buyers.

It's becoming steadily more common for pallets to be recycled to manufacturers for reconditioning and resale, but you can still find pallet wood being given away for free. The advantage of pallet wood is that it is prestressed and the pieces come in short lengths, many of which require no cutting as you assemble a fireplace surround. All that's needed to "harvest" such wood is a tarp, hammer, pry bar, and a reciprocating saw to disassemble the pallets where you find them.

  • Outside businesses: Before taking a pallet you see discarded behind a company's loading dock, always speak to the business owner. Pallets are not always free for the taking. Sometimes they are rentals, slated for return; or the owner may have plans to reuse or sell them. A pallet ownership stamp (CocaCola, USPS, etc.) is usually a tip-off that the pallet is not fair game. Pallets weathered outside have an attractive, weathered look. However, pallets that have been outdoors for too long tend to break down when you disassemble them.
  • Craigslist: Some businesses charge a nominal fee of $5 to $7 per pallet to customers willing to come and pick up old pallets. It is well worth going through Craigslist or other similar websites to look for these offers. Paying this fee ensures that there will be no problems with taking the pallet, and you may get to see photos ahead of time to verify their condition.
  • Pallet manufacturers: The businesses that sell shipping pallets to warehouses and shipping companies may offer both new and recycled, weathered pallets. Knowing the growing market for pallet wood in decorative applications, some of these companies now welcome business from individuals, even those wanting just a pallet or two for a small project. If there is a wood pallet company in your area, a quick call to the order desk will determine if they are willing to sell old pallets to individuals.

"Manufactured" Reclaimed Wood

New wood that is either factory- or DIY-distressed can sometimes be cheaper than authentic reclaimed wood. You can build a fireplace surround for less than $100 by using new wood from a home improvement store and then distressing it yourself. Stikwood is one brand of factory-made replica reclaimed wood that sticks directly on the wall with pull-tab adhesive strips.

Other companies specialize in salvaging, cutting, and packaging reclaimed wood, offering it for sale by the square foot. Buying weathered wood in this way is not a money-saving option (these boards sometimes cost more than new wood), but it can be a good option if you have no free or low-cost sources for pallet wood and other types of reclaimed wood.


Click Play for the Best Places to Find Free Pallets Near You

Safety Concerns

The International Residential Code, a model code adopted by many municipalities, does allow for combustible materials, such as wood sheathing, to be placed directly on fireplace surrounds. However, all combustibles must remain at least 6 inches from the fireplace opening. Many people create a frame of ceramic tile or firebrick around the fireplace opening to create this 6-inch buffer between the fireplace and wooden surround.

If you have an electric (non-flammable) fireplace, you do not have these clearance restrictions. If you have a particular model, consult your local permitting office or municipality rules to learn if there are any restrictions on your fireplace.

Be aware that some of the following examples may use reclaimed wood in a way that is restricted in your community.

  • 01 of 12

    Pallet Wood With OSB Backing

    Pallet fireplace surround
    Addison Meadows Lane

    Over at Addison Meadows Lane, Stacey's husband and his best friend constructed the underlying base of this pallet fireplace surround out of 2x4s and OSB (oriented-strand board) panels. Because they knew the OSB would show through the pallet boards, they first painted it black. Then, they faced the entire structure—surround, mantel, and hearth—in pallet boards, which they obtained from a free source.

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  • 02 of 12

    Faux Fireplace With Pallet Wood Surround

    Natural Pallet Wood Fireplace
    Noni's House

    Even though most pallet fireplaces have boards running horizontally, consider placing them vertically to draw the eye upward and create the illusion of a higher ceiling. This example, from Noni's House, isn't even a real fireplace—just a constructed box with an opening and mantle to display holiday decor.

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  • 03 of 12

    Cottage Chic Fireplace Surround

    White Painted Pallet Wood Fireplace
    Noni's House

    Pallet wood used in a fireplace surround is usually left raw and unfinished, but that doesn't always have to be the case. This one, a variation from the previous example from Noni's House, has been painted white for a country cottage effect.

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  • 04 of 12

    Mantle Topper

    White Painted Cottage Style Mantel Extension
    Cottage Instincts

    Not ready to cover your entire fireplace? In this project from Cindy at Cottage Instincts, she saw that it would be cost-prohibitive to continue the lower stonework to the ceiling. Instead, she used 11 pallet boards, painted them with antique white paint, and distressed them with a palm sander before stacking them upward on the wall above the mantle.

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  • 05 of 12

    Fireplace Chase With Reclaimed Wood

    Fireplace Wood Pallet Upper Surround
    Katie Jane Interiors

    Bare pallet boards are used to cover the fireplace chase extending upward from the mantle to the ceiling, in this fireplace treatment designed by decorator Katie Jane. Visually, this provides a crisp visual balance to the manufactured stone veneer covering the bottom of the fireplace surround. The effect is to draw visual attention to the fireplace as an architectural element.

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  • 06 of 12

    New Wood Made to Look Old

    Faux Reclaimed Wood Fireplace Surround
    Autumn Fuchs / Fuchsia Design

    Autumn Fuchs, the owner of Fuchsia Design, was determined to give this fireplace the reclaimed wood look, but she didn't like the high prices she was facing for salvaged wood. Instead, she purchased new tongue-and-groove boards from Home Depot, distressed them to make them look old, stained them, then framed the fireplace with a floor-to-ceiling panel treatment. The project cost less than $100.

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  • 07 of 12

    Reclaimed Barn Wood Fireplace Wall

    Gas Fireplace with Reclaimed Wood
    Real Antique Wood Mill

    Real Antique Wood Mill of New Jersey specializes in dismantling old barns and other buildings and using the wood to fabricate furniture and other items. Similar businesses can be found across the country. In this example, delightfully weathered barn boards with traces of antique paint still present are used to frame and highlight a sleek modern fireplace unit

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  • 08 of 12

    Mantle Make-Over

    Reclaimed Wood Fireplace Top
    Averie Lane

    Amber, at the design blog Averie Lane, dressed up a freestanding self-venting fireplace with a mantle she and her husband created with reclaimed cedar fencing boards. The mantle sits atop a 2x4 frame they built to enclose the fireplace, which was then covered with ceramic tile to complete the look.

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  • 09 of 12

    Calico Barn Wood Fireplace Wall

    Reclaimed Wood Fireplace in Florida
    FAMA Reclaimed

    You don't need multicolored bricks to construct an attractive fireplace wall. The experts at Fama Creations designed and installed this wall using aged wood reclaimed from an old horse barn dating back to the 1800s. Even the mantle is a single structural beam from that barn, with the original saw-blade marks still visible.

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  • 10 of 12

    Stikwood Fireplace Accents

    Stikwood Accent Fireplace
    The Lettered Cottage

    If you want the look of real antiqued wood in an easy-to-install product, consider using Stikwood, a product that features real antiqued wood veneers attached to a peel-and-stick backing. You simply cut the planks to the length you want, peel away the backing, and press the boards against the wall. Here. Layla Palmer used Stikwood pieces to create accents around an inset fireplace unit.

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  • 11 of 12

    Custom Antique Fireplace Wall

    Reclaimed Wood Mantel and Pallets
    I Think We Could Be Friends

    The designer at the blog I Think We Could Be Friends had a problem: Her basic builder house was devoid of personality. One solution was to face the fireplace in pallet wood. She had a stipulation, though. She wanted a reclaimed wood look, not a "free pallet wood look," as she puts it.

    She accomplished this by:

    • Being highly selective about the pallets
    • Cutting nails off with the reciprocating saw
    • Stacking pallet boards of varying textures and colors
    • Using a vintage beam from a relative's old barn to create the wood mantle.
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  • 12 of 12

    Fireplace Surround Using Packaged Wood

    Faux Pallet Wood Fireplace Surround

    The How to Home

    Mary Beth, from the design blog The How to Home, took a novel approach to the process of roadside pallet hunting–she skipped it entirely. Instead, she purchased used pallet wood that had already been disassembled, cut to standardized lengths, and boxed for sale. A single box containing 25 square feet of clean, dry red oak pallet boards was all she needed for this project.