HGTV's Jasmine Roth Warns Us Not To Make This Grave Fireplace Mistake

Whether you're tired of looking at builder-grade tile or that red brick façade is feeling way outdated, changing out the surround on your fireplace can be a beautiful way to update the look of not only your fireplace but an entire room. DIYers beware, though — there's one material Jasmine Roth of HGTV's "Help! I Wrecked My House" warns against using for this purpose: wood.

In a Season 4 episode of Roth's show titled "Something's Got To Give," she discovers a painted plywood surround installed by the homeowners that could have easily turned into a fire disaster. "My concern is that you have your firebox right next to wood, which is a combustible material," Roth told the homeowners during the show. "So if you have a fire right now, this goes up in flames, which means your whole house goes up in flames."

As you've probably guessed, Roth didn't hesitate to change out that plywood for an option that was not only safer but also provided the updated look the homeowners were seeking. But besides not burning your house down, there are several more options to consider when you want a new look for your fireplace, whether you decide to hire a contractor or try to do it yourself.

Choosing a better material for a fireplace surround

The couple Jasmine Roth worked with made the mistake of replacing brown tile with painted white plywood, resulting in a fire disaster just waiting to happen. There's nothing wrong with updating a fireplace surround to change the look, but there are much better choices for materials than wood, including brick, stone, stucco, or ceramic tile in a more pleasing color. Avoid using any type of plastic such as vinyl tile or planks, shiplap, or anything else combustible.

While working together on this project, Roth actually gave the homeowners two choices: eliminate the unsafe fireplace by covering it with drywall or replace the surround with something safer. After some debate, they decided to swap the plywood with leftover black tile from the couple's bathroom reno to get the modern look they were seeking while saving some cash on materials. The result offers an aesthetically pleasing fireplace that can be safely used.

The added bonus, according to Roth, is that a safely functioning fireplace can boost the value of a home. That added value is another reason the homeowners benefitted from getting rid of the old fire hazard they inadvertently created.

More on fireplace safety

When Jasmine Roth worked with homeowners on her show to correct the potentially dangerous DIY fireplace mistake, she was rightfully concerned. "It is a mystery to me how they have not burned their entire house down," she says on the show. "And they had no idea. They didn't know that adding a piece of wood right next to a flame was dangerous." So if you're also one of those people who might have some dangerous things near your fireplace, rather than feeling bad about your error, take some steps to correct it.

In addition to making sure the surround on your fireplace is constructed of noncombustible material, make sure to move anything else that may catch fire easily away before lighting it. That means that you should keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away. This includes items like wooden trays, match containers, baskets, and pillows. Using a glass or metal fireplace screen can also help prevent cinders from popping out of the fireplace and igniting combustibles nearby.

Keep in mind that burning paper in your fireplace is a no-no because burning paper risks floating up and either igniting the creosote or landing on grass or trees outside. It's wise to get your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned yearly, too, since most home heating fires result from creosote build-up igniting in chimneys. Furthermore, when disposing of ashes, place them in a metal container located at least 10 feet away from your house. With some care, you can avoid making grave mistakes when renovating and using your fireplace.