Mounting a TV in Fireplace

About a month ago I completed a home project that involved mounting my 40 inch flat screen TV “in” my existing gas log fireplace.  In order to convince my skeptical wife that the project would look nice I had to have a rollback plan that included restoring the fireplace to it’s original working condition.  That meant I could not damage the fireplace in any way, including drilling holes in the back of the firebox or any surface that could be seen from the family room.

It took me a while to figure out how to do this but with a little ingenuity and online research I ended up finding the solution.  Simply put, I used plywood and magnets to cover and secure the fireplace.  It worked perfectly… well, at lease my wife is happy with it.

Too often we see TVs mounted OVER the fireplace.  My family room is a decent size at 16’x20’, but I still felt a TV mounted over the fireplace would eventually put strain on my aging cervical spine.  Mounting the TV in the fireplace had the potential of having the opposite result: too low to the floor.  I was able to overcome this by choosing a mounting bracket that allowed the TV to be mounted with an upward tilt.  Up to this point neither of us has ever uttered a comment that the TV is too low to the ground.

The following picture shows my initial installation of the 3/8” plywood.  The piece I chose was “rough” on one side and smooth on the other.  You’ll notice that either the wood is not perfectly square or the firebox isn’t so I ended up using a couple of “feet” under the board to raise the board just enough so there is an optimal gap along the top and sides.

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Initially I thought I was going to want to have four handles on the outside surface.  My thinking was that even with the TV mounted two people could remove the entire assembly away from the firebox by pulling on the bottom handles to break the magnets away from the metal firebox while using the top handles to stabilize the TV and prevent everything from crashing to the floor.  After a fair amount if experimentation I discovered that the top handles were not needed and the final design did not include them.

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The following image shows the final configuration of the back side of the mounting board.  It took a fair amount of experimentation to arrive at this configuration so let me break it down.

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  1. The backside of the board was painted with this tan color… it was just a color I had hanging around the garage that I didn’t think I was ever going to use for anything else.  I wanted both sides of the board painted for the following reasons:
    • The original plan was to leave the pilot light running.  This would allow the quickest turnaround in case we wanted to remove the TV so we restore the fireplace to a working condition.  I wanted to protect the wood from the long term effects of the heat of the pilot light on the back which may result in excessive drying of the wood, and potentially be a fire hazard.
    • I thought that a painted surface would be less likely to warp over time.  A warped board would have the potential to allow the magnets to separate from the steel frame of the gas log fireplace, resulting in a catastrophic failure of the system.  Ie., the TV would unexpectedly fall forward into the living room.
  2. To secure the board and TV to the steel firebox I used a total of 14 mounting magnets from K&J Magnets. Ten (10) of the magnets are mounted across the top portion of the board; four (4) are mounted across the lower half of the board.  Each of these little dynamos has a rated pull force of 26.75 pounds.   In practice, the pull force of these magnets was less than the lab tested “ideal” conditions (where the magnets are tested against thick steel plates and are aligned perfectly against the surface of the plate).  I didn’t measure the actual pull force required to break away the magnets by pulling on the front pull handles but I am certain the ten magnets across the top is over engineered.  The four magnets on the bottom are just there to ensure the board never kicks away from the wall by sliding on the two feet that were used to level the board.
  3. The two sections of aluminum angles that run along the extreme left and right sides serve two purposes:
    • To prevent the board from warping along the vertical axis and,
    • Provides a connection point for the vinyl coated steel cable that connects each of the aluminum pieces.  This cable will be connected to another piece of cable that is on the inside of the fireplace.  In the case of a catastrophic failure, this assembly will at a minimum slow down the fall of the TV and ideally, prevent the TV from ever hitting the floor.
  4. Since the original concept called for the pilot light to remain lighted, I secured a glass backing over a hole (located about 10 inches above the bottom, just to the left of the board center line).  This peep hole would allow us to see the pilot light easily without having to pull the board away from the firebox.  In the end, I decided to not keep the pilot light lit so this feature really is not needed.
  5. There are two additional holes in the board to allow power and HDMI cables to come into the board (lower right, just left of the aluminum brace) and the exit the board to connect to the back of the TV (upper right, just south of the fourth pair of magnets).  In order to maintain a tight seal around the wires but allow some variability in the size of the wires I used 2 inch thick, compressible styrophone material.  I was able to cut the material using a hole saw bit by turning the bit in the opposite direction.  This was done by hand, not with a drill.  I was amazed at how clean I was able to get those holes to come out.  In order to get the wires to pass through the foam, I cut a slit from the center to an outer edge.  It worked perfectly.
  6. The last “feature” visible from the back panel is a variety of types of insulation strips used to seal off the firebox.  This mounting board offers the added benefit of saving on cooling and heating by significantly minimizing the amount of air flow from the family room to the firebox and out the chimney.

The following picture shows the mounting board aligned along the bottom of the firebox just hanging by the safety cable.  From this angle it is easy to see the pilot light viewer, and the foam inserts used to seal the wiring.  You can also see that I covered the exposed surfaces of the mounting magnets with masking tape.  This is to prevent the magnets from scratching the painted steel surface of the firebox.  This was suggested by support at K&J.

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This is what the externally facing board looks like.  I finished the board with a black paint that is used to paint exterior doors.  It is very durable and very black.  The mounting bracket was purchased from Sewell Direct.  My main requirement for this bracket was that it allow an upward tilt.  Otherwise, it is a standard mount.  This image also shows that the top handles have also been removed, leaving only the bottom handles.

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Finally, the finished product.  As far as I can tell, the wife is happy… As am I.  My only concern at this point….  The TV is too small for the fireplace mantle.  That 40 incher could easily be upgraded to a 50 incher to at least cover the mounting board on the left and right sides.

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For the record, I didn’t do this alone.  I had several email conversations with K&J regarding the feasibility of using magnets for this project.  Not only was I concerned about the strength of the magnets, but also interference on the TV itself.  So far, I have not had any issues with either.

For those that are more interested in where all of the electronics is… I have a dedicated closet on the other side of the wall to the left of the fireplace.  The folks at Sewell Direct greatly assisted me with selecting the proper infrared (IR) product and flat/paintable HDMI cabling.

For the audio buffs, the speakers were purchased new in 1988.  They are Magnat Deltas.  Unfortunately, Magnat no longer sells in the USA.  After all of the years I have no desire to replace them.

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