in partnership
One of the great things about this cork fireplace is that you can pretty easily switch it out depending on your mood. (Image: Kate Sigafoos / Seattle Refined)

DIY: Cork fireplace insert

I live my life in measures of approximation, not precision. If you set a start time for an event, I will be there on timegive or take 5 minutes. I will always wish you a Happy Birthdayjust usually a day after the actual date of your birth. I have been wearing the same size pants since high or minus two sizes. The world isn't a precise place, so I do not stress too much about this way of life.

Crafting often tries to cramp my approximate style. Crafts want you to measure and cut things at a very precise length. They want you to use a very specific number of items to create a final project. Crafts can be kind of a drag that way.

I came up with this cork fireplace insert project because I knew I would not be able to successfully pull off a more precise version. Cork is a very forgiving medium, unlike its more uptight cousin wood. I knew that if I measured or cut the cork and it was a little bit off, I would be able to stretch it or fill it or shape it to make it work. Also, the entire How To section of this craft is an approximation because it all depends on the size of your fireplace and the pattern you are looking to create.

This cork fireplace insert is the perfect craft for renters because it is a totally removable piece that adds a lot of drama and interest to what is typically a focal point of a room.


  • Black trifold poster board. Remember school science fair projects? This is the board you used to mount your work.

  • Sheet of cork. The amount you will need depends on the size of your fireplace. They sell large rolls for $15 at most craft/art stores.

  • Black sharpie

  • Ruler

  • X-Acto knife

  • Scissors

  • Hot glue gun/glue

  • 2-4 Wood shims or paint stirring sticks

  • Paint

  • Foam brush

How To

  1. Measure the height and width of the front of your fireplace from the inner rim. If you have a normal home and your fireplace is square and level, this will be easy. If your house is 100+ years old and nothing is square or level, it will be easiest to hold the poster board up to the fireplace and trace it from the inside to get a close approximation of the shape.

  2. Use scissors to cut out the poster board to fit the front of your fireplace.

  3. On the back of your poster board, draw out the pattern you want on the front of your final project. This is the time and place to measure, move, and play with your pattern. You want all the details worked out before you move to the front of the insert. My pattern mimics a pattern on some leaded glass is our home, so look around for inspiration.

  4. Use your hot glue gun to attach the wood shims or paint sticks across the perforated folds on the back side of the poster board. This will keep the board from collapsing in on itself and ruining all your hard work.

  5. Start measuring and cutting your cork to conform to your pattern. I use fancy measuring devices like bar glasses. If you cork tears a little or is a little off, don't stress. The holes can be patched later, and the cork can be manipulated to fit a curved line.

  6. Paint any pieces you want to add color to and let them dry. I used gold, poppy, and marmalade colors for my final project.

  7. Starting on one side of your poster board, begin gluing your cork pieces in place. As you go, try to pull and manipulate the cork to make the cut edges touch.

  8. If your fireplace edges are not even, the easiest way to finish this project off for an even fit is to leave a border around the edges. Fill this is with strips of cork and then cut them to fit as you hold the insert up to your fireplace.

  9. Once all your cork has been cut and glued in place, insert it into the front of your fireplace and enjoy your approximate artwork!