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How to Build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto and Create Your Own Spanish Theme Family Room

Paul has been upgrading his home for the past five years. This labor of love has proved to him that learning is a lifelong journey.

Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto


How to Build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto

How to Build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto and Create Your Own Mexican Theme Family Room

If you like Spanish style comfort, then you will love this Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto. When we bought our home many years ago, the basement was one of the last rooms we had any desire to be in. So a few years back I decided to change all that. Now you too can build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace and while you're at it create the Spanish theme family room you've always wanted!

We really love the Spanish theme found in some Spanish food restaurants. We also loved the idea of having a fireplace in our basement and here the idea was born to combine the two into one element. I had been shopping around for ideas, and one day I was in this trendy little store that sold all kinds of neat statues, paintings, and other catchy items. They had a feature wall that had a Spanish theme fireplace. Of course there wasn't a real fireplace unit but just the surround. It had adobe caverns with many of its sale items on display within, not to mention unique curves and angles in its design.

I indeed had found what I was looking for, but the question was "How to Build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto with Adobe Caves". There was no way I could actually buy their feature wall, but they did allow me to make a sketch of it. My task was to turn this sketch into a real Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto. It has long since been completed and my family and I enjoy countless hours in the basement or should I now say Spanish theme family room, keeping warm in those cold winter months.

I would like to share its design with you and show you how you can build your own Spanish Adobe Fireplace and turn your basement into a real Spanish theme paradise.

Spanish Adobe Fireplace - Lower Sections


How to Build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace - Start at the Bottom

First you will need to pickout the actual fireplace unit you wish to build around. You can choose either gas or wood burning. As an alternative, you could also leave out the fireplace unit, leaving an adobe cavern for a totally different appeal. The fireplace unit will need to be installed and inspected before you start to build the Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto. You will need to build a base for the fireplace first. The company you purchase the fireplace from will provide you with the specs for the base. Generally you will need to build a wooden box secured to your floor for the fireplace unit to mount on.

The base can be constructed out of two by fours and likely would be approx 6 to 8 inches high and 3 feet wide by 2.5 feet deep. All framing can be done with standard carpentry nails 2 1/2" to 3" long or flat head tapered wood screws. You then have to secure the base to the floor. Our basement has a cement floor, so I had to use a nail gun using explosive shells to penetrate the cement. You can purchase or rent these tools from your local improvement stores. The base should also be covered on top with 3/4" plywood.

Once the base has been built and the fireplace unit installed, you are ready to build the Adobe Spanish Grotto. This is not as hard as it may look. Its all wood framing, and incorporates boxes similar to the base for all the Adobe caves. Leave the front pedestal for last and work on the lower half first.

Build a Spanish Adobe Fireplace - Frame It In

First, build a frame work around the fireplace unit itself. The framing and surround including any covering must not pass the front of the fireplace unit for fire code and safety reasons. So your framing should be placed behind the facing by approx a half inch. The top of the frame work should be a little higher than the actual mantel shelf. This will provide a layered look for the mantel when finished.

I built the right side frame and incorporated a box frame for the lower right adobe cave. On the left side I constructed a similar frame without the adobe opening. Both sides were cut so they would form together at a slight outside angle of approx 120 degrees. You can make this angle to your liking. Again both sides need to be secured to the floor, if you have a concrete floor, you will need to use the appropriate nail gun.
With the bottom framing in place, my next task was to build the top right side frame, this would include two adobe caves. The caves can be built to standard two by four depth or deeper as desired. For my design the adobe cave in the lower right section was deeper than the rest. I found it easier to build one section at a time and assemble as completed. The adobe caves were built separately as well and secured to the frame. Once the frame was completed, I lifted the frame in place on top of the lower right section. Just like the bottom piece, the upper frame would be at an angle to the front centre of the fireplace unit. You then must secure the right frame to both the bottom frame, ceiling and right wall.

The left side frame is constructed in the same way. You can build your adobe caves any size you wish and attach them to the frame as desired. Once completed, mount and secure the left side frame on top of the lower left section.

Spanish Fireplace - Upper Sections


Build a Spanish Fireplace - Complete Framework

To complete the framing of your Spanish Adobe Fireplace, you can now build the frame for the lower left section with the curved outer shell and square cave. Simply build an extension to the existing frame and secure to the front of the lower assembly already in place. For the curved section, cut angled pieces of two by fours so they align in a curved slope.

The mantel shelf is built using the same method, cut angled pieces of two by fours so they align in a curved slope and attach to the backing.

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The final framing step is to build the lower step in front of the fireplace. This is just another box, so build it to your desired width and shape. It must be lower than the bottom of the fireplace bezel, including all covering material.

Spanish Adobe Fireplace - Covering Surfaces


Spanish Adobe Fireplace - Time to Enjoy


Drywall Installation - Mud

Spanish Adobe Fireplace - Finishing Touches

With the framework completed, you are now ready to add the covering. Your Spanish Fireplace starts to take shape. For all curved sections, use 1/4 inch drywall or gypsum board. This is flexible enough to allow you to bend to the curved shape desired. For all flat sections use the thicker 3/8" or 1/2 " drywall. Install the flat surface pieces first, including the bottom and backing inside all adobe caves using 1" drywall nails. Measure and cut each section of drywall to fit each section as needed.

For all curved sections, including the mantel, the lower front section of the frame and the inside all adobe caves, now fasten the 1/4" drywall. Again cut and measure allowing for enough length to cover completely. This is especially important inside the adobe caves. I found it was easiest to measure and cut a long strip of the proper width first. Then place the strip of drywall against the adobe cave frame, bend the drywall to the upside down U shape so that it extends from the lower left corner to the lower left corner. Mark the length, cut and then install inside the frame. Repeat this for all adobe caves.

When every surface has been covered, use Drywall Compound and Drywall Tape to cover all seams. Generally run a path of drywall compound over each seam 4" wide using a 4" wide putty knife, measure and cut the drywall tape to cover the seam length, then press firmly on top on the compound, smooth the tape over again using the putty knife. Once dry, cover the seams with another thin layer of drywall compound. Once dry, you can sand the drywall with fine grade sandpaper.

Now you have completed the shell for your Spanish Adobe Fireplace Grotto. Now you can add your personal flavor as in outer covering and color. You can simply paint the fireplace surround as is, or you can add a textured plaster first. You can even use a tinted textured plaster, the choice is yours.

We used a textured plaster applied in a stipple manner, then painted it with a rustic salsa color. Finally you get to add your own personal touch with hanging pepper lights, lizards and the like. Chickens also add a nice touch. What was once just a basement is now called the family room. We spend countless hours entertaining in our stylish family room and keep warm all winter long.

Mexican Design


Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on November 05, 2011:

Thanks Suzettenaples for the great comments! The Mexican theme family room is my favourite place especially during those cold winter months.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 04, 2011:

I love this Mexican adobe fireplace. It is beautiful! I love all the Mexican artifacts and pottery you put in the shelves/cubbyholes. This is such a great idea and your directions are so easy to follow. And the string of lights just are the perfect touch. How creative and original!

I lived in Mexico in my younger years and would love to do this fireplace someday. I am bookmarking this article. Great directions and great writing! I so enjoyed this. Voted up! Interesting and awesome!

Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on November 01, 2011:

Thanks again for the great comments Derdriu, you have made my day! Have a great one!

Derdriu on November 01, 2011:

Carcro: Very nice! Thank you for the step-by-step breakdown of the adobe fireplace grotto installation. The grotto is photogenic, and so the photos provide solid convincing evidence of the materials, the process and the results.

Voted up, etc.,


Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on October 02, 2011:

Thanks for the great comments JJ. I love Mexican themes, Mexican Food, and Mexican culture, very colorful and warm!

JJ Windrose on October 01, 2011:

Great, great article!!! I adore Mexican culture! Thanks for this great hub!

Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on September 06, 2011:

Thanks for reading and commenting Woody Marx!

Woody Marx from Ontario, Canada on September 06, 2011:


Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on August 25, 2011:

Thanks for reading my hub and commenting mega1! I agree, I love Mexican theme anything. Really warm,vibrant and very festive!

mega1 on August 25, 2011:

I absolutely adore Mexican art and building styles. I love this fireplace. I want an entire house built like this with niches and little shelves and lovely sculpting along the walls. I've also seen those firestoves that are freestanding in the middle of the room so the heat radiates, built of iron but looking like adobe and just lovely. Very nice and helpful and interesting hub!

Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on August 22, 2011:

Thanks for reading and commenting RedElf!

RedElf from Canada on August 22, 2011:

An interesting and colorful addition to your family room.

Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on August 20, 2011:

Thanks for commenting ExquisiteExtacy, appreciate the feedback...

Vijay Anand Baree Sunnyasi from Perth on August 20, 2011:

exquisite and cozy place u've got there mate..nice pics & article too..

Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on August 19, 2011:

Thanks for reading my hub Om, and thanks for the wonderful comments. Instructions can be difficult to convey. I try to write them as I remember doing them in simple terms. I'm a novice myself, so I try to include any tips I found that made things easier. I hope if any one has questions, they can certainly post. I would be more than happy to assist and answer any questions.

Om Paramapoonya on August 19, 2011:

How lovely! Your instructions are also very easy to follow. Rated up and awesome! :)

Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on August 19, 2011:

You're the first person to notice my profile pic, I do love this room and the Mexican theme. We spend endless hours in front of the fireplace, great place to entertain too. Thanks so much for commenting Carrie!

carriethomson from United Kingdom on August 18, 2011:

hey some great pics and a great hub!! the mexican adobe fireplace seems really great. i loved those pepper lights and also the chicken. i guess u love this place so much that u have taken a portion of it for your profile pic!


Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on August 17, 2011:

Thanks NMLady! We really have enjoyed our "Family Room" immensely ever since I completed the fireplace in the Mexican theme. Gas is our choice too, much more convenient in the cold winter months.

NMLady from New Mexico & Arizona on August 17, 2011:

This is impressive. Almost every home here in NM has some kind of 'kiva' type fireplace. Ours is gas though.

We are in a 'Santa Fe' style of home. Many others around here are territorial style homes. Some are more Midwestern USA though!

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