A couple of the 'regulars' have already addressed your question so I won't go there. In short, I feel Henry's approach is the best on. Just to 'add' to the reasons as to why I support the proposal is you'll have 'better value', you'll get what you want, and it WILL be maintenance-free (if you go w/brick again.) If you haven't done much research, let me asure you that there are a PLETHORA of brick choices out there, sorta already pre-tinted to a color that should match your style and taste. Of course, as already mentioned, there are options to 'cover' what's there but I do want to say that the job may not look like a fireplace 'surround' when it's finished. Instead, it may look like, well..., like something has been 'covered'.
My best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
PS: Subing for 'others' is HIGHLY appropriate! Thanks Henry - You saved me some typing. :) PPS: Wick -You're true to form! ;-)