DIY Fireplace Mantel in a Traditional Living Space in 5 Easy Steps
Our first project of 2016 is officially in the books! We finished up this traditional living, dining, & family room space (not pictured) last week and we and the clients were very happy with the result. BUT what I am really here to tell you about is a project that Wendy and I built from scratch! Peep the custom mantel! We are so happy with how this turned out that it was too good not to share! If you have some basic DIY skills, I promise you can handle it. Notice all the exclamation points?!?! Can you tell I’m excited?!?! Here’s the mantel and the finished room.
Back to the beginning…there was a deadline we had to meet which didn’t leave much time for debate or discussion. There was only time for decisions! The clients liked how the fireplace design had been progressing but it lacked the WOW-factor they were looking for. I wanted to create a focal point for the entire room and the fireplace was the perfect element except, there was no mantel.
There were plenty of mantels available for purchase but they only came in 4, 5, or 6 foot lengths. We needed seven feet and after spending an entire day and night searching, literally 15 to 17 hours, I discovered two things: One, we were not going to get anything ordered by our deadline. Two, we could probably make the mantel ourselves! Our client selected option 2 and I got to work researching ideas to construct it. Then I thought about we constructed our DIY Window Cornice and the mantel project was born!
It turned out to be a 5 step process and really not as hard as one would think. Let’s walk through it.
Step 1: We needed a cleat; a hidden wooden piece that would act as the support and foundation for the mantel. We already knew the length of the mantel was 7 feet, but we measured the depth of the mantel at 3 inches.
So to make the cleat sit flush with the depth of the fireplace, we secured a 2×4 to the wall and a 1×4 on top of that to give us our 3 inches. We cut both pieces to the length of the fireplace. In hindsight, two pieces may have been overkill since the mantel didn’t weigh very much but better safe than sorry. *Speaking of security, you also have the option of finding studs but we used heavy duty wall anchors instead.
Step 2: After securing the cleat we cut our face-plate, a 1x8x8 (1 inch thick x 8 inches wide x 8 feet long) piece of finish grade Poplar to the length of the mantel (7 ft). Since the original piece was 8 feet, we took that left over 12 inch piece and cut it in half giving us two 6 inch pieces. We secured the two 6 inch pieces to either end of the cleat. These would act as our end pieces.
Step 3: Now that our cleat and end pieces were secured, we screwed our face-plate to the end pieces and our top to the cleat. For the top we used another 1x8x8 of the Poplar wood, but we didn’t cut this piece. Instead we used it to provide the overhang we wanted.
Step 4: Now that the basic framework was complete, we needed to address the pretty factor! We cut, glued, and trim-nailed decorative trim pieces and a wooden applique to the face-plate and end pieces. We made sure to miter our corners. Once everything was attached, we caulked as needed to fill any small gaps.
Step 5: The final step after the caulk and glue dried was to paint. We did 3 coats of Glidden’s Pure White in a semi-gloss finish. If you primed the wood first, you’d probably only need 2.
Bonus Step: We painted and used trim and a mirror to make the fireplace even more of a focal point. This added to the WOW-factor making the space really look polished!
After that, we were done! We love this! I think this is definitely something that could easily be completed in a weekend. All of our materials were off the shelf from Home Depot. Deadline met! Rooms complete! Happy clients! We couldn’t ask for more!
Create. Innovate. Decorate!