How do I cover a fireplace mantel?

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I have the world's roughest and ugliest mantel. How can I cover it, smooth white, including the corbels?

q how do i cover a fireplace mantel
  12 answers
  • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Mar 06, 2019

    Hi Joan, you will need to sand it smooth first and then prime, paint and seal it.

    • See 1 previous
    • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Mar 07, 2019

      Hi Joan, yep my beams in my house were the same way. The only way to make rough wood smooth is to either sand it or plane it. I used 40 grit sand paper on my Dewalt electric Orbital sander. It wasn't an easy job but it was totally worth it, no more splinters and now I can actually clean them. I finished with a fine (150 grit) paper and covered the beams with two coats of a satin polycrylic.

  • Because of the rounded edges on the corbels, I think the only option would be sanding (a lot) and then painting.

  • Hi Joan,

    I would use a orbital sander to remove the roughness of the wood. I personally would never try to sand something like this by hand without an orbital sander.


    We recently used Valspar's Cabinet Enamel paint in our kitchen DIY and the product is awesome. You could easily paint the sanded mantle with that product.

  • Karen Brunck Karen Brunck on Mar 07, 2019

    Hi Joan. If it is a true rough hewn beam, you should just remove and sell it. Replace it with one you're fond of. Or... You could build a cover with white painted wood.

    • Joan Stanley Joan Stanley on Mar 10, 2019

      Covering it is what I think I'll have to do. Removing it would leave marks/scars on the brick. I'm really not sure how it's attached, either. It would be my luck I'd tear down the whole fireplace! ;)

  • Darla Darla on Mar 07, 2019

    It looks like it is supposed to be a rough hand hewn mantle like Karen above notes. That being the case there isn't anyway to smooth it out while it is in place. If you can take it down without destroying it you could plan, sand and paint it. Question of course is do you have a planner? As Karen notes, replacing it could be the easiest way to go. Buy a piece of lumber you like, prep it and hang it.

  • Pjo26908388 Pjo26908388 on Mar 07, 2019

    Hi Joan,


    Fill in any large gaps with wood putty, Fix All or String Man Putty. Smooth it out well before it dries. Just do the large rough areas.


    It sounds like your wood is rough and slivery. Get a good primer like Kilz or Zerolac and prime the heck out of it. The primer will fill gaps and holes and also bond the slivers by encasing them. It might need primed 6-8 times. Then it can be sanded to smooth out. Between the wood filler and primer the surface should be "good enough"'to paint.


    Priming and painting over a rustic surface looks beautiful as the rustic character will come though. This isn't a difficult project. Just be sure the primer/paint dry prior to the next layer.

  • Jan Clark Jan Clark on Mar 07, 2019

    Howdy, fellow Texan! Obviously somebody thought this rustic look was good at some time. This scratchy style is not for me, either! If you can remove the mantel, you have two options. Sell and replace it as Karen mentioned above - or refinish. Since sanding doesn't seem to be an option, you could resurface it with a fairly fine toothed saw on the short edges and a planer on the long surfaces. (If you don't have this equipment or know someone who does, check with a local woodworker's store, like Rockler, and see if they can, or know someone who might be able to do it for you.) Once the wood is smooth, you can finish it however you like. If you intend to paint, make sure it's sealed and sanded smooth first. Best of luck.

  • William William on Mar 07, 2019

    Remove and replace.

  • Susan Susan on Mar 07, 2019

    I would remove it. Lose the corbels, then depending on if you want to keep the mantel shape or not you can wrap it in the material (wood, stone, whatever) you chose.

  • Mary Russell Mary Russell on Mar 07, 2019

    Looks like it's already pretty well already covered.But seroiusly,I'd go with Jan Clark's suggestion.

  • Debi53 Debi53 on Mar 07, 2019

    Everyone has given you great ideas. I'm going to come at this from a different perspective. I personally do not like fireplace mantels. Our house had 2 fireplaces with the worst mantels that I have ever seen. We removed the mantels, filled in the holes, and changed the color of the ugly orange brick. I know most people can't even imagine a fireplace without a mantel, but I find that most people don't know how to decorate their mantels and they end up just being one more cluttered surface in their homes. Here is the link to my post on Hometalk that shows what we did. This may not be what you choose, but it will at least give you another idea to consider.

    https://www.hometalk.com/33847745/the-saga-of-the-truly-ugly-fireplace

  • Joan Stanley Joan Stanley on Mar 08, 2019

    Thank you all for your generous ideas! 💞