DIY Wood Mantle

8 Materials
3 Days

After looking at ready-made mantles for sale online, we did not see anything we loved. We decided to make our own using sources found at Home Depot. It turned out cheaper than those we first saw and it was the exact look and size we wanted.

When we bought our house, the image I had for our fireplace was so different. There was wood paneling surrounding the fireplace that I figured we would paint, clean up the stone, and be done. However, we noticed light coming in where a section of panel was pulling away from the wall, and there were two distinct sun bleached rectangles on either side of the fireplace. We pulled back the paneling and discovered original windows! We also saw that the fireplace originally had a bell curve shape and two sconces on either side. A leaning chimney and messed up fireplace lead our vision to a whole new place!

A small example of available corbels.

Fast forward a few projects, like building out the bell shape, installing the insert, laying tile etc, and we come to the mantle. At first we really liked the clean look of the completed fireplace, but our first Christmas in the house was coming and I really wanted to hang our stockings on a mantle! I came across unfinished corbels in my mantle search and asked my husband if there was a way to use them for our mantle. There are many corbel options online. Just type "corbel" in your search engine and a ton come up. You can choose from very simple designs to intricately carved pieces with faux aging. We went with something fairly simple that we found online at Home Depot.

While planning the mantle shape, we were also thinking of a stain color. At the time, we had no trim around our discovered windows. The other windows in the room had old, chipped white trim. We had purchased a new front door that had been stained a medium to dark color. I attempted to match that color as best I could. Color matching stain is always tricky with different wood species. On that note, I should mention that all the wood we used was red oak. The corbels and trim pieces were actually ordered online because our local Home Depot didn't have them in red oak.

I used a blend of MinWax wood stains in Honey and English Chestnut to get our desired color. We later matched the window trim to this color too.

Other materials not pictured: 220 grit sandpaper or sanding block, nail gun, drill, screws, nails.

Wood board options.

Hubby got creative and researched types of wood to use. He found some red oak planks in 1" x 6" and 1" x 4" and cove trim pieces that would pair well.

We centered the corbels on the "column" pieces, cut one oak plank to the length of the entire fireplace, and cut a second plank piece one inch shorter. The second oak plank was placed centered under the first oak plank.

Screwing the two planks together.

Once we had the layout we wanted, we measured two times for accuracy's sake , and then made the cuts on the table saw. I wasn't able to take photos of the cutting process; must have been chasing our son or doing laundry or who knows! Thank goodness for a table saw. How did carpenters of yore build entire houses with hand tools?!!?

Nailing trim to planks.

Once the planks were attached, the trim was measured and cut. I also missed taking photos of cutting trim- sorry! The trim wraps around the lower plank, providing some visual interest. 18 gauge finishing nails were used in the nail gun.

Testing out stained corbels.

With the planks and trim secured together to form our mantle shelf, I stained them, as well as the corbels. Ugh, I also did not capture the staing process, but you can visualize it right?

The corbels came with mounting hardware, but my husband used self-drilling drywall anchors.

With the stain dry on the mantle shelf, it was screwed into the corbels and the wall. Our mantle was done in time for that first Christmas in our home! It was also the first Christmas we celebrated away our parents and other family, so for me, hanging our stockings was a small comforting reminder of holidays past.

According to my husband, this is an easy project. I would preface this by saying it's easy if you have some carpentry experience and if you have the tools, like a nail gun, air compressor, table saw and drill.

As for the project budget, I did not include the cost of those power tools.

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Gail
    on Feb 19, 2020

    You did a great job. Assuming you took off all the old fireplace stones as it is obviously different. In the first picture it appears that a real fire had been in the hearth. But i don't see a chimney going up for updraft? Was there not on or did you add one or are you using electric insert. I am at this decision making point on a project and am wondering. It does look like you took on a real fixer upper.

    • This Dear Casa
      on Feb 21, 2020

      One more thing, the dealer sold us the sleeve and they installed it. We didn't feel comfortable doing this portion! If you check out your local insert dealer, they should be able to guide you. We checked a few different places before selecting one.

  • Judy Myers
    on Feb 19, 2020

    How did you get the look of white painted bricks on the front of the fireplace?

    • This Dear Casa
      on Feb 20, 2020

      Thanks for reading! Those are actually bricks. When we pulled out the stone, we had to rebuild the surround, and we chose to leave some brick exposed. I didn't include steps for the fireplace rebuild because it would have been such a long tutorial!! I plan to do tutorials for the brick, drywall & tile hearth at a later date/s!

  • Sandy
    on Feb 20, 2020

    It looks like stones were removed, as in the original picture the right side of the fireplace was bigger than the left. The original fireplace also ended closer to the windows. Did you not notice the windows from the outside of the house?

    • This Dear Casa
      on Feb 20, 2020

      Hi Sandy, yes the stones were removed. We think the stones were added in the 60s or 70s when the previous owners did a lot of renovations. They demolished the bell curve, removed the sconces, extended the length of the fireplace, and added the infamous paneling! The other homes in our neighborhood have a lot bell curve fireplaces with tile hearths and tile accents. I think ours must have been the same.

      Anyhow, no we didn't notice the windows from outside ha ha! We are set back up on a hill, so when you drive you can miss a lot. There is also an empty lot on that side and at the time there were many overgrown trees & shrubs. I can't remember if we even walked on that side of the house. We must have & not registered them because we were preoccupied by all the other work it needed ha! Honestly, we looked at so many houses. On weekdays I went househunting alone with the baby and on weekends, all 3 of us went. When we first drove by this house, we saw the leaning chimney and chipped paint and all the rest & kept driving! When there was a price reduction some weeks later, is when we actually went to take a look.

Join the conversation

4 of 22 comments
  • Clayton
    on Feb 20, 2020

    Absolutely stunning job !!! Congratulations ! What luck in finding those windows.

    Two of my pet peeves are closing off windows and painting antique furniture.

    I just can not understand why either of these are done. Enjoy your beautiful room.

    • This Dear Casa
      on Feb 21, 2020

      Thank you, thank you!!

      Yes, major pet peeves. Although, I must admit that when I was younger I painted a few vintage dressers and a bookshelf  I know better now ha ha!

  • Robyn Garner
    on Feb 24, 2020

    Great job(S) you guys! My first place was a turn-of-the-century coachman's cottage that had been "modernized" in the 1960's. ZERO original/charm left. I know how you felt when you discovered the windows - it's one of the special moments we remember of huge reno's. Be proud of your home and all the work!

    • This Dear Casa
      on Mar 3, 2020

      Haa! Yes, totally get it. We are still working on house projects, but not to the extent of when we first moved in. Now I marvel at the "extra" time we have to do things like day trips.

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