Monday, December 5, 2011

dressing up my fireplace

Last year, I added a mantle to one side of my 3-sided fireplace.  It was a blank canvas of brick and I was tired of not having anywhere to hang my stockings.  It's pretty basic, just a 2x8 and a couple of brackets from Anthropologie.  The entire project cost me about $80 ($50 for the brackets, $10 for the wood, $20 for the paint).  Not bad for a new fireplace mantle, but I was ticked off that I had to buy new brackets.  When we moved from our old place, I brought with me some nearly identical brackets I had purchased 10 years ago for half the price.  I searched high and low and could not find the box that had yet to be unpacked, and I was annoyed that I had to buy more...and that the price had doubled.

Oh, wait.  I lied.  I also spent $80 on a hammer drill that we had to buy to get the screws into the brick to hold the brackets to the wall.  My husband went through about 5 drill bits and 45 minutes he'll never get back to try to drill pilot holes into the brick and only got about 1/4" deep into one hole before he gave up and bought a hammer drill.  Then it took him all of 10 minutes.

Well, a year and a storage room cleaning later, I finally found the box and the brackets, and so I've decided to add a mantle to the other side of my fireplace...facing the "sitting room" that is used for the office and temporary home of my industrial sewing machine.

Here's my quick and relatively ambiguous "how-to."

Make sure you check the safety regulations for mantles.  There are specific codes for how deep and how far above the fireplace a mantle should be.  I used this reference guide on which there is a simple diagram on page 195.

Step one: Purchase brackets...pretty ones.

Step two: Measure desired length of finished mantle and depth of brackets.

Step three: Pick out wood.  Use planed for a crisper, more modern look or do what we did and use basic lumber.  Please make sure the wood you choose is not warped in any way. Cut it to the right size or have the lumber store cut it for you.

Step four: Prep and paint the wood panel.  I sanded and filled any holes and knots with wood filler.  I used oil based primer and then semigloss latex paint.

Step five: Measure and place the brackets so they are level and evenly spaced from the edges of board and walls.  Use a laser level to make sure your brackets are set so that the mantle will be level.  Be sure to level vertically too.

Step six: Mark where your screw holes will go with a pencil and use a hammer drill to make pilot holes.  Attach your brackets with masonry screws.  If your wall is drywall instead of brick or stone, you can use a regular drill and drywall anchors if needed.

Step seven: If your brackets have little knobs on them to hold your wood in place like mine did, mark where they go and drill small holes to house the knobs. Make sure the space between the board and the wall is even on both sides.

Step eight: put board in place.

Step nine: paint the screws so they blend in.


  1. I have a better idea - you come to my house and do this for me. Oh, and convince my landlord that it's OK to do. Because frankly - not having a mantle on my fireplace drives me BATTY.

    All in all...way to go.

  2. One of my favorite tools - a hammer drill! We put up about 10 shelves in our garage in Fla, and it became my tool of choice!