Dress Up a Plain Fireplace by Adding a Mantel


Most fireplaces have mantels, but if yours doesn’t, never fear, with a few tools and a few boards, you can have that mantel you’re dreaming about!

A roaring fire can help tame the fiercest winter weather, but not all fireplaces are created equally in a decorating sense. Without a mantel,a fireplace seems somehow incomplete nonetheless, many of them are made that way. Fortunately, adding a mantel is one decorating problem that is easily solved!

Materials List:

  • 1×4, 1×8 and 1×6 poplar lumber
  • Finishing nails
  • 1 1/4-inch drywall screws
  • Wood screws
  • Square drawer pulls
  • Caulk
  • Double-stick tape
  • Wood glue
  • Spackle compound
  • Desired paint or stain
  • Primer appropriate for desired paint or stain

Materials on Hand:

  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw with scroll blade
  • Miter saw
  • Router table with chamfer bit
  • Drill
  • Level
  • Scrap paper
  • Pencil
  • 150- and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Paintbrushes

This project is basically a shelf unit that is attached to a flat-front fireplace. In this situation, the facing of the fireplace was a paneled wall above the fireplace hearth. If the facing of your fireplace is brick or stone, you may need masonry tools to install the mantel.

1. Using a circular saw cut a 1×8 to the length of the hearth opening; cut a 1×6 piece 2 inches longer than the length of the 1×8. These two boards will be joined to create an L-shaped shelf with the 1×8 attached to the fireplace as a back support, and the 1×6 creating the long shelf.

2. Before attaching the two boards, use a router table and a chamfer bit to bevel a 1/4-inch detail along the edges and sides of each piece, excluding the edge of the two boards where they will be attached.

3. Connect the two pieces at a 90-degree angle with wood glue and finishing nails.
Secure the shelf unit to the fireplace using drywall screws. Note: If the fireplace is surrounded with stone or masonry, use the correct fastener for the type of surface. Place the screws at the location of the small curved supports detailed in the next step. The supports will hide the screws. Don’t forget to use a level for this step.

4. Cut and attach small curved supports where the pieces meet to add extra strength to the top shelf. To make the supports, first sketch the desired design on a piece of scrap paper to use as a template. Tape two 1×4 boards together with double-stick tape so that they can be cut at the same time. Trace the template design on the 1×4 boards and cut out using the jigsaw with a scroll blade. Note: Cut as close as possible to the pencil lines. Sand the pieces smooth using the pencil lines as a guide. Separate the boards and remove the tape.

5. Use the router table and chamfer bit to make angled trim molding by running a 1×4 through the table. Only one edge of the 1×4 needs to be routed.

6. Attach the 1×4 trim to the outer edge of the top shelf. Cut the material to length using a miter saw, using 45-degree cuts to make the transition from front to sides.  Attach the trim using wood glue and small finishing nails. Fill all nail holes flush with surface using spackle compound.

7. For more interest, add square drawer pulls along the 1×8 back support, using wood screws to attach them.

8. Caulk around the edges. Prime and paint the mantel as desired.

As much as we would all like to own a router table, sometimes all we can afford is the router. No problem—you can still complete this project. Just purchase router bits with roller bearings as part of the bit. This type of bit is used as a guide to make router cuts on lengths of boards. Router guides can also be purchased to install on your router, which will ensure straight cuts.

If you don’t have a fireplace, this project makes a terrific shelf. Just follow the same steps, but attach the unit to a wall instead of a fireplace.



  1. says

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of
    your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

Leave a Reply to Elena Cancel reply

11 + 19 =