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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Loiacono

How to DIY a Fireplace Mantel

I've been wanting to make a wood mantel for our fireplace for quite sometime now, but never had the chance, or I wasn't feeling well etc etc. In my 27 week of pregnancy, I finally got the energy to do it and man, am I proud!

DIY-ing a wood mantel seems daunting, but in reality, I only used two tools and it cost less than $60 bucks. If you look at the before picture below, I loved to overcrowd the mantel that was here in the apartment when we moved in with pictures and sentimental decor that belonged to members of our family who are no longer with us. My brother often joked that it was too much, but I loved it (and that's all that matters when you decorate is that YOU like it). Truth is, I love layering objects, especially pictures and Christmas Decor for example, but the existing mantel was too small. It was time for a removable upgrade that we could take with us when we leave our sweet first rental home together married.

I went to Home Depot and bought one piece of 1x10 poplar wood and two pieces of 1x4 poplar. The larger piece was for the top of the mantle that would lay on the existing one and the thinner pieces were for the front lip and the sides that would cover what was underneath. First, I made sure to measure the mantel itself (measure it twice or three times if's better for wood to be cut longer and trimmed than too short). It was around 65 inches long and 8 inches deep. I wanted to give at least an inch or two on the front and the sides to make the mantel top wider for more decor of course ;) So I made sure to cut the top piece as wide as I needed it to be to sit on the mantel properly around 66-67 inches and then the front piece longer as to hide the side pieces- about 68 inches.

Once I cut them with my circular saw, I simply used Loctite wood glue inside my caulk gun and glued the longest front piece to the wider top piece. Picture the mantel laid upside down or just check out the pic below... I laid down the longer piece and stood up the wider board gluing them together so that gravity would adhere the two pieces together simply using the glue because my clamps weren't big enough to hold the wood together. I then cut the two side pieces by measuring an inch width of the thinner board on each side and glued them on as well. I also glued a thicker line on the inside seam of the mantel that wouldn't be seen as to make sure it held together strongly. Any other glue drips I wiped off where it could be seen, and knew I would sand excess when it was dried.

After the glue dried, I sanded the rough edges and the excess glue off using my Dewalt sander. The best part about this project, is that you don't need power tools. I could've easily used a hand saw, and a hand sander. Clearly, if you have the plug in or battery powered tools then use those. They are more efficient and do the job quicker than our more primitive tools do. I didn't even have to use a nail gun since I used gravity and the weight of the boards to help the glue adhere the boards together. That is one tool I have not acquired yet, but would love one. To make this renter friendly, we didn't even need to screw the mantel into the fireplace. It literally sits right on top of the existing one so it can be easily removed when we move.

After sanding, I stained the wood with Varathane Wood Stain using an old dish rag. If you don't want to get stain on your hands, make sure to wear gloves or else you'll be using paint thinner to try and get it off your skin. I used a dark walnut color and only did one coat. You can do more coats depending on how dark you want your wood. TIP: Make sure to lightly hand sand in between coats if you do more than one with a fine grit sand paper.

After letting it dry for a few hours, it was ready for its debut. This project only took two days, and if my 27 week pregnant belly could accomplish it, so can you. It's a shame when I hear people say things like "I could never do that." "I'm scared of power tools." "I'd rather pay someone to do it." "I'm too old to learn something new." I want to shake them and say "YES YOU CAN!" I learn things by asking, by watching other diy-ers, and by searching for videos on youtube. Brian subscribed me to a website called Craftsy, and watch tutorials there on building. I just do it even with the fear of making mistakes. That's how we learn since we were children right?! (Check out my instagram reel of this tutorial here

Making something with your own two hands is a feeling like no other. Creating things helps me feel alive. It connects me more closely to my father who was a carpenter and passed a few years ago. The smell of sawdust makes me happy and I feel most at peace in my shop while I am working on a project. You may try and fail, but it's better than never trying at all. We learn and grow as we try new things. You may not fail, but succeed in building a home for yourself you can be proud of. Just take a breath and do it. You never know what you're capable of. P.S. I loved this project so much that I'm thinking of adding this as part of a service provided by my company ;)


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