How To Build a Fireplace Mantel

For generations, the fireplace was the humble furnace of the home. It was used for basic heating and cooking purposes and was more of a utility item than anything else. Now the fireplace has evolved into a focal point for family gatherings, evenings by the fire, and a stunning addition to any interior design. What completes the look of any fireplace is a wood mantel.

You can use just about any kind of wood for your mantel, but it is important to make sure your mantel meets building codes. You need a minimum of 6 inches around the firebox before affixing your mantel around the fireplace. Some local codes might require even more room, so be sure to check what your local codes happen to be before beginning.

Step #1: Build Your Columns

To start the mantle, you’ll need to build your columns first. You’ll want to have four 1×6 boards and 2 1×4 boards on hand, of your preferred wood, to do this. Measure your fireplace area and then cut the columns to size, make sure that the columns are equal so that the upper mantel will be able to affix directly to boards. You’ll also want to cut your mantel shelf and the crown at this point.

Step #2: Glue the Boards

When you’re ready to put the cut wood together into a column, you’ll want to glue the boards first. It takes a lot of glue to get the joints in place properly and then you’ll use nails to hold it in place. Repeat the process for both columns. Put in a filler block to keep the columns together so they don’t spread apart. You’ll need one in each end and one in the middle to keep the column square. Allow the column to dry.

Step #3: Affix the Crown and Mantel Shelf

Now it’s time to put it all together. Affix the crown to one column first and then the other. You’ll have joints that need to be glued and be liberal with the glue. You can always sponge out the glue later. Finish with the second column and attach. Then attach the mantel shelf on top. Allow to dry and then place any trim you may wish to use to cover the joints.

Step #4: Apply the Decorative Work

If you want to have any decorative work affixed or engraved into your columns before painting or staining, now is the time to do so. If you’re going for a simple, but still elegant look, then just stain or paint the columns and your mantel shelf at this time. Once completed, you’re ready to install the fireplace mantel.

Step #5: Finish Your Installation

Your construction may be heavy enough to stand on its own in front of the fireplace, but you’ll still want to affix it to the wall. Affix the cleats to the new mantel and then install the fire backing directly into the fireplace. Position the cleats, finish the installation, and your fireplace front and mantel will be fully supported. Affix along the outer and inner edges, cover with any molding, and you’re done!