A DIY fireplace mantel can be an inexpensive way to upgrade your living room. With our building and installation tips, you can revamp your fireplace without having to hire professional help.
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Updating the surround or redoing the hearth tops most people's to-do lists when it comes to fireplace upgrades. But there's actually a simpler project that, in some cases, doesn't even involve a messy tear-out or expensive revamp: a DIY fireplace mantel. In addition to providing visual interest, the mantel plays a key role in the overall fireplace design. It's a place to hold accessories, such as precious family mementos, framed art, or a collection of pillar candles. Many DIY mantels are fairly budget-friendly, so you can give your living space a new look without a big investment. Before you begin, consider these important tips for making and mounting a DIY fireplace mantel.

sitting area with white brick fireplace
Credit: Josh Grubbs

Types of DIY Fireplace Mantels

Fireplace mantel ideas can be broken into several categories: brand-new mantels, replacement mantels, or upgraded mantels. The first is typically installed on a new fireplace. Replacement mantels are used when you want to update the look of your fireplace, while an upgraded mantel simply means embellishing or adding to a mantel that's already installed. Each of these comes at a different cost and workload, but all can result in a drastic transformation for your living room.

art living room fireplace dog
Credit: David Lamd

How to Install a DIY Fireplace Mantel

The first step for this fireplace update is to consider the size and proportion of the mantel. If you're replacing a mantel, you might want to stick with the original mantel dimensions. If you want to alter the size or start fresh with a new DIY mantel, you'll need to map out the measurements. Start by using painters tape to mark out the length and height of the mantel on the fireplace. Building codes vary (check yours for specifics), but in general, leave about a foot between the top of the fireplace box and the bottom of the mantel. Also, choose a length that's about double the fireplace box. You can also create a cardboard replica of the mantel to help you better judge the proposed mantel size.

Attaching the DIY mantel securely to the wall requires sturdy support. Many mantels are attached to a backer of some sort that helps support the material. In many cases, you can attach the mantel to cleats, or pieces of lumber screwed securely into the wall. If you purchase your mantel material from a lumberyard or stone shop, ask about proper installation for the type of material. If you're unsure how to securely and safely attach the mantel, consult a fireplace installer, handyman, or construction company.

DIY Fireplace Mantel Ideas

Ready to craft a new focal point for your living room? Try one of these DIY mantel ideas to update your fireplace.

white painted fireplace floating mantel shell decor blanket ladder chairs
Credit: John Bessler

1. DIY Floating Mantel

Floating mantels are mounted above the fireplace like a shelf without any visible legs or brackets. Source reclaimed wood for a rustic DIY floating mantel, or cut and stain lumber to your desired look. To install, mount a heavy-duty floating mantel bracket to the fireplace wall, or drive lag screws into wall studs, drill corresponding holes into the back of the mantel, and slide the mantel over the screws.

2. Decorative Molding

Diverse pieces of trim can give a classic, traditional feel to an otherwise ordinary mantel. Consider a quarter round as a finishing piece on the mantel's underside.

white fireplace with black tile
Credit: Gordon Beall

3. Decorative Mantel Brackets

Consider adding even more style to your DIY floating mantel with brackets. Non-functional brackets can be made from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, or iron. Installing them on the mantel's underside lends visual solidity to the fireplace.

4. Stone Mantel Top

A thin piece of marble or granite lends a contemporary aesthetic to a clean-line mantel. For a mantel that's already dark, consider a stone piece in a light, neutral tone for a more airy feel.

family room blue mantel cow hide
Credit: Anthony Masterson

5. Mantel Stain or Paint

Changing the color of the stain on a DIY wood mantel can reveal patterns in the grain or help tie in with other wood pieces in the room. Paint can also be a good way to repeat tones that appear elsewhere in the space. Cover the whole mantel or add accents that pick up on patterns in fabrics.

6. Tile Mantel

Tile can enhance a range of DIY fireplace mantel plans. Thin subway tiles on a mantel edge can work with a contemporary mantel, while a decorative tile at the top border of a mantel lends rustic appeal to a country-style home.

Living room with stone fireplace and white couches
Credit: Emily Followill

7. Repurposed DIY Mantel

Create a DIY fireplace mantel using architectural salvage. Elements including found tin ceiling panels, iron scrolls, thin metal or wood elements can all be used to dress up a mantel. Or craft a brand-new mantel using reclaimed wood.

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