Build a DIY fireplace mantel for an inexpensive way to upgrade your living room. With our tips, you can give your mantel a makeover on a budget.

By Kelly Roberson
Fireplace white mantel

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. Apart from providing visual interest, the mantel brings a lot to the space it resides in. It's a place to hold mantel decor such as precious family mementos, framed art, or a collection of pillar candles. Here are some considerations for a DIY mantel and installation. Many DIY mantels are fairly budget-smart, meaning you can give your living space a new look without a big investment.

Types of DIY Mantels

grey and orange living room with large TV mounted on wall

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 work load, but are all worth it when you see how drastic of a change it can make in your living room.

Mantel Installation Tips

art in living room with fireplace
  • The size and proportion of the mantel: If you're replacing a mantel, you may already be comfortable with the existing size and proportion. If not, or if you're adding a new DIY mantel, you'll need to plan for its size. 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.
  • Securing the DIY mantel: Many mantels are attached to a backer of some sort that helps to support the material. If you purchase your mantel material from a lumberyard or stone shop, you may be able to ask about proper installation. If you're unsure how to securely and safely attach the mantel, consult a fireplace installer, a handyman, or a construction company.

DIY Mantel Ideas

family room
  • 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. Get inspiration from these creative mantel ideas.
  • Decorative brackets: Consider adding even more style to your DIY floating shelf mantel. Non-functional brackets can be made from a variety of materials—stone, wood, or iron to name a few. Installing them on the mantel's underside can lend visual solidity to the fireplace. Some of these rustic fireplace mantel ideas have beautiful brackets.
  • Stone 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.
  • Stain or paint: Changing the color of stain on a DIY rustic mantel can reveal patterns in the grain, or can help tie in with other wood pieces in the room. Paint can also be a good way to repeat decorative motifs that are present elsewhere in a space; cover the whole mantel or add accents that pick up on patterns in fabrics.
  • Tile: Tile is adaptable to a range of DIY fireplace mantel plans. Thin subway tiles on a mantel edge may work with a contemporary mantel, while a decorative tile at the top border of a mantel may lend rustic appeal to a country-style home. See tile fireplace design ideas.
  • Repurposed materials: Found tin ceiling panels, iron scrolls, thin metal or wood elements: All can be used to dress up a mantel. A perfect DIY project.


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