Building your own fireplace mantel is a rewarding project that will enhance your home and could save you money. A fireplace mantel's design can be very elaborate or simple and functional. But building a beautiful fireplace mantel doesn’t have to be difficult. We designed a versatile surround-style mantel that is easy to build and modify. Using a combination of dimensional lumber and stock moldings, even a beginning woodworker can achieve great results.
Design and construction
Once you’ve determined which type of mantel to build, you must calculate a few dimensions before you can begin drawing plans. The most important is the inside opening; all other dimensions are based on the height and width of this opening. Most mantels also incorporate a space for a non-combustible border, such as stone or tile, between the firebox and the mantel to comply with required clearances. The width of the tile area is typically 6 in. for gas fireplaces. Add the firebox-opening dimensions to the tile-space width to calculate the mantel’s inside-opening dimensions.
Download the Fireplace Mantel Project Plans
The other important dimension to consider is the depth of the mantel. The deeper the shelf and posts, the farther they must be from the firebox. Most mantels built for fireplaces that are recessed in the wall are no more than 10 in. deep. If you are building a mantel to enclose an entire gas fireplace unit, you’ll need to add the depth of the fireplace to the top and side dimensions of the mantel.
Choose your material based on the finished appearance you desire. A painted mantel will typically be less expensive and more forgiving because paint can hide a lot of imperfections. Another advantage is that you can combine paint-grade materials, such as poplar and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). These materials are relatively free of blemishes such as knots and are easy to machine and sand smooth.
If you prefer the natural beauty of exposed wood, you must use the same species for all of the parts. This can be a challenge if you plan to use stock moldings, which at most home centers are limited to pine and red oak.
You can expand your options by milling your own moldings — a fun and creative way to customize any project. You can make most common moldings using a router table and a table saw.
READ MORE: Click here to download this Fireplace Mantel project plan as a pdf file.