In this post, let’s talk about how to build a brand new mantel from scratch or really from MDF.
To bring you up to speed, in Part 1 of the Fireplace makeover, we shared the design and demo process and how to lay tile. The next step in the process was to build a new mantel for it from scratch. Remington being how he is laid it out in CAD so that he could get exact measurements and figure up how much wood we needed to purchase. This is pretty close to our final measurements, but we made a few minor tweaks as we went.
Here is what we used:
- 1×10 pine board for the top
- MDF board for the frame
- primed 1×2 strips
- a primed 1×3 strip
- small decorative molding
- crown molding
Things will also need that you may or may not have:
- Table saw (we finally broke down and purchased one)
- Miter saw
- wood glue
- wood screws
- finish nails
- wood filler
- a sanding block
- primer (we used Zinsser)
- paint (we used Benjamin Moore Simply White in Gloss)
To build the legs that will be attached to the frame of the mantel, we cut a board of MDF into two 10 3/4inch strips and two 5 1/2inch strips both 56 1/4inches tall. The shorter piece was glued to the back of one edge of the wider piece creating a corner. You could try to cut these to a 45 degree angle on a table saw to create a perfect “seamless” corner, but just no thanks. The seam will be hidden anyway when we’re all done.
Next cut a center piece out of the MDF 55×14 and once the glue has dried on the “legs” attach each leg to the center piece using wood glue and a support brace. Be careful not to screw the support brace through the MDF on the other side.
Those seams aren’t a major deal at this stage because they will be covered up by decorative “boxes” made out of 1×2 strips and decorative molding.
So yeah, it might be a bit massive, but we wanted to leave as much of the tile revealed as possible, therefore the opening is as wide as the tiled area. You can’t see it here, but we also cut smaller strips and wood glued those to the interior of the opening so that the mantel frame would be a solid closed box jutting out from the wall.
Before we could attach the MDF frame to the wall, we needed something to secure it to since we did not have an existing brick fireplace we were covering. So we used pieces of 2×4 that we had lying around our garage screwed into the studs as a support brace that the mantel could fit over like a glove.
We also screwed a 2×2 piece of wood along the top of the tile so that the underside of the mantel had something we could secure it to as well.
Once the main box was in place, we added a top strip of MDF to provide extra support for the actual mantel top. We cut a 1×10 pine board down so that it was the same length all around approximately 7 feet. We leveled it with shims and screwed it into place.
Next, we cut the 1×3 strip down to attach to the front and sides about 3 inches below the top or just enough so that when finished with crown over it, just 2 inches would show. We cut the ends on a 45 degree angle so that corners would sit flush and then finish nailed the strip into place.
Then we took a 1×2 strip and attached it to the edge of the mantel top to give it a more finished look. We let the excess hang below the top creating a corner again.
You can see the lip below the 1×10 pine board in the picture above…this worked out as a good place to set the crown later on.
Next up, we need to add baseboards and the “boxes” or decorative rectangular trim on the front and sides to add some more character.
After the baseboards were in place, we cut the tallest strips to go the length of the “legs”. Keep in mind that you should secure the pieces on the side first so that the front piece can overlap it hiding any seam created by the two pieces. Basically, we cut and nailed all of the vertical pieces first and the horizontal pieces second.
We did not create decorative boxes on the inside panels of the frame, but if you want to do that then be sure to put the 1×2 strip on the inside first before nailing the 1×2 strip to the front. This step ensures the front looks symmetrical while the wider edge to the corner sits on the sides – the difference is less obvious that way as you can see above. It also ensures that the seam is hidden on the side. Again, if you want to rip these on a 45 degree angle on a table saw, by my guest, but just no thank you. Or you could rip one of the vertical corner strips down to a 1×1 – you would still have a seam, but the width of each side of the boxes would all match.
Finally add the crown molding just under the mantel top and the additional decorative molding around the top of the legs as you can see above. There was a pretty decent sized gap between the crown and the 1×2 strip edging the mantel top, but we just filled it with caulk. Once painted, you will never notice.
Before we got to paint, Remington caulked all of the seams and edges, while I filled holes and gaps with wood filler. The crown was difficult to get to line up because as you can imagine nothing is ever perfectly square, but that’s okay, I just used wood filler to make it look right.
Finally, I primed the MDF and the top (basically anything that wasn’t purchased primed). Then I was ready to paint. I ended up painting two coats of Benjamin Moore Simply White in semi-gloss on it over a couple of days.
We will share final after pictures in the next and final post as well as our total cost for this project. But ain’t she a beaut so far? 🙂