How to Build a Fireplace Mantle

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON: We’re here in Novi, Michigan and the drive here was simply beautiful.  Novi is a western suburb of Detroit and we are dropping in on the Copa family to show you how to create a handcrafted fireplace mantel. 

Mr. COPA: Hey, Ron.

RON HAZELTON: Hey, guys how are you?

Mrs. COPA: Hi.

Mr. COPA: Come on in.  Ron, this is the fireplace we were talking about earlier.

Mrs. COPA: See how basic and flat it is.

RON HAZELTON: Kind of plain, guys.

Mrs. COPA: Yeah, needs something outstanding here.

RON HAZELTON: Okay, listen, well based on what you told me over the phone, I created this little drawing.  You didn’t know I was an artist did you?

Mrs. COPA: Oh.

RON HAZELTON: What do you think?  Looks good.

Mrs. COPA: Yeah, that looks good, it adds a lot of dimension.

RON HAZELTON: Okay, so we’ll use this as kind of a working plan. 

Mrs. COPA: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: We got one, two, three, four workers.  And the coach, so you’re ready to go?

Mr. COPA: We’re ready to go.

Mrs. COPA: Ready.

ALL: Ready, let’s do it, come on!

RON HAZELTON: Our first step is to remove the existing molding that surrounds the fireplace using a pry bar and a wide putty knife to protect the wall.  (TALKING CONTINUES IN THE BACKGROUND—INAUDIBLE)  Next, we begin cutting out the pieces for the fireplace surround from standard dimension pine lumbar that we got from the home improvement center.  Sue and Missy do the crosscutting while Mark, Brandon and I do the ripping.  All right, Copa family, come let us build together.  Missy applies wood glue to the three pieces that will make up the sides of the fireplace surround and then we assemble them together.  Brandon is going to nail.  Since we’ll be doing a lot of nailing today, I brought in my pneumatic nail gun and given the family an introductory lesson.  Now, we have made up three of these sections.  This is going to form the surround for the fireplace.  These two go on the sides and this one goes up here on the top.  Let’s just pull this up in place here, we’ve got a, we’ve drawn a level line.  Sue, see this mark right here?

Mrs. COPA: Uh-huh.

RON HAZELTON: That’s where I’d like you to hold that.

Mrs. COPA: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: Let me have the level.  Guys, get on the line, let me know when you are there.

Mr. COPA: I’m good.

BRANDON: Looks good to me, too.

RON HAZELTON: All right, so hold it in place.  And, we are going to nail this.  I have marked some studs right here, we just found these with a stud finder.  Right in here.  Now, this is the side surround right here, I am going to, I am going to do two things, don’t worry, it’s just glue.

Mrs. COPA: You are going to get me.

RON HAZELTON: Don’t worry, this is construction adhesive, I am going to put some dots of this right here.  This side is going to go up against the tile.  So, since I can’t nail that, I am going to rely on this glue to hold it.  All right, guys, now put that in position.  This is the top right here.  Right here, there you go, okay, slip it right in there.  Okay, Sue why don’t you grab the level.  Once again, we attach the sections using the nail gun.  All right, okay, do the last one down there, Mark.

Mr. COPA: All right, I’ll get it. 

RON HAZELTON: A piece of 1 x 10 pine in a decorative molding are combined to form the mantel.  They are glued and nailed together.  (TALKING CONTINUES IN THE BACKGROUND—INAUDIBLE)  We are going to set this back from the edge of the board right here, just a tiny amount, about an eighth of an inch right here.  Little reveal, this will give us an extra bit of detail. 

MISSY: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: Spacing good on that?  Now this is the molding we are going to put on the ends of the mantel right here, so of course, it’ll look the same as the front.  Put some glue down here and on the joint.  And just set this right in here, like that, and nail it in place.  I am putting just a little bit of construction adhesive down here in the top because now is the moment of our crowning glory.  We are ready to put the mantel into place. 

Mr. COPA: All right.

Mrs. COPA: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: So, you guys, if you would.  Brandon, Missy, bring it up. 

Mrs. COPA: Finally.  Okay.

RON HAZELTON: Flip it over and sit it right up on top here.  Mark, why don’t you grab the nail gun. 

Mr. COPA: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: All right, now these are called plimp blocks or corner blocks, what they are designed to do is to simulate the top and the bottom of column.  So, we want to put these right in the center.  Okay, Missy, get me four nails, bing, bing, bing, bing.  Okay?

MISSY: All right.

RON HAZELTON: Okay, good. 

Mr. COPA: Not too close to the corner.

MISSY: Right there?

RON HAZELTON: Good.  About right here.

Mr. COPA: Keep it straight.

MISSY: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: And right here.  Okay.  And then.

Mr. COPA: Man, good work.

RON HAZELTON: We also nail plimp blocks to the bottom of the surround and to the sides as well. 

Mr. COPA: Perfect.

MISSY: Right here?

Mr. COPA: Yeah.

Mr. COPA: Okay, and then bring the head down. . .

RON HAZELTON: At this point, the whole family is becoming expert at using the nail gun. 

Mr. COPA: All right, you did a good job.

Mrs. COPA: Does that look good?

Mr. COPA: Yup.

Mrs. COPA: Okay.

Mr. COPA: One in each corner.

Mrs. COPA: Okay.

RON HAZELTON: Put one right here.  Back down in the basement we begin cutting decorative molding for the face of the surround.  To attach the smaller molding, we switched to a pneumatic brad nailer.  These very fine, almost needle-like nails will prevent splitting.  Very nice, guys, very nice.  Okay, now let’s have the younger generation try the panel up here, you saw Mom and Dad do it, just the same way, put the, start with the short piece on the left side.  Now, the final thing is to place this piece of decorative molding between the plimp block and the surround, that fits right in there like that, just mite it on the ends, and just tack this in place with the brad nailer, put one in here and just about done.  Next, we use interior grade spackle to fill the nail holes and minor surface imperfections.  And then the whole family starts painting. 

Mr. COPA: Neatly, guys, neatly.

Mrs. COPA: It’s primer, do you have to get the strokes perfect?

RON HAZELTON: It’s taken us the better part of two days to complete our project.  Right now, we are just one coat of paint away from being finished and how does Brandon feel about it all?

BRANDON: I want it to be done.  (LAUGHTER)


RON HAZELTON: But finished we are, and the transformation is striking. 

Mrs. COPA: This is great, I’ve got room for all my knick-knacks and my pictures of all my family and pictures of our good friends.

RON HAZELTON: Yeah?  Hey!  That’s me!


RON HAZELTON: That’s me!  Fantastic, I love it! I’d build a mantel any day to display myself. 


RON HAZELTON: Okay, guys, you were wonderful.  Thank you very much.  Great job family, good team, okay, enjoy.

Mr. COPA: It looks great.

Mrs. COPA: Oh, thanks.  Sure.

How to Build a Wood Fireplace Mantle and Surround with Classic Design and Details.

Enhance your existing fireplace surround, removing flat trim and adding a three-dimensional wooden mantel and pilasters/columns to make it the centerpiece. Build components from stock lumber and molding using a table saw and circular saw. Attach them with a nail gun and construction adhesive. Spackle the nail holes, sand, and then paint to match the rest of your home's decore.

Remove Flat Trim with a Pry Bar and Putty Knife
Step 1

Remove Flat Trim with a Pry Bar and Putty Knife

Pry off existing trim with a small pry bar and wide putty knife. Position the putty knife between the wall and the pry bar and lever against it to avoid gouging the plaster or drywall behind it.

Cut Vertical and Horizontal Surround Components from Standard Dimension Pine
Step 2

Cut Vertical and Horizontal Surround Components from Standard Dimension Pine

Use a circular saw and table saw to cut standard dimension pine lumber to lengths and widths required for the horizontal portion and sides (pilasters or columns) of the fireplace surround. Cut the mantel and molding as well.

Assemble and Position the Pieces That Form the Wooden Surround
Step 3

Assemble and Position the Pieces That Form the Wooden Surround

Use glue and a pneumatic nail gun to assemble the vertical and horizontal components of the wooden surround. Locate wall studs and mark positions with a bar level to ensure they're plumb and horizontal. Nail up the horizontal member first.

Glue the Edges of the Surround's Sides That Touch Tile
Step 4

Glue the Edges of the Surround's Sides That Touch Tile

Apply construction adhesive to the inner edges of the two surround sides (pilasters) that rest on top of tile. Ensure the sides are plumb and resting squarely on the floor and then attach with a nail gun.

Combine a Pine One-by-ten and Decorative Molding for the Mantel
Step 5

Combine a Pine One-by-ten and Decorative Molding for the Mantel

Miter the corners of decorative molding and glue and nail them to a pine one-by-ten for the mantel. Set the molding in from the edge of the board to create an additional level in the decorative wood profile.

Position and Secure the Mantel with Construction Adhesive and Nails
Step 6

Position and Secure the Mantel with Construction Adhesive and Nails

Apply dollops of construction adhesive to the upper surfaces of the horizontal and side components of the surround. Position the mantel on top, level it, and secure it with the nail gun.

Position and Secure Plinth Blocks at the Top and Bottom of the Pilasters
Step 7

Position and Secure Plinth Blocks at the Top and Bottom of the Pilasters

Use the pneumatic nail gun to attach a decorative plinth block to the top, bottom, and sides of the pilasters (the vertical sides of the surround) butted against the bottom of the mantel and resting on the floor tile.

Miter Decorative Molding for the Face of the Surround
Step 8

Miter Decorative Molding for the Face of the Surround

Miter the corners of stock molding to decorate the fronts of both pilasters/columns and the horizontal component of the surround. Attach it with a brad nailer.

Add Molding at Joints between Plinth Blocks and the Surround
Step 9

Add Molding at Joints between Plinth Blocks and the Surround

Use the brad nailer to attach decorative molding to the exposed edges of the plinth blocks where they meet the surround.  Miter the ends where they will meet at a corner.

Spackle Nail Holes and Imperfections Prior to Painting
Step 10

Spackle Nail Holes and Imperfections Prior to Painting

Fill nail holes and any other imperfections in the wood with interior-grade spackling compound.  Allow it to dry, sand it, and then paint the mantel and surround to match the rest of the room's décor.