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How To DIY A High End Mantel For Under $200

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Custom fireplace mantels don’t come cheap, and DIYing a modern, but grand surround even intimidated us. Lucky for you, we love a challenge, so we did all the dirty work for you. Here’s how you can create a custom and modern mantel for a fraction of the price in your own home.

First off, when we were deciding how we wanted our fireplace to look, I did what any good home blogger would do, and I hit Pinterest for inspiration. I particularly liked this pin. We are going for an art deco lounge meets family play area look in this room, so we wanted something that looked super glam, but was also cost effective. After scrolling through our inspiration pictures, we realized we could easily create a similar look by layering molding from our local hardware store, rather than pay big bucks for a fully custom mantel. That is exactly what we did.

Here is what the fireplace looked like prior to our DIY project:

Here it is after (but still not fully completed):

Before we committed to doing the project ourselves, we hit Lowe’s to buy a few pieces of trim to test out different designs. We ended up settling on the mock up below. We then worked with Clearwater Custom Cabinets, who built and installed our bookcases and cabinetry, to create a panel around the fireplace for us to adhere our molding too. They used the dimensions from our mock up as a guide.

To fill the space between the molding and fireplace, we asked Northern Stone to use remnant pieces from our bar counter top, rather than traditional tile or stone. This fireplace surround created an interesting challenge. When we designed our mock up, we didn’t consider that our remnant stone was much thicker than tile. While we wanted molding around the fireplace to make it pop, we did not want the mantel to be thick enough to form a shelf. For this reason, the wood surround created by Clearwater was very thin. 

When it came time to install the stone, we realized that the stone protruded about a quarter of an inch past the paneling. While we could have stuck with our original plan, that simply had a trim piece butting up to the quartz, the stone would have stuck out ever so slightly from the molding and, being a wee-bit type A, we couldn’t have that.

It took some trial and error, head scratching, and an additional trip to Lowe’s to solve the problem, but we managed. After we had a game plan, we sent E to the grandparents and we began.

Step 1:

While we had decided against a thick mantel with a traditional shelf ledge, we didn’t want the mantel to come across as flat. To create depth, we decided the molding should get gradually thicker as it inched toward the edge, so Daren ripped some 2 X 4 boards we had left over from another project into 1/4″ strips using a table saw.

Step 2:

This is where we got a little crafty to hide the edge of our quartz surround. We used heavy duty construction adhesive to glue this corner guard, typically used for the corners of walls or to finish off cabinets, onto the side of the stone. Lucky for us the trim piece fit perfectly around the edge of the stone.

Step 3:

After the glue had some time to set, Daren stacked 1″ picture frame molding up against the corner guard and nailed the trim into place using a nail gun and 1.5″ finishing nails.

Step 4:

Again, to make up for the quartz remnant and to prevent the mantel from falling flat, we added depth by placing oak plywood around the remainder of the surround. Daren 45’d the corners to tie-in with the other seams of the framed mantel. Although it is hard to tell in the pictures, the wood trim we cut and placed around the edge of the fireplace mantel is flush to the plywood board. The edge of the plywood can’t be finished and would have look messy and rough, so that’s why we made the frame around it out of solid wood (see step 1). This allowed us to blend the side of the mantel into the built-in.

Step 5:

Next we nailed a small chair rail to the outside wood trim. We used this 1.375″ chair rail from Lowe’s.

Once this part was complete, Daren used a hand plane to ensure the edge of the mantel was flush to the built-in cabinet. He was pretty pumped to use the old school hand tool. 

Step 6:

After the chair rail was installed around the mantel, it was time for the big guns. We picked this dramatic 4.25″ crown molding to take center stage. We butted the edge of crown into the small chair rail, which partially covered the rail and hid the visible slant of the crown.

Step 7:

While the top of the crown fit perfectly into the edge of our design, we were left with an awkward and visible angled edge on the inside of the trim, as shown above and below.

To finish off the mantel, we filled the noticeable edge with a small 0.69″ cove. The hardest part of our mantel project was complete!

After we took a few minutes to admire our work. My “must complete project without eating, sleeping or stopping until it’s completely done” drive kicked in and we got to work on spackling, caulking and sanding the trim pieces until the mantel looked like one solid piece of wood.

Then, since we had already hired painters to paint the rest of the room, we let the mantel sit idle for a few weeks, while it waited for it’s final makeover.

Today it looks like this:

While it still needs a few coats of paint before it can be called complete, we are thrilled with the results.

This project cost us a grand total of $167.47, although we did have some of the supplies lying around.

It’s safe to say, in a weekend, you could complete this project for about $200, excluding the cost of tools. This is a fraction of the cost of a custom mantel, which will usually set you back 4-figures.

Things are a changing in our basement! If you follow me on Instagram, a couple of weekends ago, you probably saw my stories that gave real time peaks into our basement DIY projects. Now that the grunt work is more-or-less done, I have the time to finally share the tutorials on the blog. If you enjoyed this one, keep an eye out for tutorials on how to shiplap a ceiling and on how to wainscot an accent wall. Coming soon!

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Want to create this exact mantel? This is exactly what you need:



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