This DIY rustic fireplace mantel has all the charm of reclaimed wood but it’s inexpensive and easy to make using basic lumber and supplies.
I’ve never been a huge fan of our brick fireplace. It’s really big and awkwardly placed in the room, right up against the kitchen peninsula.
I’ve made lots of improvements to it over the years. First painting the brick white with a wooden mantel and then painting the brick navy (Sherwin Williams Blue Mystery) and the mantel white.
Each change has been a big step in the right direction but something was always off about it. (Other than the glass doors which have to stay for practical reasons.)
Finally, I figured out the problem! This big, wide hulking brick fireplace was topped off with a dinky little mantel. The tiny mantel didn’t look great when it was natural wood and it was even more nondescript once I painted it white.
Not anymore! No more wimpy mantel for me; now our big fireplace has a mantel with presence. Nobody’s going to ignore this guy anymore!
My chunky DIY rustic mantel was inspired by this awesome mantel by Addicted to Decorating.
Her instructions are top notch and are perfect for anyone with a flat-faced fireplace, but I did need to change several things to accommodate the style of fireplace I have, where the brick doesn’t extend above the mantel.
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Materials for rustic fireplace mantel
- two 8′ long 1”x10” pine boards for the front and top of the mantel
- one 8′ long 1”x4” pine board for the bottom of the mantel
- 1”x2” scrap boards these help form the sides of the mantel and only need to be a few inches long
- two 12″x12″ squares of wood veneer – these will be used to make our inexpensive lumber look like one solid wood beam
- finishing nails
- wood glue
- dark walnut stain and rag to apply
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Hammer or nail gun – This is the nail gun I have and it is very easy to use.
- Saw – A circular saw works great for this.
How to make a DIY rustic fireplace mantel
This DIY mantel has the fabulous look of a huge old wooden beam, but in reality, it’s a hollow box made from inexpensive lumber.
Before beginning, remove your old mantel.
Pay attention to how it was attached to your fireplace. This will likely be the easiest way to attach your new mantel as well.
Build the mantel face.
I chose to use 10 inch wide boards for my mantel because the top of my fireplace already sticks out pretty far, but if you have a more reasonably sized fireplace, 8 inch boards would work great.
The two 10” boards form the top and front of the mantel.
First cut the 10″ boards to the appropriate length. I decided to have my mantel extend two inches past the brick on each side so this is the length I cut my boards.
Use wood glue and finishing nails to attach the two boards together. The nails will technically be visible from the front of the mantel but they are so tiny, they will never be noticed.
Build the underside of the mantel.
The bottom of the mantel is slightly trickier. You don’t want a big gap underneath, so you need a board that will extend exactly to the brick fireplace facing.
To find this number, subtract the thickness of your fireplace from the width of your top board.
I used a 10 inch board for my mantel top and my brick extend 6 inches from the wall at the point where the bottom of my mantel hits, so I used a 4 inch wide board to fill the gap.
Cut this board to the length of your mantel and attach it with wood glue and finishing nails. It definitely helps to have an extra set of hands to keep everything lined up as you are nailing the mantel together.
Build the mantel ends.
For the ends, you can use the scrap wood left over from cutting your two wide boards to length.
Mark where you need to cut the wood so that it will fit snugly into the opening at each end of your mantel. Cut the wood and then attach it with wood glue and finishing nails.
Finally, there will be a small space at the bottom of the mantel on each side. Cut a 1” x2” board to fit this area and attach it with finishing nails.
Stain the mantel.
I stained everything using Minwax Dark Walnut stain. I think the dark color is perfect for that rustic wood beam feel I was going for.
Attach the veneer.
This last step is the key to helping the mantel look like one massive slab of wood rather than a bunch of boards nailed together. I attached wood veneer to both ends to cover all of the wood cuts.
You don’t need a huge amount of veneer since this is such a small area. You can buy small sheets of veneer at Amazon or at woodworking supply stores like WoodCraft.
I went to my local WoodCraft for my veneer and the person working there was so helpful.
They didn’t have small sheets of inexpensive wood veneer in stock. They did have some larger, more expensive sheets but I’m really trying to keep costs down on this fireplace makeover.
When I explained I was on a tight budget, he pulled a pile of wood veneer scraps from their workshop and sold it to me for $5. Perfect!
I attached my veneer to each end of my mantel. I had to use two pieces for each end since I was working with scraps but once it was stained, the small seam isn’t noticeable at all.
Some veneer comes pre-glued, some needs to be ironed on, and some needs to be glued, so attach your veneer in whatever way is recommended for the type you are using.
When you attach it, leave at least a 1/2 inch of extra wood along each side.
Once the glue is fully dried, use a utility knife to carefully cut away the excess wood.
Then gently sand the edges of the veneer with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out.
Then stain the veneer with the same dark walnut stain.
Install your mantel.
The last step is to attach the new mantel to your fireplace.
My previous mantel was attached to 2 wood blocks that fit into empty spaces in my brick fireplace.
I removed these wood blocks from the old mantel and attached them to my new mantel using wood glue and nails.
Then I fit the mantel into place.
Oh my goodness, so gorgeous.
The veneer on the ends really helps the whole think look like one massive chunk of old wood.
Even without any other changes, this new mantel makes such a difference! It just fits the style of the fireplace so much better!
And this is how it looks today with a DIY TV frame and a few accessories.
This fireplace makeover is just one step in a larger (long overdue) makeover of our family room.
I’m participating in a challenge to make over one space in our home in only four weeks with a $100 budget. It’s a tough challenge, but so far I’m feeling pretty confident I can pull it off.
This time around I’m fixing up our family room and you can see the before pictures and my overly ambitious plans right here.
That’s why it was extra important for me to keep this mantel update inexpensive.
Here’s the cost breakdown for this project.
Cost of DIY Mantel
- Wood boards: $44
- Wood veneer: $5
- Wood glue: $4
- Wood stain, nails, tools: $0 (already owned)
Already over half the budget spent! But that’s ok, because this mantel makes such a huge impact in the room. Totally worth it.
- Two 8′ long 1” x 10” pine boards
- One 8′ long 1” x 4” pine board
- 1” x 2” scrap boards
- Two 12″ x 12″ squares of wood veneer
- Finishing nails
- Wood glue
- Dark walnut stain and rag to apply
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Circular Saw
- Cut the 10″ boards to the length your finished mantel will be. One of these boards will be the top of the mantel and the other will be the front.
- Use wood glue and finishing nails to attach the two boards together.
- Cut a board to size to fill the gap on the bottom side of the mantel.
- Attach to the front of the mantel with wood glue and finishing nails.
- Cut scrap wood into a square to fit snugly into the opening at each end of your mantel.
- Attach with wood glue and finishing nails.
- Cut a 1”x2” board to fit the small space at the bottom of the mantel.
- Attach with finishing nails.
- Stain everything with Minwax Dark Walnut stain.
- Attach wood veneer to both ends to cover the wood cuts using wood glue.
- Cut the wood veneer to size and sand the edges of the veneer with 220 grit sandpaper.
- Stain the veneer with the same dark walnut stain.
- Attach the new mantel to your fireplace.
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Arc Crafts BARC Wood Sheet W/Adhesive Backing 12"X12", White Birch
SKIL 5280-01 15-Amp 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser Guide
Ryobi P320 Airstrike 18 Volt One+ Lithium Ion Cordless Brad Nailer (Battery Not Included, Power Tool Only)
Norton Co. 2616 Norton 02616 3X Handy Aluminum-Oxide Sandpaper 220 Grit, 9 x 11-Inch, 3-Pack
Minwax 22716 - 8 fl oz (1/2 pint) Wood Finish Interior Wood Stain, Dark Walnut 2716
Titebond 5064 Original Wood Glue, 16-Ounces