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How To Install A Fireplace Mantel Shelf

By Lawrence Macmillan October 25, 2021

If you live in a house with a fireplace, then chances are you know how magical an experience it can be.

Not only are fireplaces ideal for creating a warm and cosy environment, but they can also become the focal point of your home, especially if your fireplace has been installed with a mantel shelf. 

These days, many modern fireplaces often come with mantel shelves as a place for homeowners to arrange their various belongings, whether that be family photographs or potted plants.

The overall effect can be incredibly cosy when done well, which is why mantel shelves are becoming more and more popular every year. 

However, this does not mean that every fireplace comes with its own mantel shelf, which means you may have to make your own shelf from scratch.

So if you are interested in learning how you can install your own mantel shelf using simple materials, then you have come to the right place. 

In the following article, we are going to teach you how to install your own mantel shelf, while also outlining the various tools and materials that you will need for the job.

So if you are ready to begin, let’s take a look at how you can install your own fireplace mantel shelf from scratch… 

What You Will Need 

Before we can show you how to make your fireplace mantel shelf, there are a few things that we need to cover first.

In the list below, we have outlined the various tools and materials that you will need to properly build your mantel shelf: 

  • Multi-tool (for cutting)
  • Miter saw or table saw 
  • Nail gun 
  • Measuring tape 
  • Long level 
  • Wood filler 
  • 2-inch finish nails 
  • Paintable caulk 
  • Paint 
  • Paintbrush
  • 1x10 select pine 
  • 1x2 select pine 
  • Mantel shelf 

Note: If you are unable to purchase a mantel shelf from your local hardware store, then you can also find them online on various platforms and thrift stores.

How To Make A Fireplace Mantel Shelf 

Now that you understand what you will need to make your fireplace mantel shelf, let’s take a look at the actual construction process. 

Here are some key factors that you will need to consider before making your mantel shelf: 

You must begin the overall process by measuring the space to determine how large your fireplace will be. This will also determine how much wood you will need to buy for the project. 

For the best results, you will need to measure the wall that you are adding the mantel shelf to, as this will help you to decide how much material you will need. 

On the other hand, if you plan to add your mantel shelf to a large blank wall, then you could also install shelves on either side to create a more welcoming and homely space. 

Now let’s get started… 

Step One: Mount The Mantel 

To begin the process, you will first need to mount the mantel top on the wall above your fireplace. 

When doing this, it is also important to remember that the mantel top will be supporting any weight you put on it, which means the studs have to be level and secure. 

The fireplace surround boards will also not be supporting the mantel top, as they are simply there for aesthetic reasons. 

If you choose to fully frame your mantel shelf, then you will be able to use the sideboards for extra support. However, it is still advisable to make sure that the mantel is secured to the wall by the studs. 

Step Two: Cut The Baseboard 

For this next step, you will need to take your multi-tool and use it to cut your baseboard, which should then accommodate the 1x10 sideboards. 

The reason why this step is so important is that it will make sure that the final product remains flush to the wall. 

To help you further understand this part of the process, we have outlined some instructions in the section below: 

1. Measure the baseboard and mark where you will need to make your cuts.

2. When you have done this, take your multi-tool and use it to slowly get the cleanest cut.

3. For the best results, we recommend using a flat saw blade and lining it up with your marks before letting the blade cut through the wood. 

When using your multi-tool, you will want to avoid applying too much pressure, as this could result in uneven or unusable cuts.

Instead, you should work with the natural progression of the tool, as the motion will be enough to get the job done. 

Step Three: Cut The 1x10s

After you have cut your baseboard, you will need to measure and cut your 1x10s, which can be done by measuring from the base of your mantel top to the floor. 

When you have done this, cut your 1x10s accordingly until they fit between your mantel top and the ground. 

For the next part of the process, you will need to measure the width between the two boards, so that you cut and add the remaining 1x10 to the mantel. 

Mount all pieces to your wall using the 2-inch finish nails. 

Step Four: Cut The 1x2s

Once your 1x10s have been installed, you will then need to measure and cut your 1x2s, as these will be placed over the previously made structure. 

To do this, you can use the longest pieces to cover the horizontal part of the mantel, before finally cutting down what you need for the sides. 

Secure pieces to the 1x10s by using the finish nails, which should create a detailed moulding giving the structure some visual depth. 

Step Five: Caulk The Seams 

Now that the mantel shelf is coming together, you will need to caulk the seams, as well as any gaps along the wall and trim. It is also important during this step to patch your nail holes using the wood filler. 

The reason why this step is so important is that it helps to ensure the finished look of the mantel shelf, giving it a clean and orderly appearance. 

We also recommend going over the structure with some sandpaper to make sure that any filler or material is paintable. 

Step Six: Paint The Mantel Shelf

For the final step, you will need to prime and paint the finished structure. 

This means that you will need to apply at least 2 coats of primer to the mantel shelf for a clean overall look.

When the primer has been applied, you must wait for it to dry before you can add the paint, which can be any colour that you want. However, for the best results, we recommend neutral tones or whites, as they are more versatile. 

Then it’s up to you how you want to style the finished mantel shelf, whether that involves adding photo frames, antique candles, plant pots or ornaments - the decision is entirely up to you! 


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