In every house I have lived in there has been a fireplace, whether that be wood burning or gas. Having a fireplace in a home tends to create a sense of nostalgia and ambiance for most people and living in an old house means a fireplace was a must. Our fireplace has really been transformed since we moved in, I gave it a whitewash treatment before we even officially moved in. However, it always felt like it was missing a mantel and I especially miss the mantel at Christmastime. I have always pictured a solid wooden mantel over the fireplace and when I had the opportunity to work with Osborne Wood Products I jumped at the chance to finish this project.
Necessary Tools Needed to Install a Mantel On a Brick Fireplace
- Solid piece of wood for the mantel (we found ours at a surplus building material store local to us)
- Corbels (depending on your mantel these could be structural or just for decor purposes)
- Hammer Drill with a masonry bit
- 10″ x 3/8″ lag bolts (we used 5 of these)
- Rubber mallet
- Multi-tool or Sawzall with a metal cutting blade
- Tape measure
- 3/8″ Ratchet
- Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil (this is what I used to seal the mantel and corbels)
The first step for this DIY project was to find the corbel design that I liked the best. I wanted something simple with clean lines and not something that had a lot of character so that they wouldn’t clash with the farmhouse look. In searching on Osborne Wood Products website I loved these corbels that had some small detail and wouldn’t look out of place. And they had so many options of wood types to choose from! Justin and I decided to go with the walnut because this is a hardwood and at the time we weren’t sure if they were going to be more decorative or functional.
Next, I had to figure out where I would find a chunk of wood for the mantel as these aren’t normally something that can find readily at most home improvement stores. And another concern was cost as it can be expensive to buy solid wood slabs. I had already planned a trip to Building Material Resources which is a local store that aims to provide building materials, doors, windows, and other unique items at affordable prices. They have a great selection of unique woods that you usually cannot find at the local box store. If you live in NW Oregon (specifically Sherwood, Oregon) I would definitely check them out.
I happened to be heading to their store that day to look at wood to use for home decor signs that I make and ended up finding this large wood beam for only $19! I took a picture, wrote down the measurements and left that day with my other supplies. I admit that I am terrible when it comes to measuring to see if things will fit in the area I picture in my mind so I knew I couldn’t just purchase it that day. I showed Justin the picture, gave him the measurements and we realized it would work! So we went the next day and it was still there and this pretty substantial piece came home with us! I knew for only $19 we would be silly not to use it if the dimensions would work.
The next step was to sand the wood down as it was a little rough in places. I started with an 80 coarse grit sandpaper on my Ryobi orbital sander and then finished with a 120 fine grit. The walnut corbels were so pretty when they arrived that I didn’t want to change their look by staining them and thought I would leave the mantel wood piece it’s original color too as I couldn’t make a decision if it needed stain or just a protective coat of polyurethane.
Fireplace Mantel Installation Step-by-Step Instructions
Ok, now for the actual installation process of the mantel. So a little back story about our fireplace. The original brick fireplace surface is actually only about to the top of that gas fireplace insert. The brick wall that you see is actually a facade that was built out of 2x4s and plywood and then brick was attached to the front of the plywood. We know this because we know the family of the previous owners and have been told some of the histories of the home.
First, you will want to pre-drill pilot holes where the lag bolts will go in. This needs to be done with a masonry drill bit as other bits will be eaten and dulled by the brick surface if you tried to use them. Justin made sure to drill into the mortar joints and not directly into the brick. He measured the mantel and wanted it centered on the brick and then measured the bolts evenly to fit the mantel for enough support.
He then went to the local hardware store and found 5 large lag bolts that were 10″ x 3/8″ that would hold the weight of the heavy wood mantel. Originally the thought was that the corbels would become more decorative than functional but then we realized that they would help to add support for the mantel.
Once the lag bolts were bolted in Justin cut off each bolt head with a multi-tool (this can also be done with a Sawzall) while holding the bolt with a clamp to keep the vibration to a minimum.
Once all the heads of the bolts were cut off we had to measure on the back of the mantel and mark the corresponding hole that the bolts would need to slide into. This side would be against the brick and so Justin pre-drilled pilot holes into the wood so that the bolts would be able to snuggly fit onto the bolts. I didn’t get any pictures of this part as I was helping with the installation.
Now if we weren’t using the corbels to help stabilize the wooden mantel then I would advise to use a construction adhesive like liquid nails in the holes that you drill so that the mantel is securely in place.
We lifted the solid wood piece up and I helped Justin guide the pre-drilled holes on the back of the slab onto the bolts, we had to make sure we were guiding it on evenly as the holes were drilled just big enough for the bolts so that it wouldn’t move once installed. Justin used a rubber mallet to get the mantel in place so that it was flush against the brick. The rubber mallet will act as a hammer but won’t dent the wood. And unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the mantel in place before we started installation on the corbels
Again these corbels I chose from Osborne Wood are solid walnut, they are heavy and oh so pretty! Justin started installing the corbels before I had the chance to take pictures so I will do my best to explain it to you.
The corbels come with an attachment already on the back for hanging but we ended up not attaching the corbels from the back. Justin decided that in order to have the corbels flush against the solid wood he would attach screws through the top of the mantel. He countersank into the wood using 3″ long deck screws and then the corbels hung in place, suspended from the mantel and not actually attached to the brick.
Once the new mantel installation was complete the last step was to decide if I wanted to stain the wood or apply some type of finish. I loved the look of the natural wood but felt I needed to seal it just to protect the wood from stains. Below is a picture before I applied any type of sealer:
I ended up choosing to go with Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil which I have used in the past. This is a conditioning oil that helps revive dried out wood. The solid wood piece was very dry and old so I knew this conditioning oil would be a great alternative to stain. And the oil ended up giving the corbels and the solid wood mantelpiece a more cohesive look.
As you can see from the final look that the hemp oil does darken the wood but not so much that I didn’t like the way it turned out. I love that this mantel has become a focal point in the living room and have been changing out the decor every couple weeks for the holidays and for displaying family photos.