Distressed Fireplace Mantel Revamp

Before we started building our house, my parents bought a house and started the process of renovating it. One of the rooms had a fireplace with a mantel that they were going to replace. The existing mantel was nice, but didn’t match the look they were going for. My parents told us we could have it if we wanted. We took one look at it and jumped at it! We had big plans for the mantel! Big, big plans.

We wanted to have the mantel installed while the house was being built. However, we were using a company that didn’t want the liability of using our mantel. No big deal, we thought – we’ll just swap it out on our own time. We picked a gas firebox that would work for the opening in our mantel when the time came. Due to meeting the code requirements, we had to have a mantel and hearth put in when the house was built. We opted to install the builder grade mantel and hearth with plans to refinish and install the mantel from my parents at some point. The mantel was moved into our basement, where it sat for almost 4 years. Originally, there was a beveled mirror in the opening at the top. That was removed (to make room for a spot for the TV) and the mirror was used in Anna’s room. Ah, I love a good re-purpose.

The mantel, in its original glory.

We knew that the flooring was going to be ripped out soon with our flooring redo, so one night we got a wild hair and decided to jump on the fireplace project that we’d been talking about for so long.

The mantel and hearth that was put in when we built. Imagine the mantel actually attached to the wall. It occurred to me to take a picture after Alex had ripped it off.

No more mantel!

The mantel revamp was a mult-step process (read: several days in the making). Since we have small children, work could only be done in the evening after bedtime. We started by sanding the whole thing to rough up the surface so the paint would adhere to it. To give you some perspective, the mantel is 8 feet tall – that’s quite a bit of surface to work with. After sanding, we added a layer of white paint as a first layer/primer.

Starting the facelift – sanded and first layer of paint.

Next step was to paint the whole thing brown.

And, we have a brown mantel again.

Meanwhile, we also had to work on installing a new hearth. I wanted something neutral, and I love the look of natural, tumbled stone. I wanted to do a subway tile for the floor and a 1″ x 1″ on the wall. We made the mistake of not ordering anything in advance, so we were stuck picking from the stock that Lowe’s had. We found a subway tile that I wanted, but ended up going with a stacked stone mosaic for the wall. I love how it looks, it just wasn’t what I had originally planned.

I’ve never laid tile before. I must say, I’m too bad at it. Super simple!

She’s all grouted up!

The final steps for the ol’ mantel was to paint it ivory to match our trim paint. We then took a pile of sandpaper to it. To distress it, we sanded down certain edges so the brown paint underneath was exposed. There wasn’t any real rhyme or reason for where we distressed the mantel. Edges turned out really well, as did some of the detailed areas. We distressed some flat areas as well. Basically, I wanted the mantel to look like it had weathered a storm and come out looking antiqued and aged and fabulous.

To mount the mantel, a cleat had to be hung on the wall which was attached to studs with screws. The mantel was placed over the cleat and 6″ lag screws were used to attach the mantel to the cleat.

Okay boys, you install the cleat. I’ll just lift this up here for you.

Once in place, the holes where the lag screws were used had to be filled, sanded, and painted. Filler wood was put in to fill the gap between the upper part of the mantel and the wall. It all had to be filled, sanded, and painted. Caulk was used to seal the mantel to the wall and the mantel to the tile. The wall around the mantel had to be painted because this mantel was skinnier than the previous one. Also, the baseboards had to be replaced because they were now too short.

I can’t lie, we were nervous that it would fall off the wall. The thing weighs about 5,000 pounds. Proud to say that it is still where we left it.

And, some detail shots for those that care.

I want to distress everything now.

Once everything was filled, sanded, sealed, and painted – curtains were returned and the TV was remounted.

It’s official, the TV is mounted.

A short time later, the flooring was replaced (thank you, Jesus) and crown molding was added. We are tickled with the results. The mantel is unique and adds a ton of character to an otherwise plan room. Plus, it looks absolutely charming with all of our stockings hanging on it at Christmas!

Fireplace is on and my boys in red on TV. Go Cardinals!


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