How to install a fireplace mantel on brick

Written by tiana mortimer
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How to install a fireplace mantel on brick
Enhance a dull-looking fireplace by installing a fireplace mantel. (Bryan Kemp)

If you have a dull-looking brick fireplace, you can spruce it up with a fireplace mantel. The mantel is a decorative facade piece that frames the firebox with ornate or simple moulding to create columns that support a shelf. Unless you are a carpenter and can build your own, it is best to purchase a prefabricated mantelpiece for the fireplace. Installing the fireplace mantle on the brick yourself can save you quite a bit of money.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • 3-foot level
  • Torpedo level
  • Hammer drill
  • ½-inch masonry drill bit
  • Screwdriver drill bit
  • Circular or table saw
  • Wooden shims
  • Two 2-inch-by-4-inch-by-8-foot pieces of lumber
  • Concrete screws, 2½ inches long and ¼-inch diameter
  • Decking screws, 3 inches long (if needed)
  • Finishing screws, 2½ inches long
  • Wood putty or decorative plugs

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Place the mantel against the fireplace, positioning it in the desired location. Center it around the firebox and leave at least a 6-inch clearance.

  2. 2

    Use the 3-foot level to check across the length of the mantle, and use the torpedo level to check levelness of the width, front to back. Place wooden shims under the legs until both levels are balanced.

  3. 3

    Using a pencil, trace the outline of the mantelpiece as it lays flush against the brick and wall. This will help you measure where the wooden supports, called cleats, will be secured to the wall and brick.

  4. 4

    Remove the mantelpiece and lay it facedown on the floor. Measure the width inside the shelf as well as the length inside the supporting legs using the measuring tape. Cut 2-inch-by-4-inch-by-8-foot pieces of lumber to make the cleats, using a circular or table saw to match the measurements. Position the cleats into the mantel to ensure a proper fit.

  5. 5

    Determine the thickness of the mantle edges that will sit flat against the wall and brick, then pencil in that measurement at different intervals along the wall and brick mantle tracing. Use the 3-foot level as a guide to draw in the lines where the cleats will be installed.

  6. 6

    Holding the top cleat in place, use the hammer drill with a masonry bit to drill five holes evenly spaced across the cleat boards and through the brick. Switch to the screwdriver drill bit and screw in the concrete screws into the pre-drilled cleat board and brick of the fireplace. Repeat the process for each of the cleat legs. If any part of the cleat is being screwed into the wall, use the decking screws instead.

  7. 7

    Install the mantelpiece against the fireplace, lining it up with your wall and brick tracings surrounding the support cleats. Using the hammer drill with the screwdriver bit, screw in several finishing screws on the top of the mantel into the top support cleat, evenly spaced, countersinking them slightly. Repeat the process with the mantel legs.

  8. 8

    After all screws are in place and the fireplace mantel is secure, use wood putty to fill in the holes or use decorative plugs that match the mantel to fill in and disguise the holes.

Tips and warnings

  • You may wish to use a caulking gun filled with paintable caulk around the mantelpiece to fill in any gaps. When dry, the caulking can be painted to match the wall or mantel colour to blend in.
  • Avoid a possible fire hazard and check local building codes to confirm required mantel clearance from the firebox before you purchase your prefabricated mantel.

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