How to build a fireplace mantel surround

Written by becky lower
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How to build a fireplace mantel surround
Add a fireplace surround that's full of decorative moulding to create drama. (fireplace mantle image by Jim Mills from

Adding a decorative surround to a fireplace can transform it into the focal point of the room. Encasing your fireplace in wood, as ornate or sleek as you like, can create drama and enhance your room's existing decor. Taking your fireplace from drab to glamorous by creating a surround takes some effort, but the results will be worthwhile.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Circular saw
  • Mitre box
  • Optional tile, stone or brick
  • Optional adhesive for tile
  • Optional grout
  • Trowel and float, if needed
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Wide putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Pine boards for surround
  • Decorative moulding
  • Plinth blocks
  • Sandpaper
  • Spackle
  • Tack cloth
  • Varnish, stain or enamel paint

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  1. 1

    Check local building codes for minimum setbacks from the firebox allowable for wood trim.

  2. 2

    Remove any existing trim, using a wide putty knife and a small pry bar. Position the knife between the wall and the pry bar to prevent gouging the wallboard.

  3. 3

    Install tile, stone or brick around the firebox if your local building codes require a setback from the fireplace box for wood trim and your fireplace doesn't yet meet these codes. Usually one course of brick or tile will be sufficient. Use the type of adhesive recommended by the manufacturer. Allow to dry, grout around the joints, and wipe off excess.

  4. 4

    Locate the wall studs with your stud finder and mark their position. Measure and cut a piece of pine for the horizontal strip that sits under the mantel. The horizontal strip should be cut to fit between the side pieces. Make certain that the horizontal piece is level, and nail it on the wall, predrilling holes and using a hammer and nails.

  5. 5

    Cut surround sides (pilasters) so they rest on top of the tile hearth and are in line with the top of the horizontal piece. Apply adhesive in the inner edges that butt up to the horizontal piece, and the bottoms that rest on the tile. Make certain they are plumb and resting squarely on the floor. Attach with nails.

  6. 6

    Using a piece of 1-by-10 pine cut to size for the mantel. Attach decorative moulding by mitring the corners of the moulding and nail to the mantel. Set the moulding back from the edge 1/4 to 1/2 inch for an even greater effect.

  7. 7

    Position the mantel on top of the horizontal piece and pilasters. Check to be certain it's centred and level, then nail it into place.

  8. 8

    Add plinth blocks to top, bottom and sides of the pilasters for extra support and visual appeal.

  9. 9

    Add decorative moulding to the face of the surround, to the joints between the plinth blocks and the surround, and anywhere else where embellishments are needed.

  10. 10

    Spackle any openings and nail holes. Use sandpaper on the entire surface to smooth out. Wipe off with a tack cloth and add varnish, stain or paint.

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