How to build a fireplace mantel shelf

Written by keith allen
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How to build a fireplace mantel shelf
Mantel clocks are one of the most common things placed on a mantel shelf. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Mantels complement a fireplace and add a decorative touch to the look of your room. Although there are a variety of woods used for mantels, oak is often the preferred choice. Oak is strong, resilient and slightly flexible, making it easy to work with and durable. Check the style of your fireplace and coordinate the design of the mantel to match it. Your fireplace mantel can blend in with the fireplace or become the focal point of the room.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood shelf
  • Crown moulding
  • Shelf brackets
  • Power drill with 1/4-inch bit
  • Tape measure
  • Construction adhesive
  • Grout
  • 2-inch wood screws
  • Molly bolts
  • Dust sheet or plastic sheeting
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain

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  1. 1

    Plan the design of the shelf to help determine the needed materials. Check to make sure that the wood you are using is sturdy enough to support any items that may rest on the mantel, including larger, heavier pieces, such as a mantel clock.

  2. 2

    Assemble the shelf if it is not all one unit. Attach any ornamental pieces, such as crown moulding or other decorative additions, to the shelf.

  3. 3

    Determine the type of wall backing behind the fireplace by drilling pilot holes with a 1/4-inch bit. The type of wall backing will determine the size and type of brackets or mounts used to secure the mantel shelf. This is not necessary if the fireplace is constructed of masonry or stone.

  4. 4

    Level the brackets or mounts with the ceiling and the floor prior to securing them in place. Measure from the floor to the shelf at each end of the shelf. This will ensure that the shelf is parallel to the floor rather than absolutely level, which may make it look crooked compared to the floor if the floor is not level. Use an appropriate-grade adhesive to mount the brackets on a masonry or stone fireplace and grout any joints.

  5. 5

    Place the mantel shelf onto the brackets and secure it as necessary. Use 2-inch screws to fasten the shelf bracket to a solid wood backing or studs. Use molly bolts if the wall is hollow behind the fireplace.

  6. 6

    Attach protective dust sheets or plastic sheeting to the fireplace below the shelf then sand and stain or paint the mantel shelf.

Tips and warnings

  • When selecting paint or stain for the mantel shelf, bear in mind that there will be a certain amount of heat in contact with the shelf. Use a stain or paint that is non-flammable and heat-resistant.

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