If your fireplace mantel fails to make the statement you want it to make, it may be time to swap it out for a new one. Hanging a new mantel is a task you can undertake with minimal expertise. Here’s what you need to know.
Safety should be the first element that you look at. The National Fire Code exists to protect homeowners from making costly mistakes that can result in your home burning. This code dictates that any material that is combustible must be at least one inch away from the firebox for every 1/8 inch it protrudes. It also includes a minimum of a 6-inch clearance all the way around. You need to check with local fire regulations as well. In some cases, the local codes are stricter than the national codes, in which case the local codes would take precedence.
Find Your Mantel
You can generally find pre-fabricated mantels in a variety of sizes and styles. If your firebox is a non-standard shape, you may need to have a mantel custom designed so it will proportionate. You can also find mantels that are unfinished to allow you to finish it to your liking. Whatever you end up choosing, just make sure you have measured the firebox and the space available for the mantel to avoid any surprises when you bring it home.
Decide on Attachment Method
Many people will tell you that you can use a silicone caulk to glue the mantel directly to the wall. Others will suggest simply toe-nailing the piece through the shelf to the wall. While these methods will work, they aren’t very sturdy. The most secure method to attach the mantel is to secure it using a cleat that secures to the wall. You will need one to run lengthwise under the shelf, and the one running up and down in each of the legs. You can then attach the mantel to the legs for security.
Put the Mantel Together
If you have purchased an unfinished mantel, go ahead and paint or stain it before you assemble it. Once it’s dried completely you can start by placing the shelf upside down on a painter's tarp. Slide the legs into the shelf. You will need to apply a little pressure to get the leg seams tight. Secure the mantel using the hardware provided or recommended by the manufacturer.
With the help of another person set the mantel on the wall centered around the firebox. Play with the fit until you get it level. Once it’s level trace around the outline with a pencil. This will serve as a guide when you attach the mantel to the wall.
Position the cleats into the proper place. It may take some adjusting to get the fit that’s needed. They don’t need to be perfectly butted against each other, just in the correct position.
Attach the Mantel
You can now use the drill to bore your pilot holes. Hold the top cleat up against the wall and drill 4 pilots evenly spaced though the cleat and in to the brick. Attach the cleats to the holes you’ve drilled. Place the mantel on the cleats and line it up so it’s flush and positioned correctly. Drive finish screws every 16 inches along the shelf back just above the top cleat. The screw heads can be concealed later on. Next, use trim head screws in the same manner along the shelf and the outer edge of the legs.
Your mantel has now been installed. Go back and use wood filler to conceal any screw heads, attach any trim work and do any touch-ups that may be required.