How to Paint a Wood Mantel Shelf

What You'll Need
Paint remover
Paint brushes (2)
Paint thinner or turpentine (if you're using an oil based paint)
Water (if you're using a latex paint)
Latex work gloves
Putty knife
Sand paper (100 count grit is best)
Fine steel wool
Masking painters tape
Paint primer
Paint of your choice (oil or water based)

A wood mantle shelf over a fireplace can add to the warmth of your fireplace, as it can hold decorative items and enhance the beauty of your home. Unfortunately, if you have a wooden shelf mantel, it can become scratched and dented. Or, the paint can begin to peel. All this can affect the appearance of your mantle shelf and will require you to paint it. This can be a relatively simple project that can be completed in the 11 steps listed below.

Step 1 – Mask the Mantle

Use your painter’s masking tape to mask the mantle. This will protect areas surrounding it from getting paint remover or paint on them.

Step 2 – Remove Existing Paint

Remove the existing paint on your mantle shelf. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use paint remover. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. Add the paint remover with a paintbrush in thick layers on the mantle then let it work for at least 25 minutes. If the paint you are removing is more than one layer, you may need to add the paint remover a couple of times.

Step 3 – Allow the Shelf to Dry

Once all the paint has been removed, allow the shelf to dry.

Step 4 – Fill Cracks

Use a putty knife to fill any cracks in the wood with wood filler.

Step 5 – Smooth Shelf with Steel Wool or Sandpaper

With a steel wool pad or sandpaper, gently sand off any remnants of paint. Also, make sure that the shelf surface is completely smooth.

Step 6 – Wipe the Shelf

Wipe off the shelf with a clean cloth to remove dust or debris remaining on the surface.

Step 7 – Apply Primer

Using primer will help your paint adhere better. Apply the primer with a paintbrush, brushing it onto the surface in the same direction as the wood’s grain. Keep in mind that if the primer is a different color than your paint, you'll need to be sure surfaces around the area to be primed are well masked.

Step 8 – Let the Primer Dry

Allow the primer to completely dry. Follow the manufacturer’s directions in determining how long this should be.

Step 9 – Paint the Shelf

Once the primer has thoroughly dried, apply your paint with a brush or sponge. Again, apply brushstrokes in the direction of the wood grain.

Step 10 – Let the Paint Dry

Allow the paint to dry completely (usually 2 to 3 hours, especially if a fast drying oil-based paint is used). Add a second coat of paint, if needed. Be sure that between the coats of paint you clean your brush thoroughly, so the paint does not dry on the brush. Clean the brush, using water or turpentine.

Step 11 – Remove the Masking Tape

Once your paint has completely dried, remove the painter’s tape from around the mantle shelf.