A fireplace mantel can easily be given a new look with a painting or staining. It's a fairly easy process, and great results can be achieved by beginners.
Prepare Your Room
Begin by preparing your room. Sanding, and removing an old mantel can be messy, so make sure to cover your floor and anything else that may be effected with a protective covering.
Remove Your Mantel
If you are giving an old mantle a makeover, first you will need to carefully remove it from above the fireplace. If it is nailed in place, you can simply pry it loose, and the plaster should hold up. If it is screwed in, the screws will need to be removed.
Prepare Your Mantel
Now are you are almost ready to get down to staining. A brand new purchased mantle will require little prep before painting, but an old mantle being prepared for a new look will need a little more TLC. The old mantle may need heavy sanding to remove old paint, which brings us to our next step:
Sanding the Mantel
Older mantles will have to be sanded before they can be stained or painted. New mantles can be purchased unfinished, so you may finish them as you desire. The sanding work may depend on the finished mantle itself. A painted mantle can be lightly sanded by hand. To remove a heavier finish a 220 grit is desirable.
Staining the Mantel
Choose your desired color and then test it on the inside of the mantle. Allow your test to dry so you can see your ultimate result. Once you've tested your color, paint your mantle following any manufacturer recommendations included with your stain color purchase. Work with a foam brush and paint from top to bottom. If you need to apply more than one coat of stain be sure to allow the first coat to dry before adding additional color. Once the stain is dry apply polyuerethe or tung oil to protect your finish.
Once your new mantle look is complete, the focal point of your room will have been given a facelift. Consider little clutter on top of the mantle when decorating for a clean looking finish.