Installing a Fireplace Mantel?

Many newer homes do not have a traditional mantel over the fireplace. Adding one is not a difficult project. This is a page about installing a fireplace mantel.


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August 27, 2001

I've decided I would like like to add a mantle above our fireplace. I have a big picture hanging there right now, but I would love to have a mantle so that I could set pictures on it and maybe make a pretty swag to hang over it. Does anyone know how to do this project? Can you nail a wood mantle into brick? Hope to hear from someone about this. Have a nice day!

By Kathy


August 31, 20010 found this helpful

If you have the right kind of tools, you can nail into anything, including brick, cement, etc. The question is, will your fasteners weaken the chimney?

Another matter for concern is the possibility of creating a fire hazard. I think it should be ok to put the mantel up if you have a good flue liner. I suggest you hire a professional to check on that, and clean your flue if needed, because it will matter whenever the fireplace is next used, mantel or not.


Further, the location and size of the mantel is important to prevent fire risk. The main thing is to be sure the combustible parts are far enough away from the fireplace for the distance they project into the room. I recommend that you consult a modern book or an expert, to find out the proper proportions of depth/distance for safety, and build your mantel within those tolerances.

I suggest you don't just blow off this concern by saying you don't use the fireplace for fires. It is possible that you will think differently sometime in the future, or that someone else may want to use the fireplace. Be safe, and build it with the assumption that someone someday will make a fire in the fireplace.

You might want to consider not just a mantel, but a decorative fireplace surround. Basically, this means you have up-and-down side pieces as well as the top piece across. There are several interesting decorative possibilities to this structure. The side pieces can help to support the top piece, but you will not avoid having to fasten the surround to the wall or chimney. You may find it is easier to get the mantel height right with these side pieces. When we hung ours, (a mantel, not a surround) we found we had to support it with temporary braces, so it would not slide down while we were nailing it.


You should also pre-drill nail holes before you try to mount the mantel (or surround) -- it does not take nearly so long to fasten if you don't have to pound through the wood, too! We chose to use counter-sunk holes, the kind that have a small diameter hole all the way through the wood, and a larger diameter one part-way through. This means that after it is up, you can cover the nail heads with wood putty, sand, and then stain to match the wood, for an invisible fastening.

- Rose B, mother of three, in NC

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