A fireplace is traditionally considered to be the centerpiece of any room in which it is located. Many times a fireplace may be installed without a surround or a mantel. Even if a fireplace has a surround, it can benefit from the installation of a mantel designed or chosen to compliment the fireplace. Fireplace mantels can be built on the spot or purchased in kits that you install. They are relatively easy to install, usually requiring no special tools and little to no skill. The most difficult aspect of installing a fireplace mantel may be in finding out what the fire codes related to fireplaces, surrounds, and mantels are and figuring out how to apply them to your installation. It is also necessary to check with your local building and codes department about their specific requirements for fireplace mantels and surrounds. In general, you must keep your mantel at least one inch away from the firebox for each eighth inch of mantel depth. In considering the purchase and installation of a fireplace mantel, inspect your fireplace and determine if it has a heatilator. This is a series of holes in the brickwork above and on each side of the firebox. These must not be covered up as they give off heat from the firebox and flue into the room. If your fireplace is equipped with a heatilator, you must choose or design a fireplace mantel that will accomodate those heatilator holes.
Install a fireplace mantel
- If you have purchased a fireplace mantel kit, unpack it and inspect the parts.
- You may have to install ledger strips or backer boards to the fireplace walls or brick chimney.
- Use 2 x 4s for ledger strips.
- Cut one piece 2″ shorter than the length of your mantel.
- Measure up the fireplace the proper heighth and mark a leveled line on the wall.
- Anchor your horizontal ledger strip level with this line. Use concrete or brick anchors or screws.
- Follow this same procedure to install vertical ledger strips on each side of the firebox for the mantel legs.
- Now set the fireplace mantel in place over the ledger strips and make sure it sets tight against the wall.
- If there are gaps between the back of the mantel and the wall, you may have to scribe the back edges of the mantel to the wall surfaces. Cut those rear edges of the mantel with a jigsaw a little at a time and check the fit each time you trim.
- When you are sure the fit is right, attach the mantel to the ledger strips with finish nails or screws. If you use finish nails, make sure you use box finish nails and not galvanized ones. You can also use a brad gun but it may not set the nails tight so you may want to set each one with a nail set and hammer.
- Fill each nail or screw hole with wood putty or wood filler. When it is dry, sand, seal, and paint or stain the fireplace mantel.
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