Faux Rustic Fireplace Mantel


I had a friend who had just moved into a new house call me, she told me that her fireplace mantle was plain and boring, she hated it. One of those basic mantles that contractors install when they build because it’s a think-less decision. No offence to contractors, you guys have a lot on the go and I totally get that it’s not possible to build designer houses all the time, especially when sticking to a budget. So, she asked me if there was anything she could do to make it better. I suggested to build a wood mantle that just slips over the old one and problem solved! Honestly, I have never built one before but with a little planning and measuring, I knew this was going to be both a fun and game changing build and I was ready to tackle it. The look that I was trying to achieve for this mantle was a giant, old and distressed beam repurposed for a fireplace. So, the way that I assembled the boards together would play a big part in how I pulled that look off. And, I chose Aspen wood because it has a gorgeous colour that you can pull reds, golds, or browns that can fit any décor scheme depending on how you finish it. Aspen is a very soft wood and can work really easily with making it look old and distressed. By the way, I got all my lumber from Windsor Plywood. They have an awesome selection of wood lumber at fantastic prices, so this
particular mantle ended up costing about $120 CDN which is killer for how amazing the finished result turned out! Such a simple and easy build you can do that will completely change the look of a room with a major wow factor! Now, who doesn’t love that?




The mantle I was going to build over had some crazy angles to it, meaning, each angle was different and not even on both sides. I wanted to make sure I was able to duplicate it so the new mantle would slip over top of it perfectly to match.


I laid some sheets of paper onto one of the old mantle following the length and matching all the angles, taping the paper together to make myself an exact template I could use to cut the new wood.

The old mantle was only 5” deep which doesn’t leave much room for décor placement, so I decided to make the new mantle nice and deep to be able to hold vases or whatever my friend wanted to decorate with.


As I mentioned before I wanted to assemble all the boards together, so they looked like they were a giant, solid beam. In order to make this work, I ran all the boards through the table saw cutting the edges off at a 45-degree bevel. The front board needs to have both sides cut on a bevel while the top and bottom boards only need one side cut on a bevel. That’s because you still need to have a straight side to go against the wall when it’s installed.

Working on just the top and bottom mantle boards for a bit, decide which surface you want to be on the outside (seen) and inside (not seen). These are going to be cut out two at a time so everything matches perfect for assembly.


Place the paper template over the boards and make cutting marks for the lengths and angles. I folded the paper on its self on the angle sections and drew them out on the boards knowing this was going to give me an exact angle match. Then, I just had to adjust the miter saw to match the angle on the board and make all my cuts. Keep the angle cut edges facing you and the straight edges against the back fence of the miter saw for cutting out. You should now have a top and bottom perfect replica of the old mantle only with a deeper width.


For cutting the board that will be the front of the mantle, which should have two beveled edges,
measure the longest sides of the boards that were just cut (top and bottom) and mark out on the front board. Cut the ends off to match the same angles as the left and right sides but on a bevel instead of a flat angle. The two pieces that need to be cut out to make the ends only need to have a bevel cut on one side and a straight cut on the other end that will go against the wall.


The top and bottom boards need to be assembled together with their respective left and right sides. On the short sides and using a kreg jig adjusted for the thickness of the board, make 2-3 pocket holes. Then screw them to the longer boards with pocket hole screws. Don’t forget to use wood glue! Top and bottom pieces done.


Again, using wood glue, but now using the brad nailer, attach the boards that make up the front to the top and bottom. Start with the front and longest board then add the sides. The 45-degree bevels should all come together nicely on all the boards and this is where it will give the illusion of a solid beam of wood.


Give some time for the wood glue to set before giving it a quick sanding. I added some distressing by hitting it a bunch with a hammer and letting my sander hang out a little too much in certain places. This wood it supposed to look old after all.

I wanted to give some layers of different stain to achieve a beautiful colour, so I gave a thick coat of provincial and then layered it with the weathered oak on top. Sealing it all in with a gloss polyurethane.


It is now ready to install! Just an FYI, I ran into a problem I didn’t think about, if the existing fireplace has a stone or tile front on one half and drywall on the other that will create differentiating wall thickness, it’s going to throw off the way the faux mantle slides on and fits snuggly to the fireplace.

The one I was dealing with had tile, so to deal with it I needed to cut a ¼” off the bottom edge that goes against the wall but left the top as is. Use the brad nailer again to nail it to the old mantle that is inside of the new mantle to keep it secure and in place.
Total transformation from a boring, standard, contractor installed fireplace mantle to a beautiful, warm, charming and unique mantle that is going to be so much more inspiring to decorate and add character to your room. Who wants boring when you can have DIY fab?!

Cami TannerComment