A DIY tutorial about how to build a realistic looking oversized faux fireplace using a thrifted mantel.
When we moved in to our builder-grade-basic cookie cutter house 7 months ago, we immediately started pining for a fireplace. (Considering we moved in a week before Christmas and didn’t have a mantel for our stockings, that might explain it.)
The builder would have charged $5,000 for one and we just couldn’t swing that in our budget. We got the crazy idea to build a faux fireplace, but we wanted it to be more than a simple mantel nailed to the wall.
This idea was big. REALLY big. So big in fact that I’m having to split this project up into 4 posts. Woo hoo! So stick with me. What you see today is only a glimpse of the beginning stages, and I’ll show you every step of the process for under $500! So much better without that extra zero, isn’t it? Even if it is a faux one for now.
Just last week, we were living with this situation (which I already whined to you about before):
Those shelves were a constant battle with our toddler who made it her daily job to completely dump all of the DVD cases onto the floor. Ugh! So we trucked those two bookcases up to the office, and we were left with this:
Yep. We’re starting from scratch, people. Well…mostly anyway. Several months ago, we found a beautiful mantel from a house being demolished in Charlotte. Robert thought the seller said it was built in 1916. I heard 1940. Either way, this thing has some history.
And my ingenious father-in-law came over to help us through the entire process (that took all weekend long…this man deserves a lollipop.) I mainly shadowed his and Robert’s work and shoved a camera in their faces half the time.
Supplies used for Part One:(Affiliate links are provided below. For more information see my full disclosure here.)
The ready-made mantel front (found for $100 on Craigslist)
*I didn’t include measurements in this post since your measurements will depend on the mantel you use as well as the size of your room. But in the case of fireplaces, it’s better to have an oversized, statement-making fireplace in a room than a small one that could become dwarfed in a large room.
First thing we did was find the center of the wall and decide on the measurements based on the existing mantel front.
We chose not to have Lowe’s pre-cut our wood in case we needed to make any adjustments during the process. So Robert got to be all manly with his circular saw. (Right after this shot, he remembered his safety glasses. Safety first, peeps!)
To frame out the base of the hearth, we cut two long 2x4s about 8 inches longer than the mantel and connected them with shorter 2×4 pieces at 24 inches long. Nail the long sides to the end pieces first, followed by the center piece, and the other two middle pieces last. (The diagram below can show you.)
Once the hearth base frame was secure, we lined it up to the center of the wall and nailed the back of the frame to anchor it to the wall. We had thought about cutting a couple of holes in the carpet underneath to anchor it to the floor but decided it wouldn’t be necessary with all of the weight of the fireplace itself. This sucker is heavy and that hearth isn’t going ANYWHERE.
If we ever decide to rip up the carpet one day and put in wood floors, it can be done with a box cutter and quarter round at the base of the hearth.
To cut the plywood pieces, Robert’s dad schooled us on a bit of woodworking knowledge, which he has TONS of. One of his tips was to cut a piece of plywood using a circular saw in a shallow position.
From the plywood sheet, Robert cut out the piece for the top of the hearth.
Then, we (and by we I mean they) layed it out on the hearth frame. It lined up perfectly!
Then nailed the hearth top into the frame base.
For the mantel, we nailed in 2x4s inside the back of the frame to later use as an anchor to the wall.
Then, we nailed up 2x4s at the same height as the mantel back.
Here is the hearth and wall anchor ready for the mantel:
Olivia thought it was her own personal stage, so she put on a little show for us during our break. So stinkin’ cute!
Then we cut plywood strips to screw onto the back of the mantel to anchor the surround that would come next.
We used a piece of plywood over the mantel opening to make into the surround.
We used drywall screws to fasten the plywood to the anchor strips from the previous step.
Here’s where our faux fireplace becomes a bit more than a faux fireplace. We wanted this space to still be useful, so we put in a door to fake a firebox and have access to our outlet to run our cords out of sight. We measured the faux firebox door and left a little space at the bottom to create a threshold and prevent the surround from bowing.
We switched circular saw blades to cut out the door to one that was thin and would be precise.
My father-in-law did the honors of this part. 🙂
For the corners, he used a jigsaw to make sure each cut was exact.
It’s looking more and more like a real fireplace! (Robert is excited too in case you couldn’t tell.)
To create the firebox door, we screwed a piano hinge into the surround piece. We cut it to size first using a hack saw.
To make sure the door wouldn’t cause any bowing or movement in the surround, we made a door frame on the back of the mantel.
We shaved off just a teeny tiny bit of the door, and it fit like a glove once attached to the piano hinge!
To anchor the mantel to the wall (the big oooh ahhh moment…well the first one anyway), we nailed plywood strips to the 2x4s we had previously attached to the wall and back of the mantel. We nailed the bottom piece under the door to a 2×4 attached to the hearth inside of the firebox but somehow I forgot to photograph that step. Sorry, y’all. :-/
After the two plywood side pieces were up, this is what the top looked like:
To close in the top, we added a plywood piece and attached it to the 2x4s on the mantel and wall as well as the plywood side pieces. That thing was going no where!
We laid down one more plywood piece on the top and mimicked the end molding of the mantel shelf. Robert secured it with finishing nails.
And then helloooo fireplace!
I know it still looks rough here, but this is only part one. The rest isn’t so complicated.