Including a DIY Mantel and Painting the Tiles
Follow along as we made over our fireplace, including a DIY mantel and painting the tiles. This makeover shows that just a few small changes can make a big impact! I wanted to create a more modern and sleek look with our fireplace and the surrounding built ins. Really to the whole family room, but the fireplace wall is the focal point. Just a few adjustments really transformed the space, and for not a lot of cost. The main changes we made were creating a new mantel to encase the old one and painting the tiles.
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The Fireplace BEFORE
For fun, let’s take a look at what the room looked like when we first moved in, around 20 years ago.
We tore the wallpaper of that wall immediately…
The tv was in that armoire. Eventually we painted the fireplace off white (and removed that railing separating the rooms), until we were ready to update that whole space.
This is what it has looked like basically for the last 10 or so years. I still thought it was pretty, and there wasn’t really anything wrong with it. Although it did need a new paint job where it had yellowed a bit. The overall look though was still very nice!
I started to crave a more modern look. I also loved stenciling the wall in our entryway, and I started thinking that stenciling the tiles would be a fun change, too! (You can check out the entryway wall here: https://lizzydesignsblog.com/7-ways-to-add-pizzazz-to-your-entryway-remodel/)
Then I wondered if we could change the mantel a bit without having to redo it completely. This is where Tim would come in. He was able to build a mantel top that encased the old one.
How to Make the Mantel Top
Materials and Tools
- 3/4 inch oak boards (We got ours from Lowe’s.)
- pocket screw jig
3. pocket screws
5. circular saw
7. sander (optional) and sandpaper (180 grit and 220 grit)
8. stain, foam brush and rags
Making the Mantel Top
First thing is to measure out on your fireplace where you want the new mantel to be and figure out how much wood you will need. There are 3 parts to consider: the top, front and underside of the new mantel top.
2. Choosing the Wood
When choosing the type of wood, we went with oak because we liked the look of the look of it and the fact that it’s cost effective and durable.
Oak boards at our local Lowe’s had lengths more than long enough to cover the length of the mantel. However, because of the depth of the top of the mantel, we needed to put two boards together to cover it. We made sure to have the two pieces meet towards the back so that the seam would be less noticeable. You can hardly see it, even up close!
3. Building the Mantel
Because we didn’t want to have any exposed screw heads or nails on the outside of the new mantel that would have to be filled and might be noticeable, Tim decided to attach the boards together on the backside using pocket screws. We used the Kreg jig kit which (along with a good set of clamps) gives you everything you need to do pocket screwing like an expert. Both the jig and the included pocket drill bit for making the pocket holes have attachments and settings that can be configured for the exact thickness of the wood selected, in our case 3/4 inch. As recommended by the kit, he also used Kreg fine-thread 1 1/4 inch hardwood pocket screws.
When making the pocket holes the jig has guides that show where to place it, and it should be clamped down well before drilling the pocket hole. The directions for the jig give guidelines as to how close the screws should be together.
Make sure all the edges where the boards come together are flush. Then clamp the ends tight, and pocket screw the ends first. At each remaining pocket hole location along the edge, double check that the edge is flush and clamped near each hole before putting in the screw so that the boards don’t shift or separate while inserting the screw.
Once the boards were all pocket screwed together, he just had to measure out and cut a piece to fill in the gap on the top piece of the mantel since it wasn’t quite deep enough. Then that piece was also pocket screwed together.
4. Staining and Installing
After staining it in the garage, Tim placed the new mantel top over the old one. The fit of our new mantel was tight enough to where it took some elbow grease to get it in place, but it’s now staying put. Had we needed to attach it to the existing mantel, we would have simply applied wood glue to the top of the existing mantel and then placed the new one over the top of it.
The Rest of the Fireplace Makeover
At first I was just thinking we’d cover up the mantel top and be done. Then I wondered if we could remove the decorative trim pieces for a sleeker and more modern look.
Luckily they came off fairly easily with a putty knife without too much patch work to do.
We filled in the holes with wood filler and sanded it down with 180 grit sandpaper in the sander. The I primed and painted it (SW alabaster).
Painting the Tiles
So as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to stencil the tiles. Well, that turned out to be a fail! The texture of the tiles I think was the problem. It just didn’t work. It was going to be small white hexagon “tiles” with black “grout.” After the stencil didn’t work, I went with all black (SW iron ore). As these fails often end up, I now love the all black look and can’t imagine it the other way!
- cleaner of choice to wipe down the tiles (I used a little dish soap and water.)
4. paint (SW iron ore)
5. paintbrushes and small foam roller and paint tray
The Prep and the Painting
NOTE: On our fireplace, the tiles don’t get hot. If your fireplace has tiles that get hot when it’s running, you may need a heat resistant type of paint instead of what we used. Contact a paint professional for a recommendation.
First thing is to clean the tiles. Next we sanded them down with the 80 grit to rough it up, then the 180 grit to smooth it out. After the sanding, we did another quick wipe down and vacuumed all around the tiles.
Now you are ready for the primer. I did 2 coats.
Next is the painting. You will need to do 2-3 coats. The paint we used was fantastic (see above under “materials”)! You cannot tell the tiles have been painted. It looks like we re-tiled with black tiles!
As a side note, I also decided to paint the same black color behind the shelves. I like how it ties in with the tiles and the way especially white objects look against the black background.
The Fireplace AFTER
Here’s a final look at the whole room, before and after. I painted the walls white (SW alabaster), changed out the curtains and pillows, put decorative items on the shelves instead of books, changed out the cabinet hardware, added a new coffee table (moving the old one under the window as a bench) and added an area rug.
I am thrilled with this makeover. It feels so bright and I got the modern and sleek look I was going for!