PHASE II: Mantelpiece
As mentioned earlier, it only takes a couple of hours to install the mantel. You can save yourself some time and trouble by painting or staining it the day before. Start the installation by setting the mantel into place and centering it on the firebox. Mark short pencil lines onto the wall along the top and sides of the mantel. Move the mantel out of the way, measure down from the horizontal line the thickness of the mantel top plus 1/8 in. and draw a level line on the wall. (The top of my mantel was 1 1/2 in. thick, so I measured down 1 5/8 in. from the pencil mark.) Repeat the process for the two vertical lines at each leg of the mantel.

Cut a 2x3 or 2x4 about 3 ft. long and screw it to the wall above the fireplace (step 6).

Be sure that the top edge of this cleat sits just below the level line you marked earlier. Cut two 1x1 cleats about 1 2 in. long each and screw them to the wall on either side of the fireplace. Mark the positions of the cleats with strips of tape (step 7).

Stand the mantel on the hearth, tilt it forward and press it to the wall (step 8).

Check to be sure that it slides over all three cleats and fits tight to the wall. Attach the mantel to the top cleat with 2 1/2-in. screws (step 9).

Use trimhead screws to attach the legs to the vertical cleats; their tiny heads will be undetectable once painted to match the mantel. You could nail the mantel in place, but screws make it much easier to remove the mantel if it ever needs refinishing or repairs.

As I stood back to admire my new mantel I realized that it looked a little plain. So, I ordered three sunburst-pattern appliquas ($50) from Readybuilt. I put a blob of silicone adhesive onto the back of each one and nailed them to the mantel. The large one is centered on the mantel's fascia. The two smaller ones are placed on the blocks above the fluted columns (step 10).

The appliquas add a little extra style and interest to the mantel and to the room, which was the goal of this project in the first place.

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