Step 2: Dry-fit the mantel

Dry-fitting the mantel
Photo: Kolin Smith
Place the mantel against the wall (you may need a helper for this). Center it around the firebox.

Place a 3-foot level across the mantel and check for level. Use a torpedo level to see if the shelf is level front to back. Tap shims under the legs as necessary until it's level both ways.

Lightly trace the mantel's outline on the wall in pencil, as shown. This will give you a reference to help position the cleats.

Tip: Mantels are top-heavy. Allowing the shelf to tilt slightly back toward the wall helps hold it in place during installation. You'll pull the legs flush with the wall as you screw to the cleat.
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    Tools List

    • hammer drill
      Hammer drill with 3/16-inch masonry bit
    • 16-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • hand saw
      to cut 2v4s
    • four-foot level
      3-foot level
    • torpedo level
      Torpedo level
    • caulk gun
      Caulk gun
    • flathead screwdriver

    Shopping List

    1. MANTEL

    Comes in a kit with legs, a shelf, and interior trim.

    2. SHIMS

    to level the mantel.

    3. 2x4 LUMBER

    for cleats on which the mantel will hang. Two 8-foot pieces should do it.


    for attaching the mantel to a brick chimney. If the wall isn't brick, use 3-inch decking screws to attach the cleats to the studs.


    to fasten the mantel to the cleats. Finish screws (aka trim heads) have small heads that sink below the surface without the need to drill a countersink hole first.

    6. 4d FINISH NAILS

    to attach the edge molding.


    to fill screw holes.

    8. CAULK

    if you're painting the mantel, to fill gaps where it meets the wall.