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How to Install a Mantel on a Stone Fireplace

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough travels to Chicago to install a wood mantel on a homeowner’s 1980s contemporary fireplace.

Steps for installing a fireplace mantel:

  1. Start by assembling a cleat that will be mounted on the face of the fireplace to accept the mantel. This can be done by cutting the 2x4” material with a miter saw to the dimensions of the mantel. Secure the cleat together using framing screws and butt joints.
  2. Determine the height of the mantel. Mantels are usually about 54” from the floor. With stone fireplaces, it’s important to find a mostly flat section to securely mount the cleat and the mantel to. it’s possible a stone might stick out proud of the mantel and make it more challenging to mount the cleat. In that case, it usually makes sense to go a little higher.
  3. With the height of the mantel identified, determine the center of the fireplace and mark it at the determined height.
  4. Determine the center of the cleat and mark it.
  5. Hold the center of the cleat up to the center of the fireplace. Place the level on top of the cleat to ensure it is level. With the cleat still against the fireplace, identify locations to secure the bolts. Depending on the type of stone, it might be safer to pick mortar joints over drilling directly into the stone. Before pulling the cleat back down, check for any bumps in the stone that might make it challenging to secure the cleat and mark those areas on the cleat as well.
  6. Cut out any sections of the cleat that were just marked using a hole saw.
  7. Drill holes through the marks on the cleat to accept the bolts.
  8. Hold the cleat back in place. Drill holes through the cleat and into the fireplace using a masonry drill.
  9. Hammer the wedge anchors into the holes and then tighten them in place using a socket wrench.
  10. With the cleat secured to the fireplace, slide the mantel onto the cleat.
  11. Secure the mantel to the cleat using brass screws.

Resources:

Mark installed the Red Oak Contemporary Box Mantel Style #5, which was pre-stained in Early American and finished in a clear finish. It was provided by Baird Brothers Fine Hardwoods.

Mark used concrete sleeve anchors to secure the mounting board to the masonry fireplace. These can be purchased at home centers and hardware stores.


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