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How to Make OVERMANTEL-100 for About $87.39: Part 1

fireplace overmantel rochester hills michiganTraditional Style

An overmantel is a formal addition to a fireplace mantel that should be saved for your most public rooms.  For most of us, that means it will go above the living room fireplace.

This is a very traditional design and can be expanded or contracted to meet your own needs.

You can customize this design by using different style moldings from what I used, and the ears in the architrave are perfect for adding your own personal touch with flowery rosettes.

This post shows you step by step how to make one just like this.  It’s really easy!

Posts in This Series

1.  How to Build OVRMANTEL-100 for About $87.39 Part 1

2.  How to Build OVERMANTEL-100 Part 2: Entablature

3.  Before & After: Great Room Fireplace Overmantel

4. How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-103 Series


Historic Inspiration

I drew my inspiration for the architrave portion of this overmantel from a similar one in the dining room of Philadelphia’s 1761 historic home, Mount Pleasant.

Overmantel Scale and Proportion

If your fireplace is in a great room with 18′ ceilings — like this one — then your overmantel needs to be scaled appropriately.

The wrong scale is the most common mistake I see in overmantel design for great rooms.

Most often, great room overmantels are stretched the entire length between the fireplace and the ceiling, and that is just too long for rooms this tall.  The picture below is a perfect example.

great room fireplace overmantel too tall

Big is not always better. This great room and fireplace would have been better off without this awkward overmantel.

Making an overmantel this tall looks like you’re trying too hard to fill up all of the space, just because there is space to fill.  Kind of like wearing all of your jewelry at one time just to impress.

You don’t want to look like you’ll fall face-first into your soup because you’re overburdened with accessories, likewise you don’t want your overmantel to feel like it might topple down on you while you’re sipping wine with friends or SunnyD with the kids.  It creates a nervous tension in the room that you don’t want.

In the case of the above great room, you can see how the overmantel is completely out of scale to the fireplace and the room, not to mention the complete lack of pedestals for those towering, too large pilasters with the tiny crown and no collar.

In a case like this it’s best to tear out the overmantel, patch the wall and either paint it or install a more appropriately sized overmantel in its place.

What the above room has going for it are the beautiful picture windows and those gorgeous, swaggy drapes.  The overmantel competes with the window treatment for dominance, when the windows should clearly be the room’s focal point.

So let’s start building a proper overmantel, step by step.

 

Materials Needed to Make this Overmantel

[Find more detail about each of these moldings on our DIY Molding Inventory page.]

This portion of the overmantel is called an eared architrave, and it is made from these three simple moldings.

wall frame moldings for eared architrave

Parts of the eared architrave.

PM-012

Use a panel molding like this for the inner wall frame.

More about PM-012 here >>

how to install moldings

$7.89/8′ stick (3 ea.) = $23.67

PM-005

This panel molding comes both primed and unprimed, it does not matter which one you buy.

More about PM-005 here >>

how to install moldings

$8.80/8′ stick (4 ea.) = $35.20

MDF-200

Use this for the eared architrave backband, the entablature frieze, hood and top.

It should cost $9.25 (1 ea. 2′ X 4′ Pre-Cut MDF Board from Home Depot) = $9.25.

If you are going to build FIREPLACE-102 at the same time as you build your overmantel, then you may have enough left over to use on your overmantel.

But if you find some other flat-stock to use, just make sure you stick close to 1/2″ thick since that’s a pretty important design feature.

More about MDF-200 here >>

CM-008-1

This foam dentil crown molding makes up the main part of the entablature.  You can use any number of crown moldings here to make it your own design.  Just try to keep the crown molding drop and projection close to the same as this.

foam crown molding how to install

$17.31/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $17.31

CM-005

The crown molding wraps around the entablature hood.

More about CM-005 here >>

crown molding small pine material lowes

$11.96/8′ stick (1 ea.) = $11.96

 

How to Install the Eared Architrave Moldings

This part of the installation is pretty straight-forward, so there’s not much to say other than sketch your layout lines on the wall and then wrap the moldings around them.

how to install diy fireplace overmantel molidngs

I installed the smallest molding first so I could use it to guide the layout of the eared portion of the architrave.

How to install moldings

The width between the two moldings is about 2″.  You can play with that dimension by about an inch more, but I wouldn’t go farther out than that.

how to install moldings

You can see how I added the flat-stock backband to the ogee molding first.  That allowed me to install them together, and that saved me a bit of time.

how to install moldings

how to install wall moldings

how to install moldings above a fireplace

Now just add the vertical moldings and repeat the eared architrave sequence at the top.

how to install moldings in a great room

how to install moldings in a great room

The fireplace mantel you see here is FIREPLACE MANTEL-101.  I’ll be starting the installation post for it when I’m finished with the overmantel.

how to install wall moldings

For some reason I don’t remember, I didn’t install the last few pieces of architrave molding until after I built and installed the entablature.  So this is all I’ve got for now.

See how easy this is so far?

how to install moldings

If you have any questions about how to build the architrave portion of the overmantel, then please use the comment section below.  I respond to all comments on The Joy of Moldings.


 

Posts in This Series

1.  How to Build OVRMANTEL-100 for About $87.39 Part 1

2.  How to Build OVERMANTEL-100 Part 2: Entablature

3.  Before & After: Great Room Fireplace Overmantel

4. How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-103 Series

4. How to Build FIREPLACE MANTEL-103 Series

4 Responses to How to Make OVERMANTEL-100 for About $87.39: Part 1

  1. Dell August 10, 2012 at 6:15 PM #

    Awesome Tutorial! Thank you so much for writing it. I’m still intimidated by diy moulding projects, but with each of your projects I’m getting more confident. I scored an awesome craigslist find of about hundred pieces of trim and moulding from what turned out to be a custom cabinet maker. They’re so beautiful and so many types, I’ve been too overwhelmed to build with them. I had NO idea the sheer amount of moulding and trim types. Your site is awesome Ken. Thanks again!
    Dell

  2. Ken August 10, 2012 at 6:47 PM #

    What a stroke of luck nabbing those moldings from Craigslist. I used to hunt around in the random length, extra molding bins at my local cabinet and molding shops, and look for anything unique I could include on some installation. It was there that I found the leftover base cap moldings from a local historic home restoration project. There was just enough to do my master bedroom with. I was so taken with the idea that my base cap moldings had local, historic significance, that I wanted all of my moldings to have the same meaning — and here we are!

    Dell, you’ve got all the right kind of motivation to do great work. Keep at it and keep in touch!

  3. Brian September 1, 2012 at 11:55 AM #

    Ken, this project inspired me to do some research on the Mount Pleasant estate in Philly. I’m amazed at the craftsmanship in America prior to the Revolution. I noticed that the overmantels in the dining room and the drawing room at Mount Pleasant had rosettes in each corner of the architrave. As you laid out the design on the wall, you had annotated rosettes for each corner; however, the finished product had no rosettes. Was this your client’s preference or your artistic license? Just curious. By the way, your cite is fabulous. I’m learning tons.
    Brian

  4. Ken September 1, 2012 at 3:47 PM #

    Yes Brian, I designed that overmantel with rosettes in mind. The folks I built it for ultimately decided against the rosettes. Oh well.

    It looks like you’re getting the molding bug, too. Researching moldings in historic homes is a sure sign that how you see moldings will forever be changed. You can never again not notice them, either their presence or their absence.

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