fireplace mantel diyTraditional Style

For lack of a better, catchier name, I call this a faux fireplace mantel.

It was created to give this small living room the charm of a fireplace where there isn’t an actual chimney.

And prior to this one I’d never seen such a thing. But there it was. And I thought it the best idea!

Not pictured is the hearth I built for it that holds a beautiful candelabra.

Before I Gave it a Molding Facelift

The homeowner built the first version of this mantel himself long before he hired me as his finish carpenter. I’d been installing a large three-piece crown molding on his 18′ tall great room ceiling (see the great room here) when he asked me if I had any ideas on how to upgrade his faux fireplace.

custom fireplace mantel michigan

finish carpentry

Ideas? Of course I had ideas. I always have ideas!

He did a great job building a well-proportioned box from plywood that the moldings are wrapped around. He did a great job selecting the scroll and urn ornament for the frieze. But he admitted he didn’t like anything else about his own handy work.

So here’s what I did.

Materials I Used & Installation Sequence

I rebuilt this mantel with scrap moldings I had lying around, so I don’t have an exact price to give you. But if you were to build your own with all new moldings and mdf, it wouldn’t cost you much — probably about $150.00.

After removing all of the original moldings from the box, I installed new moldings in this order.

easy fireplace plans

1. Scriber

scriber molding

CA-001  A scriber molding wraps around the opening of an architectural surround. In this case it’s the fire box.

More about CA-001 here >>

2. Pedestals

classical pedestals

To make the pedestal foundation I wrapped 1/2″ thick mdf board around the front and side of the box. Then I wrapped a baseboard molding around the bottom, then a crown molding near the top capped off with a cornice.

Pedestal Foundation

MDF-200  This is 1/2″ thick mdf flat-stock wrapped around the corner of the box.

More about MDF-200 here >>

Pedestal Baseboard


More about CA-004 here >>

Pedestal Crown


More about CM-010 here >>>

Pedestal Cap

MDF-200  The pedestal cap is what the pilasters sit on top of. It is made from a piece of 1/2″ thick mdf with a panel molding detail covering the exposed edge.  You don’t need much, so just use some scraps.

More about MDF-200 here >>

PM-001  I wrapped the flat-stock mdf edge with this panel molding.

More about PM-001 here >>

3. Pilasters

For a full step by step pilaster installation sequence, see PILASTER-104. The specific profiles are different, but the assembly process is the same.

The pilasters consist of these parts from bottom to top: base, shaft, capital.

Pilaster Plinth

MDF-200 This is just some scrap 1/2″ mdf board that I used for the plinths.

More about MDF-200 here >>

PM-002  A panel molding that is most often used on the inside of wainscoting panels, but is the perfect profile for a proper classical pilaster base.

More about PM-002 here >>

Fluted Pilasters

CA-003  I wanted a narrower fluted pilaster than what the stock 4″ wide molding provided, so I trimmed about 1/4″ off each side of CA-003.

If I remember correctly, I may have even trimmed a bit out of the middle. In any case, make sure your pilaster width is not so wide that your pilasters look bulky. They should be delicate like these.

More about CA-003 here >>

Pilaster Capitals

The capitals are made by wrapping the following two moldings around a 1/2″ thick piece of mdf board:

PM-004  The collar, sometimes called the necking, is made from this small molding.

More about PM-004 here >>

CM-005  This is the small crown molding that finishes the pilaster.

More about CM-005 here >>

4. Frieze

MDF-200  I wrapped this entire section with 1/2″ thick mdf for two reasons:

  1. the plywood box below it was in pretty rough condition. So I gave it a fresh face.
  2. I wanted the ornate panel to be recessed into the frieze, not sitting on top.

More about MDF-200 here >

5. Ornate Panel

This beautiful panel is made from foam material and is one of the nicest mass-produced and affordable ornaments I’ve ever seen. It is molded as a single piece that is about 1/2″ thick.

I’ll post the specifics when I find the manufacturer again.

cameo fireplace ornament

To paint the cameo, I first painted two coats of finish paint (Benjamin Moore, White Dove) on the entire mantel, except for the inner flat and ornament.

Then I painted two coats of the tan background with a flat finish. Don’t worry about getting the tan background paint on the ornament. Then I painted the cameo with the trim paint. Two coats. Use lots of Floetrol for all steps.

6. Hood

I used the client’s original flat-stock plywood hood to make the new one.

PM-007  The edge of the original flat-stock was rough so I added a panel molding to finish it off.

More about PM-007 here >>

7. Crown Molding

CM-008.1  I used a dentil crown molding here, but you don’t have to. You could use an acanthus leaf motif, or, use a regular, unornamented crown molding.

More about CM-008.1 here >>