• Brock

Brock's Bench #5 - Building a Custom Fireplace Surround and Mantel

Who knew that fireplace surrounds were made of so many pieces?! When we were asked to create a custom surround and mantel for this fireplace, we were ecstatic. We were given free rein to build it as we saw fit, according to the space available. The first step is to measure everything, I can't stress enough how important it is to check every angle and measurement, no matter how small or insignificant you might think it is at first; that measurement may come in handy later.

After measuring, the next step is to sketch the whole thing out on paper. It doesn't have to be an exact scaled model, but visualizing your concept makes you see it from a new perspective and allows you to plan accordingly. In the case of this surround, we used some really nice Poplar as our wood of choice. It's light, it sands well, and doesn't have many imperfections. We sourced the lumber from a local, family-owned business, in Upstate New York. The molding was purchased from this great company in Connecticut that we love working with, they do an outstanding job supplying us with top-notch ornate pieces. After the lumber is cut to size we assembled our columns and linked them together to effectively create our fireplace "surround", from there we built outward. You'll see in this picture that the dentil molding and some blocking was added to give the columns some depth to start. You'll want to measure for your crown molding and mantel top first before adding the blocking and dentil in this case.

After that was taken care of, we went ahead and united our mantel and columns. At this point, the build really starts to come together, it looks like a real hearth. When we secured the mantel to the columns, we drove 3-1/2" screws through the top and covered the holes with dowels we made. After sanding those down, the mantel is 100% smooth again and can be prepped for priming and painting. You can also see on the columns, we added a bit of detail thereby creating a picture frame so they weren't just flat faces.

Okay, this was admittedly the trickiest part of the surround. Crown molding, especially this 7" behemoth that we went with, can tend to be a little unruly. Luckily, we don't back down from a challenge and after a good deal of sanding, gluing, and elbow grease, we fixed all the crown and base molding. The base molding was a breeze compared to the crown, thankfully. Now at this stage, with all the pieces assembled, we took off our column brace, stood the whole thing up and got to work priming it.

If you want the best result from painting possible, you have to prime and sand before you paint. Primer lets the paint adhere evenly and properly while sanding after the primer dries gives you a chance to even out any ugly spots that may have revealed themselves. As you can see here, we have the surround and mantel mounted to the wall. By using blocking, you can screw through the sides of your columns; just remember to keep a bit of extra trim on hand to cover up those holes when you're done.