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Level Up Your DIY Skills with a Floating Fireplace Mantel

floating fireplace mantel

Every living room is different, but some of the best living rooms have one design element in common: a fireplace. A great fireplace is the focal point of the room where families spend the most time. It is a beacon of warmth and relaxation. Families can count on their fireplace whenever it is freezing outside to give them the comfort they desire.

Of course, fireplaces don’t come in a single design. There are many varieties of fireplace designs. They may have different fuel types, shapes, or ventilation. However, the design element that tends to have the most character is the mantel. The mantel of a fireplace is the most important aesthetic feature. While some fireplaces have standard mantels surrounding them, floating mantels are also a beautiful option.

This post will cover many facts you need to know about floating mantels. It will also break down the steps necessary to build and install one of these with your own hands. 

In this post, you will learn:

  • The Main Difference Between a Floating Fireplace Mantel and a Standard Fireplace Mantel? – Here, we’ll talk about what separates floating mantels from standard mantels.
  • Why Should You Build a Floating Mantel Instead of Purchasing One? – We cover all the benefits you’ll get from building a floating mantel yourself instead of purchasing one.
  • What Materials Should You Choose When Building a Floating Fireplace Mantel?– In this section, we talk about why choosing the right materials is essential.
  • How Do Homeowners Build a Floating Fireplace Mantel For a Home Improvement Project? – Here, we give you a basic walkthrough of building and installing one of these mantels.
  • Can You Buy a Prebuilt Fireplace Mantel Instead of Building a Floating Mantel? – We explore why buying a prebuilt mantel may be a better option if you don’t want to build a custom mantel.
  • The Weaknesses of Using a Wood-Burning or Gas-Burning Fireplace? – We cover two popular fuel types and explain why they aren’t the wisest choice.
  • The Strengths of Electric Fireplaces Over Other Fireplace Types? – The advantages of quality electric fireplaces.
  • Is an Electric Insert the Best Fireplace Choice for a Floating Fireplace Mantle? – Read here to discover why versatile electric inserts should be on your radar.
  • The Difference Between the MagikFlame Insert and MagikFlame’s Other Fireplace Models? – MagikFlame is undoubtedly one of the best brands of electric fireplaces, but how does their insert model compare?

What is the main difference between a floating fireplace mantel and a standard fireplace mantel?

When you picture fireplace mantels in your head, it is normal to picture the most common type of open-hearth fireplace with a full fireplace surround. A fireplace surround like this will have the mantel on top, and will be supported by a column on either side.

Floating mantels are slightly different. Floating mantels don’t include these columns in their design. Instead, they are securely attached to the wall above a fireplace. This gives them the appearance that they are floating. Sometimes the mantel is secured directly to the wall without corbels. However, it is common to have a corbel on either side of the mantel for aesthetics and additional support.

Although floating mantels are placed above most fireplaces, there are some times when it is more appropriate to install the mantel below a fireplace. This would be with wall-hanging fireplaces, linear fireplaces, or fireplaces that are embedded into the wall a few feet off the ground. In instances like this, floating mantels look great attached below the fireplace rather than attached above it. However, because the mantel is below the fireplace, decorations should be limited to a few smaller items rather than large items that will block the view of the flames. These wall-mounted varieties of fireplaces are typically electric and sometimes gas. It is rare to see a fireplace in this style that burns wood for fuel.

Why should you build a floating mantel instead of purchasing one?

Home décor and interior design can look great simply by purchasing items. However, sometimes that isn’t enough. If you want a home to feel like it belongs to you and that you’ll appreciate more, you need to take on some projects to improve the space.

Whether you have just received the keys to your new home, or are spicing up your existing home with a remodel, the fireplace is a great place to work with your hands. Unlike some projects around the house requiring professionals to take care of them, adding a new mantel as a focal point to your fireplace is surprisingly straightforward.

If you’ve just bought a home, it is the perfect time to build and install a custom mantelpiece as a style foundation for the rest of the decorating. Additionally, if you are doing a makeover of a fireplace that is already in your home, then you can tear down that old mantelpiece that came with the house and build one from scratch. Either way, you’ll appreciate walking into that room and seeing your beautiful work each day. You can take pride in a part of your home that your hands were involved in building.

Often, building a custom mantel is cheaper than purchasing a mantel or hiring a professional to build a mantel for you. Because of the cheaper cost of doing the labor yourself, you can put those savings into higher quality materials or purchasing a high-end fireplace.

One of the greatest advantages of building a custom mantel is that it truly is custom. You can select the material that perfectly matches your décor. You can choose the perfect corbels to support your mantel and match your other accessories. The exact style of the mantel is yours to create as you see fit. The mantel can be as minimalist or ornate as you want it to be.

If you are still unsure if building your mantel is right for you, go online and search for a tutorial on the process. With the help of YouTube, you can see videos of professionals and amateurs building their custom mantels and installing them. Once you see another person do it, especially people who aren’t professionals, you’ll have a better feel for just how viable the project is.

What materials should you choose when building a floating fireplace mantel?

Having the right material is essential for floating mantels. Because there aren’t legs, the material of the floating piece is even more important. Typically, most floating mantels are wooden. While a stone fireplace can rarely have a cast stone mantel as part of its design, even stone fireplaces tend to have a wood mantel design. This is the same for a brick fireplace. Typically brick fireplaces have wood mantel designs as well.

Due to the floating nature, a rustic wood fireplace mantel is popular. Rustic materials include pine wood, alder, barn wood, and others. You can use heavier solid wood like oak; however, the heavier the rustic mantel is, the more important good mantel support is.

Whether you go with rustic alder, rustic solid pine, rustic barn wood, or something else, you also need to consider how much material you want to show. Do you want a thinner wood mantel shelf for your rustic fireplace mantel? What about a beam mantel? A beam mantel is a solid-looking wood beam. It will look like a larger block of wood against the wall.

While the mantel can be a single, solid piece of wood, this doesn’t have to be the case. To keep a beam lighter, you can use planks to build a box mantel that looks like a beam. Cutting the plank edges at 45-degree angles allows them to meet flawlessly against each other for a perfect top and bottom edge to the beam. The entire inside of this box is hollow, and a plank isn’t necessary for the back since it will be set against the wall. Having a beam hollow like this makes it lighter for securely mounting the mantel to the wall. It will also cost less to purchase the materials. This can be a significant difference if you choose an expensive wood.

You can also try hand-hewn woodwork for a rural log cabin or hunting lodge aesthetic. Hand-hewn woodwork is when you take a long log and carve it down to a mantel using a hatchet, chisel, or other simple hand tools. For a job like this, you want to see the imperfections your work. There is no need to make it perfectly smooth. Seeing the little cuts and carvings in the wood gives it a lot of character. If you attempt something like this, make sure your tools are sharpened to reduce the chance of injury. Most accidents happen when tools aren’t sharp enough, and more force is required to get a good cut. Tools that are sharpened properly allow for more control and precision.

Engineered wood is also an option. These will be things like MDF. MDF is an engineered wood made from wood fibers. It is usually cheaper than buying real wood and typically lighter. Of course, to make it look anything like real wood, laminate sheets will need to be applied to the outer surface of your mantel. These laminate sheets usually look bad, so working with real wood is advisable.

How do homeowners build a floating fireplace mantel for a home improvement project?

Each mantel is going to vary in the actual work that will be needed to get the aesthetic that you prefer. However, here are the basics of the steps that you will be taking:

  • Gather Inspiration – The best place to start is by collecting inspiring photos of fireplace mantels like the one you are interested in. It is unlikely that you will find one that you want to copy exactly. Instead, you can find two or three mantels you like and combine elements from them. You will also want to do some research on this step. Check to see what style of mantel your inspiration is categorized as. See what type of wood or other material the mantel is made from. If you haven’t yet watched a tutorial or two, now would be the right time to do that too.

  • Create a Plan – It is time to create the design of your mantel. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest artist. However, you need to be able to draw the basic shape of the mantel that you want. Make sure to measure out your fireplace and write down the measurements of your mantel to match. You will use this when cutting wood in the next step. This step is also where you want to consider your mounting options and include that in your plan.

  • Gather Materials – It’s time to get all the materials you need together. Source the wood or other material you will be using. Pick your corbel pieces if you choose to have them. Get everything you need to mount the mantel. Additionally, ensure you have the tools, wood glue, nails, screws, safety gear, and other items you’ll need during the mantel’s construction. Make your list and triple-check that you have everything you’ll need. It will be a pain if you have to stop in the middle of the build to run to the hardware store for something you forgot.

  • Build The Fireplace Mantel Shelf – This is where you build the basic mantel. If you are building a beam-style mantel box out of planks, measure and cut carefully. Try to get a perfect seam on the corners using strong wood glue and clamps. Don’t be afraid to use a Brad Nailer to secure the pieces or thin-gauge nails used for binding pieces together. The nails can be sealed afterward so that they aren’t visible. Don’t use heavy-gauge nails. They don’t look good. Thin Brad Nails and wood glue should do all the work for you.

  • Sand The Wood – After your mantel is built, it needs to be sanded. Before sanding, you can use a chisel or hammer to make small marks and imperfections to give it a handcrafted look. You can use the chisel to carve out some space along the grain to give the grain a deeper groove. These deeper grooves add a huge amount of charm and texture. Once you start sanding, switch to finer and finer sandpaper until you have a relatively smooth surface.

  • Finish The Mantel – Finish the mantel with a stain, paint, or whatever treatment you have chosen. Make sure to reference the inspiration that you gathered. Notice if they used lighter or darker stains, or some other way to finish the mantel.

  • Mount The Mantel – It is time to mount it on the wall. With stone walls, you can drill holes directly into them. For drywall, you need to mount directly to the wooden studs inside the wall. Regardless if you built a mantel box to give the illusion of a beam or have a solid piece of wood for a beam, you might want to add heavy duty corbels for extra support. You can place a heavy duty corbel at either end of the mantel. Corbel pieces add an aesthetic element beyond simply supporting the mantel on the wall. If you have an extremely long mantel, you can consider adding a corbel right below the center. If you do this, you need to place the mantel slightly higher to allow for that center corbel to be installed.

Can you buy a prebuilt fireplace mantel instead of building a floating mantel?

While websites like Amazon can have mantels shown as best sellers, chances are that the mantels aren’t the best quality. Amazon’s best sellers are almost always the cheapest products. This is unacceptable for anyone who cares about quality mantels in their home.

If you decide against building a custom mantel and would rather purchase a high-quality mantel for your fireplace, browse the vast selection at Pearl Mantels. They have several great mantels to choose from. You might find one that is exactly what you wanted without the need to build it. For those that want to take on the adventure of building a custom mantel, Pearl Mantels is still a great resource to look for inspiration. You can see many styles of mantels in one place.

What are the weaknesses of using a wood-burning or gas-burning fireplace?

Wood-burning fireplaces are quickly becoming a relic of the past. Due to their safety issues with both fire and breathing hazards, new homes are rarely found with a wood fireplace in them. Most areas have them completely banned in new homes. The work to install them is tedious for the regions where they aren’t banned. An architect has to design it and make sure plans are up to code. Then a contractor needs to build it to ensure it is done perfectly. It isn’t worth it because you still have so much hassle involved with using this type of fireplace.

Gas fireplaces are not too much of an improvement. While these fireplace types burn their fuel slightly cleaner than burning wood, safety is still an issue. The burning gas is still a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide is still a breathing hazard. Additionally, gas fireplaces are aesthetically boring. Flames don’t flicker properly and lack the color of a traditional fireplace.

What are the strengths of electric fireplaces over other fireplace types?

An electric fireplace is a perfect solution. These can be installed in any room, like the dining room, office, and more. If you want an electric fireplace in the dining room, all that is required is a wall outlet nearby. They don’t have any of the safety problems that other fireplaces have. You get all the things you love with traditional fireplaces without any of the safety issues, hassles, and more that come with them.

Is an electric insert the best fireplace choice for a floating fireplace mantle?

While many great electric fireplaces come with mantels, they aren’t ideal if you build a custom mantel in your home. For a custom mantel, you will want an electric insert. Inserts are primarily for converting wood and gas-fueled fireplaces into electric varieties. It is easy to install them into the firebox. However, if you build a custom mantel, the versatility of the insert can help you. Use an insert under a mantel where the firebox would be. Since you can customize a mantel to fit an insert perfectly, you don’t need to add filler like you might for an existing fireplace conversion.

What is the difference between the MagikFlame insert and MagikFlame’s other fireplace models?

A high-quality MagikFlame Insert is just as powerful as every other MagikFlame model. The sole difference is that an insert doesn’t include a mantel. Inserts still have all these features:

  • Beautiful Ultrarealistic Fire Effects
  • Incredible Crackling Log Sounds
  • Efficient 5,200 BTU Heat
  • Effortless Premium Smartphone App

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only. While we strive to ensure accuracy, there may be errors, omissions, or discrepancies. The author and publisher make no warranties about the accuracy, reliability, or suitability of the information contained herein.

Product specifications and features are subject to change without notice and may vary from actual products available. Readers should consult the manufacturer or retailer directly for the most up-to-date information, installation requirements, safety guidelines, and warranty details.

The author and publisher shall not be liable for any loss, damage, or inconvenience caused by reliance on this information. The use of any information provided is at the reader’s own risk.

Please note that some links may be affiliate links, and we may earn a commission from purchases made through these links. This does not impact our editorial content or recommendations.

For questions or concerns, please contact the manufacturer or retailer directly.

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