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The Functional Simplicity of the Fireplace Mantle

how to remove a fireplace mantle

The Functional Simplicity of the Fireplace Mantle

Have you recently purchased an older home, a 20th-century abode, or perhaps the home you have resided in for years needs a refreshing update that demands minimal investment and time? Cast your home improvement vision onto the existing fireplace for a marvelous focal point to reap this reward. Furthermore, the altering of one simple plank can work wonders and leave you with profound homeowner’s self-esteem in this ambition.

Now that you have focused on your fireplace, take note of that feature alluded to, the fireplace mantel. They range from a simple oak wood mantel or other hardwood planks to an intricately designed masterpiece of art, spanning the width of the fireplace itself. This simple interior design item warrants an awful lot of attention for such a seemingly negligible item.

If the DIY suggestion has left you with your mouth hanging open in abject fear, it’s likely that your fireplace mantle gets a periodic update or remodel by a contractor or interior designer. However, if you’ve been hiring someone else to complete this piece of construction handiwork for you, perhaps it is time for you to consider this simple — yet meaningful — weekend DIY on how to remove a fireplace mantle yourself.

Although a brick fireplace is the most common variety of structures in houses of all ages, there is the occasional stucco fireplace and even rock fireplace scattered throughout all houses that feature a fireplace. It is possible that your family room or living room still features a pot-bellied stove or an old cast-iron stove which do occasionally extend from a brick structure and also feature a mantel.

Fireplace Mantels as Shelving

Many people do not consider the viability of mantels as useful shelving. Contemporary home design currently tends to way-too-often devote the top of the fireplace to the flat-screen television. Although the elevated television option is still feasible with a mantel in place, a gorgeous array of designs can be added all-around your brick: floating shelves that add more 3-D appeal to the brick, where valuable heirlooms or even kitschy clocks and knick-knacks flourish. However, we have digressed from our original mission of removing/replacing a worn mantel.

Are You Satisfied With Your Fireplace Mantel?

It is surprising just how drastic a change that altering your home fireplace or refreshing/refurbishing this one focal point can make in your living space. Whether or not you have recently painted your fireplace, you can remove that fireplace mantel using the following steps:

If your mantel is attached to a brick or rock fireplace facing:

Arm yourself with elbow grease and don some clothing that can be easily surrendered if you tear or stain them. You should always wear protective eyewear when doing woodworking or other DIY projects. Gloves are optional but can protect your hands from splinters and lessen the pain of a maligned hammer/mallet blow.

Now that you look much like a modern-day Tim Allen, grab these tools:

  • a long-arm crowbar a/k/a pry bar
  • a heavy-duty hammer
  • a container to catch dislodged screws, bolts, or dowel pieces
  • a rubber mallet
  • A flathead screwdriver
  • a tube of putty may come in handy if you need gap filler.

Always keep on hand a canvas or durable drop cloth that you spread around the fireplace to protect your flooring or carpeting.

  • If you are able to squeeze the short end of the pry bar or crowbar between the wall and the mantel, do so and gently begin pressure to pull the mantel from the brick.
  • If there is not space to squeeze the pry bar in between, use the mallet to gently pound upward to loosen it. Pound gently but with enough force to loosen the bolts or lag screws holding it to the brick or rocks. This is where you may be able to use the flathead screwdriver to start a wedge between the mantel and the brick.
  • As you work, watch closely to assure that you are not losing large chunks of the brick or rocks along with the bolts or lag screws.
  • In most cases, the mantel will generally pull away from the face of the fireplace. Be careful to not drop one end of the beam while pulling the other. You may wish to have someone help you with this step.
  • It is likely that your existing beam featured corbels, which are almost always weight-bearing braces that help support the lateral feature of the mantel. There are occasions wherein these brace-like features are more decorative than functional, but in most cases, the purpose of these “brackets” is to help hold up the weight of the shelf.
  • If your mantel shelf features corbels, they can be removed in pretty much the same manner as the shelf, using the same procedure. Extensive apparatuses such as cleats are occasionally but rarely used. If you encounter a cleat, in most cases they can be efficiently removed using the screwdriver or your power drill.

The above process is basically the same if the mantel or floating shelf was attached to drywall or sheetrock, although it is not a common placement for a mantel. If this is the case, you will need to truly go at this process even more delicately and diligently to avoid causing extensive damage to the wall. It is always wise to keep a supply of filler or putty on hand for any such “accidents.”

What’s the Next Step?

The next step hinges upon your intentions for your fireplace. Will you be attaching another mantel or are you hoping to do away with the mantel altogether? Perhaps you plan to add floating shelves instead or change the size and style of the existing mantel.

After the existing mantel is removed, it will leave evidence that it was there, i.e. think about how you experience those dreaded “tan lines” in summer. The brick or surface that has been covered by the beam itself will appear less worn than the facing that has been exposed. However, you will also have holes and possibly small chips off the surface from the removal process. If your surface was drywall, as mentioned above, it is likely that you may be looking at resurfacing the area altogether.

removing a fireplace mantle

In Case You Want to Take That Stylistic Upgrade or Remodel a Bit Farther

Fireplace upgrades and refurbishment options are much more limitless than you may realize. Whether or not you have updated the fascia of your old fireplace with a refreshing paint job, or if you have solely replaced an outdated mantel shelf with a floating mantel or none at all, there is another option that is even more holistic, but not daunting. Perhaps just what you need is a fireplace insert by MagikFlame.

What is a fireplace insert? A fireplace insert is pretty much what the words say: it is a manufactured fireplace that is designed to be inserted inside an existing masonry fireplace. The purpose of these clever inventions is to provide more production of viable heat while at the same time reducing mess, smoke, and the typical labor involved in maintaining the traditional wood-burning fireplace. Fireplace inserts are available in wood, gas, electric, or pellet-burning form. The gas and electric varieties are very popular due to the convenience of a fire at the flip of a switch. They are also less likely to cause any air quality issues.

MagikFlame Can Help You Decide Upon the Best Model for Your Purposes

Let’s return to our original discussion about removing and/or replacing your fireplace mantel. Here are some matters to consider:

  • Do you need a mantel when you have a fireplace insert? In most cases, fireplace inserts are manufactured with something called a fireplace surround a/k/a fire surround. This means that the entire fascia of the apparatus is included with the kit. These often have a width at the top that will function as a mantel. Think of it as an entire fireplace makeover.
  • If finances are a concern, the entire installation can be surprisingly affordable with payment plans like those outlined.
  • Although you may prefer to simply upgrade your mantel and keep your existing wood-burning firebox, it may be wise to consider an insert for more long-term safety and efficiency.
  • Factors to consider when doing a pricing and installation comparison include these attributes of the MagikFlame products: these fireplace inserts feature thirty (30) ultra-realistic flames, a built-In 5,200 BTU heater, and crackling log sounds. The company was created and founded by Howard Birnbaum, whose extensive background in special effects in the film industry provided the catalyst for the realistic flames that you can mute and unmute at your bequest.
  • Ultimately, you can find every answer you may need with our Magikflame electric fireplace buying guide.

What if You Want to Keep Mantel Shelves or Floating Shelves and an Insert?

This option is certainly possible! A variety of fireplace insert sizes are available, which gives you several more options to explore:

  • 1. Keep the original brick fireplace == either natural or painted == and remove and replace that mantel as explained above. You can then obtain a small wood-burning insert that fits in your particular firebox. You may also choose to change it to a gas fireplace insert, a pellet-burning, or choose an electric fireplace if that suits your needs.
  • 2. Remove the mantel(s) and appendages yourself and purchase an entire fireplace surround, thereby using the top of the surround as your new mantel.
  • 3. Stay with your traditional fireplace, and perhaps just change the mantel to give a fresh look, while keeping your wood-burning firebox. You can find information in the blog at MagikFlame on how to paint the fireplace if you want to provide a fresh new fascia to it.

Time for Reflection

At the end of this process, you will find yourself in the perfect position to bask in the reflective glow of your fire surround and overall fireplace makeover. Now you are warm, fashionable, are saving money over time, and your confidence in being a weekend Do-It-Yourself warrior has increased.

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