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How To Build A Quick And Easy Fireplace Overmantel

I finished the basic build on my fireplace overmantel, and now I just have to wood fill, sand, caulk, prime, and paint. Oh, and I also need to add crown moulding around the top. I had hoped to finish that up last night, but Home Depot was completely out of the trim that I needed, so I’ll have wait on that.

My fireplace is electric. It’s mainly for looks, but it does put out heat if we need supplemental heating during the winter. I built the fireplace from scratch, and you can find that tutorial here. Then a while later, I decided to give the fireplace a makeover so that it was more traditional in style. I’ve had the fireplace almost two years now, and I’ve been waiting all that time to be able to build the overmantel. I had to wait for all of those awful polystyrene tiles to be removed from the ceiling, and for this room to be re-drywalled. So after waiting two years, I’m finally able to get this fireplace finished!

Here’s what my new overmantel looks like so far…

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It’s basically just a box with some trim on the front. 🙂 I decided against the slatted design, and decided to keep it super simple with just one large framed area on the front. It’s the perfect frame for a piece of artwork without making things too fussy.

This was a really quick and easy build. I started by attaching 2 x 4’s supports to the wall using my framing nail gun. Remember, I have shiplap under my drywall, so I can shoot nails anywhere and they’ll hit wood. If you want to build something like this, and your walls are just drywall, you’ll need to either find studs, or use wall anchors.

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Next I nailed 2 x 8’s to the outside edges of the 2 x 4’s, also using my framing nail gun.

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These 2 x 8’s created the depth of the overmantel.

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And to finish up the basic box, I added 2 x 4’s between the 2 x 8’s, making them flush on the front.

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The ONLY reason I used 2 x 4’s for this was because it’s what I had on hand. If I had had a large enough piece of 3/4-inch sanded plywood or MDF to cover the front, I would have used that. I didn’t have any sanded plywood or MDF, but what I did have was a big stack of 2 x 4’s, so that’s what I used. I just needed something substantial to form the front of the box, and I had plenty of drywall on hand that could be used to cover these 2 x 4’s to give me a smooth front. Note that if I had used 3/4-inch MDF or sanded plywood to form the front of the box, drywall wouldn’t have been needed.

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But since I used 2 x 4’s to form the front of my box, I did need to add drywall to the front to give my box a smooth surface.

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And then I covered the sides with 1/2-inch MDF that covered the edge of the drywall.

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Note that if I had decided to go with the slatted design on the front, I would have added my slats BEFORE cutting and attaching the MDF to the sides, and the MDF would have needed to be 1/4-inch deeper to cover the edges of the slats on front.

With the basic box finished out, I just needed to add the trim to the front. I used 1 x 4 MDF boards, and attached the vertical boards first.

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And then I attached another 1 x 4 MDF board horizontally on the bottom. For the top, I needed a wider board because I wanted the same 3.5-inch reveal all the way around, but the top will eventually have crown moulding. So if I had just used a 1 x 4 right up against the ceiling, most of that would have been covered by crown moulding. So I had to measure how far down the crown moulding would come, and then add a wide enough board far enough down on the overmantel so that I would end up with a 3.5-inch reveal to match the other three sides after the crown moulding is installed.

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And then finally, I added the trim around the inside of the frame.

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This trim is called Base Cap, and it’s the exact trim that I used on the fireplace, so it helps to tie the overmantel in with the fireplace design.

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And that’s it for now. Like I said, it’s basically just a fancied up box. 🙂 I still have quite a bit of finish work to do, and the crown moulding will also really help to finish out the look.

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I think it’s going to be beautiful once it’s all finished out, crowned, and painted all one color.

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And no, I still haven’t decided which color it’ll be. But I must say, I was SHOCKED at how many of you liked the mock up that my mom did with the GREEN fireplace!! 😀 I certainly wasn’t expecting so many of you to like it! I personally love it, but I’m still working out the design of this room in my head, so I really have no idea at this point which direction I’ll go with the fireplace color.

UPDATE: The fireplace overmantel isn’t quite finished, but I did finally get the crown moulding installed around the top.

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  1. Holy Crow! You really move!

    Question: Did you glue the MDF to the ply? And is that to cover nail holes etc so you can just directly paint it? (Sorry…still learning.)

    Also… I completely speed read the FP color post and never saw the your mom’s green idea…which is SUPER intriguing. When you get closer to deciding…(you probably already know this) but you can get a really accurate preview by uploading your photo into the paint co’s visualizers and select the area you want to “paint” (even furniture/pillows). You can try any color they make without even getting a bush wet.

    Can’t wait to see what you do next!!

    1. I actually used small 18-gauge finishing nails in my nail gun to attach the MDF to the 2 x 8’s, and I’ll just fill those small holes with wood filler and sand smooth. The reason I covered those 2 x 8’s is because they weren’t pretty enough or smooth enough to actually serve as the finished surface of the sides of the overmantel. The 2 x 8’s just served as the frame, but I needed something much smoother and paintable for the finished surface. And I really love MDF for that purpose because it’s so smooth and looks beautiful when painted. But I could have used sanded plywood as well. The only thing I don’t like about plywood is that the wood grain texture sometimes shows through the paint no matter how much it’s sanded. So I stick with MDF when I can for things that will be painted, and only use plywood when the added strength is needed. On this, the 2 x 8 gave the needed strength to the box, so the 1/2-inch MDF was purely decorative.

  2. So happy you chose the style that looks like a continuation of your fireplace. And it will be perfect with your mother’s painting. You could wait until you have all the room finished before deciding on a color for your fireplace. And the green might begin to look gaudy with the coral buffet, yellow piano, etc. You will be able to know much better once the room is finished, so paint a temporary color with the intent of changing it if you wish.

  3. OK – I love deep saturated color, and I adore the green. My whole living room is under reconstruction right now, so I’m feeling it with you. My color will be something called yellow bronze, which is actually a green with really gold-y undertones, without becoming acidic. I love the things you’re doing here, Kristi, and I love that you’re being true to yourself. I find myself compromising: “Well, good enough,” I’ll say, but not really feel satisfied. For instance, my husband hung the second set of drapes in the bedroom half an inch lower than the first set. It’s been two years, and that has bothered me again and again, but I wasn’t willing to push him to re-do it. Good enough sometimes is NOT good enough. Stick to your guns, girl! I’m loving your progress. Wish you were my next door neighbor and we could compare notes.

    1. “… my husband hung the second set of drapes in the bedroom half an inch lower than the first set. …” Kathy you are truly a patient woman. I have such weird OCD about certain things, something like the difference in drapery height would literally keep me awake at night LOL! Also, I *really* like that Bronze Yellow color you chose, it’s a very interesting and intriguing shade, something you don’t see every day.

  4. I think you picked the perfect design! You have accomplished so much after hiring out the drywall ceiling crew. I am wondering if once the floor is cleaned and the walls and trim are painted if you will be led to the color for the fireplace. I am still leaning between white and charcoal. I think the reason I would think white is to allow the light to fill the room since you have a front porch. Good luck in finishing another room. You are amazing!!!!

  5. I think the trim work on the two side windows is something new too, isnt it? I dont recall seeing that before today. I do like what youve got done so far but I dont know about the green. What I do know is that whatever you do, it will look fantastic.

  6. This is going to look great when it all comes together! Question: To make the box, did you need all the 2x4s? Would this work by simply “framing” a box and putting up sheet rock? What was the reason for covering the entire front with 2x? I love the green! I think it goes great with the window treatments 🙂

    1. I definitely didn’t need all of the 2 x 4’s. 🙂 I could have used one at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom, and it would have been sufficient. I just did the whole thing because in my crazy mind, I liked that it was on par with the rest of the walls in my house that are completely lined with shiplap underneath the drywall. I can hang things anywhere I want without giving any thought to studs or using anchors. I liked that idea for my overmantel as well. Now I can hang anything up there (and I do love elephants! 😀 ) very easily. I could have just done the top half, since anything I hang will probably be hung on a nail or screw somewhere in the half of the frame, but it was easier to start at the bottom and stack them rather than start at the top and have to work against gravity to hold them up while nailing them in.

      1. That makes sense. I would have not thought of making sure there was something to anchor to for hanging. Good idea.

  7. Hi Kristi! I LOVE what your doing in the Dining Room but my comment today is about your web page. I know you updated it to something new/different and ever since you’ve done that I’m having a horrible time with your site. It hangs up, it won’t scroll, it’s constantly rebuilding the page, etc. etc. It’s so frustrating to the point that I just have to close it and I’m wondering if others have mentioned it to you. I’m not complaining (hope it doesn’t sound that way) because I will follow you no matter what, but more just wanting to let you know. 🙂 Even just typing this is taking forever because I have to wait for the page to draw what I’m typing. A couple friends of mine that also follow you are having the same problem. On another note — that green fireplace does hold some fun appeal. Can’t wait to see what you decide!

    1. I had the same issues. Finally had to stop scripts from running on my computer. Otherwise, I had a heck of a time on Kristi’s web site. Now I have the option to allow a script to run if I want depending on which web site I visit.

      1. I actually did try clearing my cache a couple days ago and that didn’t help. But thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

    2. Kay, I’m so sorry you’re having trouble! You’re about the fifth person to mention this to me, which means that there are many others having problems who are just leaving without saying anything. 🙁 It’s so frustrating because I really don’t know what’s causing the problem. However, I have a feeling it’s one particular ad network that is causing the problem. I just removed the ads from that company, and cleared the cache on my site. It’ll probably take a couple of hours for the cache to rebuild (which is supposed to make my site run faster), so I’m wondering if you’ll do me a favor and return later this afternoon or even this evening and tell me if you’re still experiencing the problem. I’m hoping I’ve pinpointed the problem!!

      I will say that I used to have a terrible time with my site and many other blogs on Firefox, and it was the same issue you described — not scrolling, locking up, not being able to type comments because it would print about one letter per second, etc. I finally switched to Chrome, and haven’t had the problem anymore. But just now, after removing the ads from that one ad network, I went back to Firefox to test things out, and it my site on Firefox was working just fine.

      Anyway, if you get a chance later this afternoon or this evening, I’d so appreciate it if you’d let me know if it’s working better. Thanks so much! 🙂

      1. It may be an issue related to a particular browser or version of a browser. I haven’t had a problem since the update.

      2. Oh My Goodness! I’m back and your page is working wonderfully!! I even asked my friend to try it on her machine (can you tell I’m at work….shhhhhh) and she said the same thing. It’s working great! Whatever you changed Kristi, fixed the problem! The page is loading quickly, scrolling with no problems, and I’m able to type as fast as I know how and it’s working beautifully. Thank you for taking the time to address the problem.

        1. I forgot to mention that I have both Chrome and Firefox and was having the same problem on both browsers. However, it’s now working beautifully on both! 🙂

  8. I addressed the same issue about a week ago!

    I love the overmantle and fireplace! Love the green too!
    Read an article by Alexa Hampton (my favorite interior deisgner!) and she mentioned that the more you add the same ‘color’ to a room be it wood, paint, glass metal etc. the less impact it has on the room. So the green fireplace looks really bold but if you add more green the color becomes deluted and more balanced in the room….you would think it would overwhelm the room but apparently not. That is a revelation to me; makes me feel more comfortable with more design elements in a room.

  9. Gorgeous!! So happy for you to be doing the pretty stuff!! Yeah, I piped in with a positive on the green fireplace yesterday, but now after looking again today, for some reason, I’m more drawn to the charcoal mock up your mom did. Without seeing the whole area, black music room with yellow piano, entrance with coral dresser, fabric for the dining chairs, it’s more difficult to visualize which I personally like the best. But, you do see all that, and I’m sure you will end up with a great finished product!! But in my head today, with all those other colors going on, and not to take away from the impact of the floral chairs, maybe charcoal would be my pick. It will stand out but not detract from the other pretty colors, or over saturate the area with big chunks of solid colors. Check with me tomorrow, I may change my mind again!! lol

  10. I went back to yesterday’s post to look at the update. Just for fun I altered the black photo to include a complete black wall (thinking of a couple of yesterday’s comments.


    1. Oh, boo. The photo didn’t come through. It looks really good – maybe your mom can whip up one for you.

      I do like the pic of the green but I think it might be too much in real life. That said – it’s only paint.

        1. I sent it to the address at the top of your web page. You might not recognize the email because I sent it from work. 😉

    2. Great idea and one I’d love to see myself!

      Nice continuity and the white fireplace would not only “pop” but be a beautiful counterpoint to the music room door. 🙂

      1. Once again, I had to Edit:

        I meant black wall, black & white drapes and white fireplace, with colorful art ( Kristi’s choice) above. Not black wall and black fireplace but it would be interesting to see that option . 🙂

  11. Your fireplace is looking good. I do like the idea of a contrasting color for the fireplace. My preference is the charcoal grey but the green is a pleasant surprise and will make a good companion to the cupboards in the kitchen. Go with what your gut is telling you. It’s usually not wrong.

  12. The overmantel is gorgeous and I love the style you chose. Oooohhh it is getting so exciting to see this room coming together!! P.S. The window casings look so amazing!!

  13. Great job on your overmantel! I love that you used what you had on hand, so inspiring.

    Just to follow up on a previous comment thread, I have had LESS problems with your website since the redesign. Before I had all sorts of pop-up ads giving me headaches — especially on my phone — but it has been very seamless and easy in the new year. Like the original commenter, I would have followed you no matter what, but I have had less problems lately and I’m thankful.

    Per the discussion on your fireplace color: this discussion sounds very similar to your kitchen floor dilemma, when you really wanted to do stripes but already had your bold green cabinets. When you did both, they competed with one another. I think the same thing will happen in this room: the bold curtains and the pink credenza and the bold fireplace will be too much. Admittedly, repainting a fireplace will be far less work than redoing your floors, but my sense is that you should forgo the bold color this time. What about saving the bold color for your built-in that you’ll be doing in your hallway?

    You might always have this dilemma on any room you design, Kristi! You have a lot of good ideas and want to use all of them!!! Good luck. It will be fun to watch this room develop.

  14. So I haven’t read all the comments, but isn’t this the room right off the music room? With the yellow piano? I can’t picture the color combination working. But I could be dead wrong 🙂