Eight months is a long time for 2 families, a dog, and an ornery cat to share a house.
So while I waited (impatiently…but that’s a different post) for our home to be built, I loved having a good reason to sneak out back to the garage for some peace and quiet.
You can imagine there was a bit of work to do on this mantle (considering it was ripped from its home where it faithfully presided over fires since Lincoln’s time).
I’ll admit, I lost quite a bit of time, staring at its beat-up frame, wondering about the man (or woman) who built it. I may be a plotter when it comes to novels but when a DIY project in front of me, I’m a total pantser. So I had absolutely no plans at the beginning. Plans give me the heeby-jeebies (so do instructions). That’s why I LOVE IKEA. All their instructions are stick figures. Tell me what to do in terminology I understand!
So I took it one step at a time. And first step was getting the main structure ready. I knew I wanted it to stand out from the wall for a bit of dimension. Here was my problem: I didn’t have a house yet! I looked at the blueprints and took a chance on how far from the wall I wanted it. I chose a depth of 4 inches. Now I needed to create a frame that would attach to the back. After the frame was added, I attached the entire thing to a nice piece of pine that would be my ‘hearth’.
What I didn’t really think through (because of the pantsing) was the fact that there would be a noticeable seam where the original mantle met the new frame. I settled on wood filler because it was stainable or paintable and I could sand it to get a smooth surface. Wood filler looks like peanut butter (and spreads a bit like it as well). The only problem I had with it was the tiny air bubbles that seemed to show up here and there no matter how many times I spread it on.
Full disclosure: I tried filling the seam with trim caulking first and then painted it…DID NOT WORK…that’s why I turned to wood filler. It took hours of agonizing debate, comparing the wall paint color to the paint colors at Sherwin Williams, to finally settle on Cyberspace. I used my all-time favorite stain, Minwax Jacobean, on the hearth board. Everything was oil based so thank God for the open garage doors!
After sanding the seams down flat, I rolled on another coat of paint. I sanded between each coat (being sure to clean ALL the dust off). In the end, I rolled on 4 coats of paint. After the last coat was completely dry, I rubbed gently with steel wool to make sure all the paint bubbles were out. The painting was finished!
Now was the part that really scared me…the tile. I love DIY projects but I’m DIY-level amateur. I did not trust myself to use mortar. Then I heard of a great product called MusselBound and I breathed a sigh of relief. This stuff is basically super serious double-sided tape. The only drawback is the tile size can’t exceed 144 sq. in. That sent me back to the drawing board because the tile I wanted was, of course, 16×16. But mortar versus preferred tile? Preferred tile lost that one.
But I found a beautiful tile at Home Depot (on sale) and I snatched that box right up. I think it cost a total of $20, which was much cheaper than my original option. There was also a matching decorative tile that I bought for contrast. BUT there was one problem. ONE SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM. No matter how I arranged the tiles, I was coming up about 1 inch short. I couldn’t find a 1-inch tile that I liked anywhere. My project hit hold. Luckily, it was time for vacation.
You haven’t been cold until you’ve vacationed on Lake Huron in the winter! Anyway, while we were there my dad and husband were working on refinishing my parent’s lakehouse (yes, that’s our idea of vacation). My dad decided to go shopping for flooring one day and a little voice inside said, “Go with him, maybe you’ll find your tile.” I’m not crazy. This really happened.
I almost didn’t go. Because…it felt crazy. But I jumped in the truck anyway and headed out with him. There was a Habitat for Humanity Restore next to the flooring outlet and I talked him into stopping with me. Guess what I found on a dusty shelf in the back corner? The PERFECT tile. Marble tile no less. Cost my dad a whopping 25 cents (because he wouldn’t let me pay with a credit card).
Soon as we got back to Ohio, I got back to my project. I used a piece of graph paper that my mom still had from homeschooling me (she doesn’t throw anything out) to plan the layout. There were some interesting features in a few of the tiles I thought complimented each other so I labeled each piece on the back and matched it to the diagram.
Things were moving along now!
Used unfinished MDF for tile surface. Grout was premixed.
Laid the adhesive side down and pressed to activate the sticky (technical term).
Removed the paper. The tile immediately sticks but can be removed and repositioned until the sticky is activated by pressing.
Layed out tiles with spacers. Removed the spacers and grouted. Cleaned it all off with a damp rag.
Ready for a fire!
Now the fun part.
I debated with myself over this. What would work best? I wouldn’t have ventilation for any type of real fire (I’m still working on an insert for a WoodWick candle…stay tuned!) so gas inserts were out. I don’t like electric inserts all that much. Besides, I wanted to run this ALL THE TIME. (I love the sound of a crackling fire.) I spent hours looking at reviews for different electric options and nothing really clicked for me.
Then it hit me: TV. Yes, seriously a TV. Why not just play a video of a fire? Nothing looks as real as the real thing. So my husband found a great deal on a small TV (yes I already factored in its size in my building requirements).
And the result is exactly what I wanted. I have an endless YouTube list of my favorite fire. I put it on in the morning and listen to the soothing crackle all day. It provides romantic ambience at night and is a hit during the holiday season.
My favorite fire ↓
I went through some trial and error to find the look I wanted for the firebox. It’s a mismatch of an old picture frame, furring strips, a picture ledge I found at a thrift store, and some logs I pulled out of our woods. (DIY is all about flexibility!) I found the screen at a local deal shop for $15! I finished the look off with oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.
I couldn’t be happier with the end result. My husband just anchored it to the studs by drilling long decking screws through the top of the mantle at a downward angle through to the wall stud. Not the prettiest option but our soundbar covers that up. If you want a good tutorial on how to mount a faux mantle, check out the faux fireplace at Blesser House.
Added bonus? When I’m not running the fire my 3-year old is watching cartoons on the fireplace! Thanks for taking the time to read about my favorite DIY adventure. I’d love to hear about your projects.
Check back soon for my faux ceiling beam!