There’s nothing better than cozying up by the fire on a cool night. But do you ever feel like your fireplace looks slightly plain? If you don’t already have one, a mantel can really spruce up your fireplace’s appearance. And if you love decorating, installing a mantel adds so much decorative potential by creating new space. It can even be a functional part of the whole room by supporting your TV or mirror. However, installing a mantel yourself can be a big project. Don’t begin your mantel installation without first reading about the most common fireplace mantel mistakes to avoid.
A proper mantel installation is the most important step for its maintenance and longevity. If you want to DIY your own fireplace installation, ensure you’re familiar with these common errors and what you can do to avoid them.
Before you do anything else, take a moment to make sure you have the right measurements for your ideal mantel. The first mistake people make when hanging their own fireplace mantel is getting the measurements wrong, which can cause a domino effect. You need the right measurements to order a correctly sized mantel; otherwise, you’ll have too much or too little material, and it won’t fit correctly.
Another reason to check your measurements twice is to make sure that your mantel placement complies with fireplace code. According to the National Fire Code, wood mantels, trim, and other flammable materials must be spaced at least six inches apart from the firebox. This helps prevent your new mantel from becoming a fire hazard. Make sure you double-check your measurements for the materials and the mantel’s placement.
The Wrong Material
You may accidentally choose the wrong material for your fireplace mantel for several reasons. Your material may not be compatible with fireplace code and guidelines. Or it could have been too heavy for your wall or brackets to support. Make sure you compare your mantel material with fireplace code and your hanging brackets so you know how much weight they can support.
You might also regret your mantel material choice for aesthetic reasons. You’ll want to compare your mantel material with the surfaces and colors that you already have or plan to place in the room. Take caution with wood mantels. Though wood is a popular choice for fireplace mantels, it can easily conflict with other wood surfaces already present in the room, such as your walls, hardwood floors, or cabinets.
Before you even start leveling your mantel, make sure you have the right tools for the job. You’re going to be doing a lot of heavy lifting and measuring, and you don’t want to waste all that effort just to find out that you don’t have the right tools to complete the job. Make sure you consult the manufacturer’s instructions and assess the parts that come with your fireplace mantel brackets to know exactly what you need and what you already have. Some general tools you’ll need for the mantel hanging process include:
- Tape measure
- Extra wood boards for backing (to attach to wall studs)
- Screw gun or drill
- Nail gun
- Wood glue
- Screws and nails (compare with your bracket instructions for exact sizes)
- A level
Depending on the material you chose for your mantel, you may need extra tools as well. Stone mantels are tougher than wood and will need more heavy-duty tools for installing. For example, in addition to the tools listed above, you will also need masonry tools such as a drill and appropriate drill bits, mortar for sealing gaps, a jig saw, and even an angle grinder. Stone mantels may be more involved for a DIY project, and many homeowners will use a contractor for these jobs.
The installation process is just the beginning when it comes to mistakes you commonly see when it comes to fireplace mantels. After all that work hanging the mantel, you don’t want to create an eyesore by adding the wrong decorations. Keep reading for all the decorative mistakes you should avoid with your new mantel.
Over- or Under-Decorating
It may be tempting to excitedly crowd your new installation with a variety of photo frames, candles, plants, and other accessories, but don’t let the space become too busy. On the other hand, if you don’t add anything to your mantel at all, you’re missing out on some valuable new decorative real estate. Try to aim for somewhere in the middle.
Your fireplace mantel doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical, but make sure you step back to check if it’s balanced as you decorate. If you place a candle or plant on one end, consider adding one to the opposite end for balance.
On top of maintaining a visual balance, make sure you weigh your decorations carefully. You don’t want to place too many heavy decorations or accessories on top of your mantel, as it could exceed the weight limit. This especially applies to those who plan to place a television atop their mantel. You should always check the weight of your TV unit first to make sure the mantel will support it. Never automatically assume it will be the correct weight, or you’ll risk your new mantel and TV toppling.
Like the mantel material itself, the decorations you choose for your mantel can also conflict with the room’s style. When choosing decorative pieces, try to pull from colors that you already see around the room rather than incorporating new ones. This helps bring your whole room together in a stylish and cohesive manner and helps your new installation blend right in.
Installing your own fireplace mantel can be a big job, so it’s important to know all the best tips and what to avoid in this case. Now that you know the most common fireplace mantel mistakes to avoid, you can successfully navigate around these pitfalls and prevent any accidents. And if you need a source for heavy-duty fireplace mantel brackets that you can count on to support your material of choice, check out our selection at Right On Bracket.