I love the look of rustic wood, barn wood, driftwood – anything that looks like its old, natural, and just oozes character. If you saw my recent Family Room Makeover Reveal, you saw my old oak mantel. We have oak ALL OVER our house – I’m sure it looked great at one time, but now it just makes every room look yellow. I’ve been working my way room by room to brighten things up, and that included replacing my old oak mantel. Here is how the room was set up before the makeover:
I was in love with the look of the barnwood mantels, here are a few examples of what I had in mind for my fireplace:
After looking for a source for these types of mantels, I found a few options but I would have either had to shell out $300+ for a new mantel, or spend a bit less on one fresh off of a barn demolition and I’d need to finish it, and figure out a mounting system. My existing mantel was a veneer mantel, meaning that it was hollow on the inside and just rested on a 2×4 that was already mounted to the wall. The mounting mechanisms for an authentic antique barn wood mantel would require me drilling deep into my brick, using dowel rods, or devising some other secure bracketing system.
I was nervous about spending money on a rough hewn beam only to get it here and not be able to hang it securely. So I did some research online and found a plan created by Addicted to DIY for a rough hewn faux mantle – and I knew I could do some minor modifications to make it work perfectly for my set up! This way I could build it as a veneer (3 sided beam that hangs on the same 2×4), the weight would be much less so I wouldn’t have to worry about it being too heavy for the existing mounts, and I could make it for less than $50 which I was most excited about.
I can’t even tell you how excited I was to begin this project!
- 3 – 1″x8″x8′ Cedar boards (longer or shorter lengths are available depending on your mantel size)- get them as roughed up and knotty as you can find, as this will help with the aged look – Make sure you have an extra ~6″ on each board as you will trim it to fit the end caps. Also make sure the boards are as straight as possible – curved or warped boards will not work.
- 2 sheets or a roll of oak veneer – Home Depots in my area do not sell this, I found mine at Menards, but I also found relatively comparable products at craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby, or on Amazon.
- 1.5″ Finishing Nails
- Wood Glue
- 150grit sandpaper
- Stain – I used Dark Walnut, but you could use any shade you wish
- Nails, hammer, chains, screws, screw drivers or any other tools on hand to do the distressing
I went to my local Menards to pick up the materials including the 3 cedar boards. The boards at my store were more smoothly finished on one side, and rough on the other. I specifically chose boards that had nice knots and markings on the rough side, as that was the side I was going to use to distress.
You can have the boards cut to the lengths you need at the store, or if you have a saw at home, you can cut them at home. If you have them cut at the store, make sure you take measurements for your end caps (and be prepared if you need to make some small cuts or sand it down once you got home). I cut my end pieces to be 5.75″ x 8″ and they were a bit too wide, so I did have to trim them down once I got home.
Back at my workbench, I laid the boards out and selected which pieces I’d use for the front, top and bottom based upon the grains, the finish and the overall look. I applied wood glue to the seams, and then nailed them with finishing nails.
Next I took the 5.75″ end pieces that I had cut, and applied wood glue around the edges and then nailed them into the end caps with finishing nails. Make sure you get these as flush as you possibly can, as it will help when it comes time to finish these end pieces.
Once the end caps were dry and nailed into place, and I felt all 3 boards were sufficiently supported/nailed together, I went to work distressing them. I am not sure its possible to overdo this step – Ok, maybe it is… but I went to town for about 10 minutes with it, and once I started staining, I realized I wanted more distressing – so really, do as much or as little as you want. I found the back of the hammer to provide nice niche marks, I smacked it around with a socket wrench to provide some nice circular markings, added nail holes and pretty much just took my aggression out on the wood with every tool I could find on my work bench.
Let me tell you, this is the MOST fun part of this project, so enjoy it! Not often you get to go to town pounding the heck out of a piece of wood, and it will only help to improve its overall look.
Pay special attention to the edges, with any type of old/vintage beam, the edges will take the brunt of the beating so I found that to give it a more realistic look. Just take the hammer and the back of the hammer and pound those edges out, as well as the corner pieces to round those out a bit.
Once the piece is sufficiently distressed (don’t worry too much here, you can always add more later), its time to add the end pieces. Using stainable wood veneer (its a bit thicker than paper, but can be sanded and stained), I covered the end caps so that they would look like one solid piece of wood.
I had a bit of a hard time finding a good deal on the veneer – you can find it at craft stores in the area where derby car materials are found, but they sell them for like $10 a sheet – and the sheets are not quite wide enough. I found a roll of this stuff at menards for $19 which was a bit more than I wanted to spend (heck, my wood cost just slightly over that), but I’ll have some left over for another project.
I got the paper backed veneer so that I could make sure to use a quality adhesive/wood glue. I covered each of the end caps with the veneer, and then use scissors and a razor blade to cut around the edges. After gluing, I put some clamps around the one open edge, to make sure the veneer held.
Finally, once the end caps are dry, you can finish them off with some sanding around the edges, and then do some light distressing on the edges and the end cap itself (be careful to not distress too hard directly on the end cap as the paper/veneer isn’t as durable as the regular wood).
Now you are ready to stain! I used a Minwax Dark Walnut as I wanted a darker stain to contrast with my mantel, but any color should work well. Make sure you get it into the cracks and distress marks, as this can really help bring those out and make them more visible.
I applied 2 thin coats of stain, followed by 2 coats of paint on polyurethane. You can choose any level of gloss, depending on how you want the mantel to look.
Make sure you let that dry at least 24 hours before hanging!
My mantel had an existing 2×4 mounted to the wall, so we literally just laid the opening of the barn wood mantel over the 2×4, and put in 3 x 2″ woods crews through both – it is MORE than secure.
Check out the final result!
Credit for the original plans goes to Addicted to DIY – check them out here