One of the big items on our to-do list for the family room was building a new mantel for over the fireplace. The existing mantel was a thick but not deep piece of wood stained a dark walnut color. When I removed the mantel during our demo phase it was nailed into the brick and splintered when I removed it. I was definitely thankful since I didn’t love it to begin with, and thought it wasn’t deep enough (it measured about 4 inches deep). I may have done a happy dance.
While at one point in the demo I considered removing the hearth, my sane husband said that was the one thing we couldn’t touch since the expense to reface it or build something new would be cost prohibitive to the tune of several grand.
Instead we opted to paint the brick the same color as the walls though in a flat paint. The color is Golden Mushroom from Lowe’s in Olympic Premium low VOC (for safety reasons I prefer no or low VOC products). You can see more about how to paint brick here.
You can see in the ‘after’ pictures we weren’t quite done.
We looked at traditional mantels available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and even online retailers. Most were too traditional looking for our casual family room, and nearly every one was around or under 6 feet long. Since the bricks that would hold or mask the mantel are 6 feet apart this would look rather odd.
Next we came up with the idea of a barn wood or barn beam mantel and both liked the idea immediately. The issue was going to be finding the beam. Luckily we live in the Philadelphia suburbs so we knew we could either go into the city, or head out to Amish country and find something. We tried to locate a vendor near the city first, but despite speaking to the owner and finding out when he was at the yard he didn’t have an address on his website so while I was in the area I drove around aimlessly looking for the yard to no avail. Since I prefer a long country drive over driving on 76 into the city (it always baffles my mind that we have a 2 lane road to get into a major metropolitan area) I opted to head out to Amish country to look for a barn beam instead. A quick search and I found Sylvan Brandt-they make barn wood flooring mainly, but have a great selection of barn beams and barn boards for other projects.
I took a drive on a rainy day earlier this month, and found what I thought was the perfect beam, and picked up some barn wood for another project my Dad suggested (not completed yet-so stay tuned). At $104 (they price per square foot) it was cheaper than the pre-fab options available and way more interesting plus it was fun!
After some measuring and re-measuring we realized I made a rather large error. While the beam was the right length for our space, it was way, way too deep. Measuring at 17 inches it would hang out as far as our hearth pad-and would likely fall since there would be no way to support it. Oops.
We didn’t lose faith though, we figured we could cut it in half somehow and make it the right depth which we decided was 8 inches. Wide enough to be substantial but not so wide that it would fall down.
First we attempted to use our table saw, but that was a no go since it also happens to be 4 inches thick and the table saw can’t handle that width of wood. Next we looked at all the saws we had and did opted for a hail mary with our circular saw.
We measured and made a line where we wanted to cut, and then hubby handled the circular saw and tried to maintain as straight a line as he could. At one point it looked like it wasn’t going to work, but we pushed through anyway. We figured the worst that could happen was that it didn’t work and we would have to come up with another solution.
Instead by using the circular saw we were able to make about a 2 inch deep cut across the whole beam, and then puzzled out what to do next. We opted to use a really big handguard chisel and hammer to split the wood the rest of the way. We weren’t 100% sure this would work, and while it did cause some splintering it split the beam in half exactly where we needed it to! There may have been shouting and high fives all around at that point. (sorry no action shots as this required two hands on deck at all times.
Next we used a planer to get the back (where the split was) more even. It was a lovely sight to see it go from uneven and splintery to flat and smooth.
Now that the beam was the right size I got to work on the fun part. I used the leftover piece (about the same size as our mantel) to test different stains and treatments with my helper, Emma. First we did some hand and electric sanding to a small patch, and then we tested different stains.
Safety note: be sure to wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself.
After deciding on teak oil after seeing a similar treatment on HGTV (see all those hours of watching do pay off!) I set to work. I opted to use the belt sander for the beam since it took off the right amount of splintering and age without leaving too much dirt behind. For one spot where there was a split we opted to use finish nails and wood glue to hold that piece in place without losing the rustic feel that it offered.
After sanding for about and hour (my arms were like Jello!) I spent some time wiping it down with a damp cloth (and gloves!), and then let it sit in the garage overnight to dry.
The next day I applied teak oil all over the beam-a process you can see below:
Finally my handy hubby came up with a solution for hanging the beam. Since the existing bricks had holes in the top we purchased thick dowels to fit the holes (over 1 inch wide), and he cut them to fit. Next we drilled into the bottom of the beam after carefully marking it while it was in place. He drilled 4 holes and we stuck in the dowels about an inch deep (the other 1 1/4 inches would go into the brick). We opted not to use glue so we could remove the beam if need be in the future without damaging it. In the end the perfect configuration of the dowels was found through trial and error, and with some slight pressure and a few hearty smacks it magically fit flush to the wall, and tested to see if the kids could budge it. Thankfully they couldn’t, so another round of high fives and smiles was had and then we got down to decorating it for the holidays.
Here’s the mantel in all it’s holiday glory:
Okay, glory may be pushing it since we had such a small mantel before we didn’t have much to decorate the mantel this year. I also have no idea what will go on it once the holiday is over so I may have to do some shopping for accessories.
I don’t think the pictures do it justice though-it has so many different parts I love-like the smooth end on one side and the notch on the other or different tones that were brought out once it was sanded down.
It’s simply beautiful.
To make your own barn beam mantel you need:
- barnwood beam (be sure to measure to size or have it cut for you where you purchase it) To find one locally just google barnwood or barn beams and your area
- sandpaper or sander
- masks and gloves–safety first!
- teak oil or stain if you prefer
- mount (will vary based on your fireplace)
You can use the same idea for other projects as well. We plan to do a similar treatment with the barn wood we picked up. There’s still a similar beam leftover so technically this project came in at $70 with the wood, stain samples, teak oil, and new belts for the sander I used. Not too shabby for a project that is so one of a kind.
So what do you think? Have you ever made something from recycled wood?
Check out the archives for Centsible DIY for more ideas and DIY projects.