When we began our house hunt, I dreamed of finding a home with a fireplace and mantel. Really, just a mantel. I wanted to be able to hang our Christmas stockings on it and decorate it seasonally throughout the year.
But when we finally settled on a house it ended up being a basic, builder-grade home. Don’t get me wrong, though — we love it because it’s located in a great school district and there’s lots of other small children in our subdivision, and it has pretty much everything else we were hoping to find. Plus, it’s far enough away from the city where it feels a little bit country.
So shortly after moving in, my husband and I began to make plans to build our own fireplace with mantel. With 10′ foot ceilings and an open floor plan and white walls, let’s just say we needed something on one of those walls. We began sketching our plans, searching Pinterest for inspiration, and shopping around for supplies.
It took a bit longer than expected, and we ended up changing our initial plans several times (I’m beginning to think this might just go hand-in-hand with any DIY project though — hey, at least we’re learning to be flexible, right?), but now it’s officially done! Technically, it’s been done for about a month, but it takes me awhile to get things posted. #momlife
But we’re so excited with how it came out, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Altogether, we spent roughly $800 dollars, including the cost of the electric fireplace itself, and about a month, give or take, for us to complete the entire project. You could honestly probably build it from start to finish in a weekend or two, though. We were working around Christmas and all its associated busy-ness, plus Eric ended up having to work a lot of mandatory overtime in the weeks leading up to the holiday this year.
The Billy bookcases from IKEA add so much practical storage for our family, and the hearth serves as the cutest little play shelf there ever was. We keep the kids’ open-ended building toys in this area of our home, and watching them play in front of the fireplace first thing in the morning while I’m sipping a hot cup of tea is so amazing, you guys. It’s finally the “this is home” feeling, ya know? And a much welcome sight after the disaster that was our living room throughout most of this project. 😉
If you’d like to see the complete walk-through, keep on reading! I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible.
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If you decide to undergo this project, your measurements may differ from ours based on the dimension of your room and the desired size of your hearth. But if you’re like me and dreaming of a mantel for Christmas or just sick and tired of staring at a huge, blank, white wall, then I hope this tutorial helps!
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me a message and I’ll try my best to answer. And please excuse the poor lighting in some of the photos — as mentioned above, we were working on this project in the dead of winter, usually in the late evening or night. There are even a few phone pictures because that’s how we roll sometimes.
If you’re running short on time right now, feel free to save the below image to Pinterest so you can finish reading the tutorial later.
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- (29) pine 2×4’s
- (8) pine 1×3’s – primed
- (4) pine 1×2’s – primed
- (2) plywood sheets
- (18) nickel gap ship lap boards
- (2) boxes 2.5-inch construction screws
- (1) box 1-inch black construction screws
- For Hearth: (1) 1×2 non-primed select pine board, (1) Mastercraft edge-glued pine project panel
- For Mantel: (2) pine 1×4’s, (2) pine 1×6’s, (4) 2×4’s cut at 4″ inches
First, determine desired hearth size. We opted to build one measuring 62″ long by 24″ wide by 12″ high based on our wall dimensions.
NOTE: I will use these dimensions for the exact cut list, but please be aware that your cut list will deviate from ours if you are using different project dimensions. Just try to keep track of length x width x height going forward if using your own dimensions.
Cut (4) 2×4’s at 62″ inches. These will serve as part of the frame for the box you are building. Then cut (8) 2×4’s at 21″ inches. These will be attached to the 62″ 2×4’s to create the frame. Cut (8) 2×4’s at 12″ inches. These will serve as the vertical portion of the hearth.
Assemble hearth box using screws, using picture below as reference. Be sure to check for square along the way. To check for squareness, we use a Speed Square and a small level. When screwing lumber together, we also opt to use wood glue to ensure a stronger bond.
All right, now that you have built the hearth box, it’s time to begin building the box frame which will sit on your hearth box and attach to your wall.
Cut (4) 2×4’s at 78″ inches. Once assembled, total height of the fireplace feature wall will be 90″ inches (remember, the frame will sit on top of the hearth which we measured at 12″ high), minus any crown molding you choose to add to finish the top.
Cut (4) 2×4’s at 59″ inches. Attach these to the (4) 2×4’s at 78″ at the top and bottom to create two large rectangular boxes.
We decided to make the build-out part of the fireplace feature wall 14″ inches in depth to ultimately give us a 10″ inch hearth. Therefore, we cut (4) 2x4s at 14″ inches and attached them between the (2) 78″ inch x 62″ rectangular frames we built in the previous step.
Cut (2) 2x4s at 59″ inches and attach to the back of the box frame, 24″ inches up from the bottom and 24″ inches down from the top. These will be used to secure the entire box to the studs in your wall. Be sure to note their orientation in image (3) below.
Cut an additional (1) 2×4 at 59″ and attach to the back of the box, directly in the middle. This will help provide more structural support. Note its orientation in image (3) below as well.
Once we sat the box frame on the hearth box, we decided to add an additional (2) 2×4’s cut at 14″ inches to provide additional support. You can see their positioning in image (5).
Next, we opted to add additional framing to the part of the box above where the mantle will be placed in case we decide to mount a television in the future. To do this, we cut (5) 2×4’s at 32″ inches.
Cut an additional (1) 2×4 board at 59″ inches to serve as the bottom anchor to which the aforementioned boards attach. Be sure to note the positioning of this board in image (6).
We decided to place the mantel at a height of 53″ inches. So we then cut (1) 2×4 at 59″ inches and attached it onto the frame at 41″ from the bottom.
Next, we’ll tackle the frame that your electric fireplace will be inserted into.
We purchased the 36″ inch wide Touchstone Sideline Electric Fireplace primarily because it had the vent on the front which made for a really simple install. NOTE: You will need to have an electrical outlet on the wall behind your fireplace. We opted to have a separate circuit installed by an electrician when our home was being built for an additional $50 dollars.
When building the frame that the 36″ inch wide Touchstone Sideline Electric Fireplace will attach, the actual hole will need to measure 32.75″ inches wide by 20.5 inches tall. To accomplish this, we cut (2) 2x4s at 59″ inches and (2) 2x4s at 20.5 inches to create our fireplace frame.
Then we centered the frame between the top of the hearth and the bottom of the mantel and attached with screws.
Now it’s time to mount everything to the wall. Mark the center of the wall and the center of the hearth box.
At this point, you’ll want to remove the baseboard that will be directly behind the hearth so your build-out will sit flush against the wall.
First, we’ll attach the base using 4″ lag bolt screws directly into your wall studs. We opted to place 1.5″ washers on the screws to add extra stability. Once centered, mark wall studs and pre-drill holes into the 2×4’s on your frame before attaching to wall to ensure your boards will not split. We opted to use (2) lag bolt screws, one on each side, to secure the hearth base to the wall.
Next, cut plywood to fit the top of the hearth base and attach with screws.
Then carry the top portion of the build-out frame and place on top of base, sitting flush with the base and wall. This step will require (2) people. Screw the top portion of the frame to the hearth base with 6-8 screws. Next, attach it to the wall using the 4″ lag bolt screws, two at the top and two at the bottom, ensuring you are placing them into the studs in your wall.
Almost there! Now it’s time to attach whatever subsurface you are choosing to use. Since we decided to use shiplap as our finishing material, we were able to simply encase the frame with plywood. If you choose to use a stone veneer like AirStone, you’ll need to use an approved interior substrate like concrete board or drywall.
NOTE: If you have small children and/or cats, you’ll probably want to be prepared to go ahead and apply your finish material and mount your fireplace as soon as possible once you’ve brought your frames inside your home and attached to the wall. If not, you should expect lots of climbing to occur. My kids were devastated once we finished since they no longer had access to their makeshift indoor climbing gym.
Once we had encased the entire frame with our substrate surface, we opted to go ahead and hang the floating mantel. It was such a simple DIY project and really saved us a ton of money over buying a pre-made one.
Want to see how we built our floating mantel to hang above our fireplace? You can find the complete tutorial here: How to Build a Modern Farmhouse Floating Mantel. It was such a simple DIY project and really saved us a ton of money over buying a pre-made one!
Once the mantel was attached, we installed our shiplap. You’ll notice in the picture below that we didn’t take the shiplap all the way to the wall. This is because we knew we’d be attaching our bookcases to each side. If you’re not attaching bookcases, you’ll want to go ahead and run it all the way to the wall for a clean finish.
After marking where the studs were located, Eric simply cut each piece of shiplap to size and used his Ryobi One cordless nail gun to attach the shiplap directly to the plywood substrate.
So, we were actually really, really lucky at this point because we had originally intended to install AirStone below the mantel, but once we purchased it and brought it into the house it just didn’t give us the vibe we were looking for. I was concerned the shiplap would hit at odd places, but we, thankfully, were able to position the boards in such a way that the lines ended up being clean and even, for the most part. So, if you’ve gotten to this point in the tutorial, just please be sure to pre-measure for your shiplap and make whatever allowances need to be made in order to keep your lines consistent.
Next, we added some thin corner trim to the front corners of our shiplap.
Once you have finished installing the shiplap, you can then mount your electric fireplace onto its frame. Yay!
Now all that’s left is mounting the hearth and attaching the bookcases.
I fell in love with the idea of a concrete hearth. But, alas, it was totally out of our budget, and while there are some DIY’s available that look amazing, Christmas was right around the corner and I wanted a hearth in there ASAP.
I figured since we couldn’t have concrete, why not just mimic the floating mantel? It actually worked out really, really well because (1) we already had a leftover Mastercraft edge-glued pine plank from our DIY Corner Desk project and (2) a wooden surface would be completely flat which was important for us as a family since I wanted the girls to be able to make use of the hearth when they’re playing blocks or building a train track or whatever other inventions they may come up with in the coming years.
In order to build our wooden hearth, Eric cut the 16″ Mastercraft edge-glued pine plank down to a 12″ depth to fit the hearth. For the length we decided on about an inch overhang on each side. Then he simply attached some 1×2’s to the sides and the front to create the appearance of a thicker hearth. After a couple coats of stain and poly, we brought it inside and attached it to the plywood base using black screws, mimicking the same hardware used to attach the floating mantle.
Once the hearth was installed, we prepped for the installation of the Billy bookcases from IKEA. It was important to us that they look built-in, so Eric went ahead and removed the existing baseboard and then built a small platform to raise the bookcases up about 3/4″ inch using 1×3’s. Otherwise, once the baseboard was reattached the doors wouldn’t have opened.
He also built the same platforms for the top of the Billy bookcases in order to allow us to attach the crown molding. So if you want to save some time, go ahead and make (4) platforms at once, two for each Billy bookcase.
Once you’ve attached the platforms to the base of each Billy bookcase, it’s now time to install the spacer boards that will sit between the fireplace and the bookcases. Since we wanted the hearth to have a slight overhang on the sides, we needed to space the bookcases further away from the fireplace so the bottom doors would open.
To make each spacer, Eric cut a 2×4 to 79.5″ inches and then attached 3 6-inch pieces of a 1×3 boards with pocket screws to the side. He then took this piece and screwed it into the studs on the sides of the fireplace wall.
Once you’ve installed the spacer boards, it’s time to attach the Billy bookcases.
Stand them upright, ensuring they are flush against the wall and square against the spacer boards, and then mark the exact depth at which the spacer board is adjacent to the side of the bookcase. Then pre-drill the holes through the Billy bookcase. We used (6) screws, spaced evenly from top to bottom, to attach each bookcase to the spacer boards.
After you drill your holes, you’ll want to use a counter-sink bit so you’ll be able to use caulk to fill the holes and do a quick paint touch-up at the end to make the install look seamless.
From where we raised the Billy bookcases up to our desired level and the way they’re shaped in the front, we were left with a 3/4″ gap between the baseboard and the bottom of the bookcase. Woops!
To remedy the issue, Eric went ahead and cut the baseboard to size and then attached a 1×2 with nails to cover up the gap. After all, once everything is caulked and painted, you can’t tell a thing!
At this point you can add your crown molding to the top, secure the Billy bookcases to the walls using the provided anchors from IKEA, re-attach your baseboard, and then begin to caulk and paint.
And, voila! Goodbye, boring blank white wall! Hello, custom built electric fireplace feature with built-in bookcases.
If you have any questions or comments about this project or any other project we’ve undertaken, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask! You can find me on Instagram at @freeandunfettered or simply send an email.
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