So we moved into our new house last summer and, naturally, because of the season, we didn't really think much about the house not having a fireplace. It wasn't until Christmas started to creep up on us that we realized we didn't have a place to hang our stockings!
Our convo went a little like this:
Wife-"Where are we hanging our stockings?"
Wife-"Where am I going to put the snowman?"
Wife-"Would you please look up prices for a faux fireplace?"
Me-"Prices!? I can build one! And can customize it! Gwahaha!"
Well, something like that, but I hope you get the idea. I researched dozens of designs, even Fireplace Mantel & Surround From Salvaged Materials from here in Instructables! Doesn't it feel so great when you make something yourself and and also save some money in the process? Check out the video below to see how I built this faux fireplace or follow the steps below that.
Step 1: MATERIALS and TOOLS
These are the materials and tools I used, but feel free to use the ones you want or the ones readily available to you.
- Two 1/2" sheets of plywood (I used one full sheet and some leftover from other projects because I didn't want to go to the store to buy another sheet.)
- One sheet of 3/4" MDF
- ~24 feet of base cap trim
- ~8 feet of baseboard
- ~8 feet of crown molding
- ~2 1/2 feet piece of 2x4
- 6 90-degree surface mount cabinet hinges
- one pair of door slides/rails (if longer than the depth of your fireplace, you may need to cut it to length)
- ~14 1/2 feet of 1x8" pine board
- wood glue
- Nail gun and brad nails plus compressor
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Nail punch
- Paint and brush
- Clamps of various sizes
- Measuring tape
- Pocket hole jig and screws
- Straight edge or ruler
- Screw driver
- Grinding wheel or hacksaw (if need to cut door slide)
- Speed square
Step 2: LEGS and HEADER BASE
Prep: plywood, MDF, glue, brad nails
Making the two legs was like building two boxes. First, I cut the eight panels that will make the front, back, the inner side, and the outer side (door) of each leg. These are the measurements: Front: 11 3/4"x 31 3/4" Back: 11 3/4"x 31 3/4" Inner Side: 11 3/4"x 31 3/4" Outer Side (door): 11 3/4"x 31 5/8".
Then after gluing and nailing the front, back, inner side panels together, I measured the inside dimensions in order to make the ends (or the top and bottom) of the legs. After dry fitting them and making sure they fit well, I glued and nailed them.
Note: I positioned the boards so the edges of the front and back boards were against the surface of the inner side board. This allows the trim that will be added later to cover the exposed edge of the inner side board.
I connected the two legs with a board, which is the base of the header. Side note: As I mentioned in the video, I got a full sheet of 3/4" MDF for $10 because it had some damage. About a 12"x12" piece was damaged, but I knew that I could still use the rest of it. I had it cut to four 2 ft x 4 ft sections so I could fit it into my car. ;-) I liked the idea of having the fireplace be about 4 ft wide, so I kept it that length, but I cut it about 13" wide so it had about an 1 1/2" or so overhang over the legs.
Optional: you could leave the board edges flat or cut a profile with a router. I used a round over bit with a router on the edges.
To secure the MDF board to the legs, you guessed it, I glued and nailed it to the top of the legs .
Note: It helps to use a speed square to find and mark the edges of the legs, that way the nails go into the sides of the legs and not through the top and into the leg shelf space.
Step 3: DOORS
Prep: plywood, hinges
Now with the legs secured, it's time to attach the doors.
Placing the legs on top of a flat and sturdy work surface like a work bench or table makes this part easier. I double checked that the door panel had the correct dimensions (11 3/4"x 31 5/8") because it should swing freely between the hearth and the header after adding paint. When I was happy with the door, I was ready to install the hinges, but before I could do that, I had to figure out my door configuration. I wanted a full overlay, so per the manufacturer 's instructions I followed option A for the hinge installation. Once that was decided, it was a matter of cutting out the hinge template that was provided and marking where I was going to put the screws. I repeated the same process for the other door.
Step 4: HEADER
Prep: plywood, glue, pocket hole jig and screws
For this part you’ll need four plywood boards (one will be split into two pieces). First start out by cutting a board to 16” x 47”, then cut that board longways into a 11 ½” x 47” piece and a 4 ½” x 47” piece. Second, cut two panels that are 16” x 12”. After cutting those two panels, cut out a ¾” x 11 ½” notch on each panel. See the picture. This was another one of my mistakes because I didn’t account for the thickness of the trim when added to the header face panel. This caused the trim to jet out past the crown molding and that just looked fu-uh-unky. Say it aloud, it’ll make you smile. Save some time and cut out the notch now. After this, I used a scrap piece of plywood for the back side. The height of this back piece doesn’t matter much, just make sure it’s 47” long. When you glue and nail these pieces together to make the header box, use the 4 1/2" x 47" piece, don’t use the 11”x47” yet, this will be used as the face for the drawer.
To give it some rigidity, I cut four right triangles out of scrap plywood. These were glued and nailed in the corners to add strength and help it be square.
Last, I use a pocket hole jig to make pocket holes for attaching the mantel shelf and also for attaching the header to the header base.
Step 5: MANTEL SHELF
Prep: 1x8 pine boards, glue
Ok, if you saw the video, you’ll see where I initially messed up by not accounting for the extra length needed for the crown molding. So, I’m going to pretend I didn't make a mistake and tell you to make sure the final mantel shelf board you make is at least 19” x 57”.
I ended up using three 1”x 8”x 57” pine boards, but ripped one to 3 1/2” Together, they made up a total width of 19” These were just glued and clamped together.
To install the mantel shelf, I turned the header upside down, set the back side of the header flush to one side of the mantel, and made sure the overhang on the front and side were at least 4 1/4". This will allow a slight overhang when the crown molding is installed.
For the crown molding, which has a 45-deg spring angle, I set the miter angle at 35.3 degrees and the bevel angle at 30 degrees. I had to cut the molding flat because my saw is not big enough to cut the board against the fence.
To cut the left end of the crown, I swiveled the miter to the left, then set the bevel angle and placed the crown face down with the top side of the crown against the fence. To cut the right end of the crown, I swiveled the miter to the right, set the bevel angle, crown is face down, BUT this time the bottom of the crown was set against the fence.
Note: How can you tell which is the top and which is the bottom of the crown? Well, usually the top of the crown is less detailed/decorative and the bottom of the crown is more decorative.
Step 6: HEARTH
Prep: MDF, 2x4, baseboard, glue, brad nails
For the hearth, I followed similar steps as when I cut the MDF board for the header base. I kept it at the original length, but instead of cutting to 13 inches in width, I cut it to 13 ½ and I left the sides flat. The next step to building the hearth, was to cut the 2x4 pieces that will double as support and also as studs that will accept the nails that I used to attach the baseboard. Before determining the length of the 2x4’s, I measured the height of the baseboard. So, the length of the 2x4 pieces plus the thickness of the MDF must equal the height of the baseboard. In my case, my baseboard measured at 5 ½”, the MDF at ¾”, which meant that I had to cut my 2x4 pieces to 4 ¾”.
I cut six pieces of 2x4 and glued and nailed one at each corner of the board, then one in each of the middles on the long sides.
To attach the baseboard, I cut an outer 45° miter on the left side of the baseboard. I placed it on the left front edge of the hearth (back part of the baseboard edge touches the corner of the board) and then marked on the right side of the baseboard where the corner of the MDF board touches the baseboard. This is where I made another 45° miter cut. I check for fitting and then I brad nailed it to the hearth. I then moved over to the piece adjacent to right corner. I made the same cut I did with the initial baseboard piece, placed it on the corner, and then checked where the back right corner of the hearth touches the baseboard. I made a mark, but this time I just made a cross cut. Repeat the same steps with the left baseboard piece.
Step 7: SLIDE OUT DRAWER
Prep: plywood, MDF, hinges, drawer slides
Remember the 11 1/2”x 47” plywood piece from Step 4? Well, we’ll be using it here. It will be attached to an MDF piece that measures 10“ x 45 1/8“. But that length wasn’t a random number I threw out there. That’s the length between the drawer slides when placed against the inside walls of the header.
Once the MDF was cut to size, I installed the drawer slides. Because my board was 10” wide, but the slides were 14”, I had to cut the slides. I used a miter saw blade for metal, but a simple hacksaw works as well, except you won’t get those cool sparks. ;-) I wanted to keep the ends of the slides, so I cut out a segment in between the slide and then basically spliced the two pieces together. I did this for all four slide pieces: the two bottom rails and the two side rails.
I marked where the MDF butted against the inside of the front header board so I can easily align them outside of the header. I used the two door hinges (same as the door hinges) to attach the 11 1/2"x 47" front header board to the MDF board. These hinges allow me the swing down the front header panel if I don't need to pull out the whole drawer.
Now that all skeleton of the fireplace is complete, let’s move on to adding the trim.
Step 8: TRIM
Prep-MDF, base cap, brad nails
I wanted all the trim to be uniform, so I cut a bunch of 2” strips from the MDF board and attached them around the front of the fireplace using brad nails. Once I had all the MDF strips installed, I then measure the inside dimensions of the MDF strips I installed and used those dimensions to cut the base cap using inside 45° miter cuts. I attached them to the plywood using brad nails as well.
NOTE: If you’re adding knobs or handles to your side doors, then it’s ok to install your MDF strips flush to the edge of the front plywood faces of the legs, BUT if you plan on using the magnetic spring catches, I recommend that the trim is installed 3/8” past the edge of the front plywood face. Because the magnetic catch requires the spring to be pushed in about 3/8” in order to release the door, the door can’t be flush against the edge of the plywood, so having the MDF strip protrude that small amount, the edge of the door won’t be exposed when it’s in the closed position. I explain this issue in the video.
Step 9: PAINT and ASSEMBLY
Prep-caulking, spackle, sandpaper, primer, paint
Note: If you have any nails that didn't get nailed past the surface you were attaching, it's a good idea to use a punch to sink them in past the surface.
I spackled the nail holes and used some caulking if there were any seams that needed it, then I sanded with fine grit sandpaper. It helps to sand the plywood and the MDF boards to remove any fuzz. I primed all the surfaces before adding two coats of paint. Make sure you wear a mask or paint in a well-ventilated area.
After the paint dried, I assembled it indoors. First, I put down the hearth, then the legs, then the header, and then the drawer. I did screw down the header using the pocket hole screws and then used regular screws to attach the legs (from the inside) to the hearth.
Step 10: SHELVES
Prep-plywood, MDF, glue, brad nails, level
Side note: I cut the shelves after I had painted the whole fireplace and once I had moved it inside the house. Just like when I cut the top and bottom of the legs in step 2, I measured the inside space of the leg and cut four shelves. Each leg will have two shelves. This will be great storage for DVDs and other small items.
I realized that because I used ½” plywood, I didn’t want to drill holes for shelf pins, plus that’s another added expense. Instead, I used a 1”x1” strip of MDF and cut some blocks that would be used as supports. You’ll need 16 of these blocks; 8 per leg; and 4 per shelf. I measured 10” from the bottom for the first shelf and 20 ½” from the bottom for the second shelf. Each block was attached using glue and two nails. First, I added glue, nailed it once, then used the level to make sure it was parallel to the base and then added the second nail. I repeated this with the rest of the blocks and also used the level on two blocks at the same time to make sure they were leveled to each other.
Step 11: FINISHING TOUCHES
When I designed this fireplace, I wanted the sides to be flush and not have any knobs or handles sticking out, so I decided to install magnetic spring catches.These didn’t come with instructions, but were fairly easy to install. And remember, in order for the magnetic spring catch to work, it must be able to be pushed in at least 3/8" to be able to be released and go forward. Just keep in mind your door design when deciding on a door latch.
Step 12: FINAL THOUGHTS
This was absolutely a great project to work on! It has been one of my most detailed ones in a long while, although it did have its challenges. Before deciding on a final design, I had researched dozens of designs (even ones here on Instructables, such as Fireplace Mantel & Surround From Salvaged Materials), and because it was a custom build, there were some issues that sneaked up on me, but it was bound to happen as I spent more time building than planning. Haha!But best of all, my wife loved it! I guess you could say it was an early Christmas present to be able to know she would have a place to hand the stockings.
If you decide to build this fireplace, I hope I have saved you some aggravation and a few swear words by pointing out potential pitfalls. I hope you enjoyed the process as well and would appreciate a vote for the contest.
If you also want to check out some of my other videos, check out my YouTube channel. :-)