Our fireplace has a brick face. A family member gave us an antique mantel my wife wanted to use, but how could it be mounted attractively, effectively, and without excessive effort or materials? I did a number of Internet searches for ideas. What follows is mostly my idea.
- 3/8 inch zinc plated steel rod
- Electrical tape
- Drill and masonry bit
Step 1: What Is Available
The mantel we were given has a hollow pocket in three sections that runs the length of the mantel. Making use of it for a support system would remove the need for any kind of support bracing under the mantel. Fortunately, the mantel is not heavy. It will need to support only a few decorative items, also very light in weight.
Step 2: Steel Rods
A video I found on the Internet showed pockets in the brickwork from missing bricks. Wooden blocks fastened to the back of a mantel fit into those pockets. Another video said to forget drilling into the bricks, themselves; but drill into the mortar, instead. Those two things became inspirations for the idea to which I eventually came, even if I adapted and reversed aspects of those.
The thickness of the mortar is almost exactly 3/8 inch most places. I decided 3/8 inch rod would have solid brick and very little mortar above and below it to keep the rod stable and solid for a very long time. I drilled all of the way back to the concrete block behind the brick. That means four inches of support for the rods. I measured the depth of the open pockets in the back of the mantel and cut steel rods for the combined length of the holes in the brickwork and the depth of the pockets.
Step 3: In a Perfect World
In a perfect world, bricks are all perfectly level and drilling between them to position rods automatically means those rods protrude from the brickwork level and on the same precise plane. In reality, the ends of some rods are higher or lower than others. But, the goal is for the rods to offer firm support for the mantel where the rods exit the wall and at the ends of the rods. See the second photo. A straight piece of 1 x 2 shows any irregularities. One rod is lower than the other two. See the third photo. I wrapped the end of this rod with electrical tape to fill the void. Fortunately, the mortar line at the top of the brick course is quite straight.
Another problem is that the mantel may not be straight and true. This particular one dips at one corner for some reason. I placed the mantel on the rods and pressed downward with a finger one corner after another. I used more tape to build up low spots in the four corners of the mantel so the rods evenly and firmly support the mantel.
It would seem logical to use a level to make certain the mantel is also level. Had I done that, I would have needed to raise one end of the mantel a little. Had I done that, the strong horizontal lines from the mortar lines would have been at odds with the mantel. I let the mantel follow the brickwork, regardless.
Step 4: Finished
The mantel only rests on the steel rods, but that arrangement is more than adequate for what is needed. It looks a little empty now, but my wife has several things for decorating the fireplace. The mantel is placed as high as it is because people like to sit on the hearth. A high placement of the mantel places it above people's heads so they do not painfully bump into the mantel.
This project and how to execute it perplexed me for a long time. The final solution was simple and easy, as well as inexpensive. A future owner could easily pull the rods from the brickwork, fill the holes with a little mortar, and stain it to match the mortar around it, leaving hardly a trace.