Fireplace mantels conjure up romantic images of cuddling by a roaring blaze. Or perhaps just snuggling under a blanket with a good book. Whatever the image, most of us equate them with comfort. Adding a fireplace mantel, with or without a firebox, can add charm to the décor of almost any space. A fake mantel made of styrofoam is one easy solution. It is lightweight, easy to work with, and, with the right treatment, durable. You might be surprised at how many architectural moldings, columns, and beams have styrofoam at their core.
Things You'll Need
- One 4-by-8-foot sheet of 2-inch styrofoam
- Circular saw
- Foam adhesive
Cutting and Routing the Pieces
From the 2-inch styrofoam, mark and cut two pieces 44 inches by 36 inches. Use a fine-toothed plywood blade in a circular saw for the smoothest and fastest cut.
For each piece, on the longer (44-inch) side cut a rectangle 20 inches wide by 24 inches high that is equidistant from each corner. This opening will be your "firebox" (where the fire traditionally goes in a genuine fireplace). One of these pieces is your mantel base, the other is the face.
Cut a new piece 8 inches by 46 inches. This is the bottom of the mantel shelf. Cut a new piece 48 inches by 8 inches. This is the top of the mantel shelf.
Cut three rectangles from the mantel face. Lay the foam on saw horses and mark one rectangle in each of the two 12-inch-by-24-inch spaces that you have left on either side of the firebox, 2 inches from the bottom, 2 inches in from either side, and 20 inches from the bottom.
Mark one rectangle in the space above the firebox opening 2 inches above the firebox, 2 inches below the top, and 2 inches in from either side. Cut these rectangles out with the circular saw.
Use a bearing cove bit you like with at least a half-inch high detail on the cutting blade -- if you are not familiar with router bits ask for help in the tool department of your local hardware store -- in the router to cut a detail into the inside edges of the three rectangles you just cut into the mantel face. Move the router smoothly in a clockwise direction around the piece. Support the mantel well on a flat surface to support the weight of the router and run the bearing lightly on the edge to avoid running into the face.
Rout three edges of each of the mantel shelf pieces, leaving one long edge unrouted.
Assembling the Mantel
Glue the mantel face to the mantel base with latex liquid nails, which can be purchased at your local home center. Flush the edges of the firebox as close as possible; use a quick-form plane to smooth any unevenness between the pieces.
Glue the top mantle shelf to the bottom mantel shelf. Set the top piece on its top -- with routered edge up. Center the smaller piece on the larger with routered face up.
Glue the mantel shelf assembly to the top of the mantel face and base on the edge above the firebox. Flush the unroutered edge of the mantel shelf with the back of the mantel base.
Allow time for the adhesive to dry before painting with a coat of Sculptural Arts plastic varnish and two to three coats of latex paint.
Tips & Warnings
- Get instruction from a professional carpenter or competent do-it-yourselfer before operating a router for the first time.
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