How To Refinish A Fireplace Mantel

  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Oil soap for wood
Painters drop cloth
Wood filler
Sand paper
Polyurethane sealant
Enamel paint
Paint brushes
Paint thinner
Aspirator mask

A fireplace mantel is often the first thing people notice when they visit your home. If you have a mantel that looks old or simply doesn’t match the décor in your home, it may be a good idea to refinish it. This is a project that can usually be completed in just a day or two and will provide you with a great new look for your mantel.

Step 1-Clean the Mantel

Clean the existing mantel by removing anything you have on display. Put these items in a safe place for now. Use your oil soap (Murphy’s Oil works very well) and remove any dirt that may have accumulated on the mantel. Take any accessories like screens, tools, and logs and move them to a safe place. Use your painters drop cloth around the fireplace to protect the fireplace itself and the floor.

Step 2-Strip the Mantel

Put on your protective equipment (gloves, masks, goggles) and use the stripper to remove any paint or other finish that’s on the mantel. Be careful as you work since the stripper is very caustic and can damage the material you are working with if you don’t follow the directions and pay attention. If you are working with a delicate material you may want to use a piece of sandpaper and a wire brush to remove the old finish. (This is recommended with antique wood products.)

Step 3- Repair Holes and Cracks

Use your wood filler to fill in any holes, cracks, or other damage and imperfections. Let the wood filler dry, then sand and go back over it with a damp cloth to remove any debris left behind.

Step 4- Priming the Mantel

Use a primer that is suggested for wood. Apply the sealer starting at the top of the shelf working your way down the sides until you finish at the hearth. Make sure you use even strokes to prevent blemishes. If you have trim or other embellishment on the mantel you will want to use a few different brush sizes to get the primer in all the cracks and crevices in this.

Step 5- Refinish the Mantel

Your mantel is not ready to start refinishing or repainting it. An oil based product is best since it will give you the best adhesion compared to other products. Use several coats to provide even coverage. Make sure you allow each separate coat to dry completely before adding another one. Once you’re done with this you will want to add a few coats of polyurethane. This will add more of a luster to your mantel while helping to protect the new finish.

You’re done! Once the mantel is dry you can replace all the items you stored earlier back to their original place.

Make sure you keep your mantel looking great and professional by cleaning it a few times a year with oil soap. This will help prevent damage and the need to refinish the mantel again in the future.