The process was a long and involved one. Let me walk you through it. I like lists, and I think one is in order here (get it?). Here's what I did.
- Cleaned the mantel. This was an absolute must; the mantel ad spent the last half a century or so hanging out in a barn. I just used Murphy's Oil Soap and water.
- Patched & trimmed. There was a large chunk missing out of the top, and one of the side pieces of trim was snapped in half. Also, the opening for the fireplace itself was too small. So we sawed along the inside to make that large enough, and then used some of that wood to finish the line of trim down the side. I also used wood putty to patch the chunk out of the top and several other places that had been nicked and scraped.
- Sanded and painted. Since it was pretty much a guarantee that this was lead-based paint, it was important to make sure it all got covered and sealed. We went with white, after the comments on this post. Stay tuned for the new finish on the TV stand ... I think you'll be surprised (as long as I don't screw it up). All told, I probably put 4+ coats on the mantel.
- Tiled and grouted. The bottom edge of the horizontal part of the mantel (did you follow that?) was too tall and exposed the top of the fireplace. We batted around a few possible fixes, but settled on tile. We adhered plain white square tiles to plywood, then grouted them.
- Mounted the tiled plywood to back of mantel. I wasn't sure how I would like it, but I do. I think the square tiles mimic the three squares on the mantel so to me, it works.
- While waiting for grout to dry, I painted the awful brass strips on fireplace. I used spray paint, but I sprayed it in a container and applied it with a paintbrush, because I couldn't think of any other way to do it. It went on like a watercolor, but after three or four coats, you couldn't tell. Since it's, you know, a fireplace, I used a heat-resistant paint. I think it was for auto engines. It's a matte color, which means it blends right in to the rest of the fireplace. As much as I love the mantel, this may be my favorite part of this whole project. Between this and step #7, the fireplace looks brand new!
- Removed fireplace handles and painted them. I may or may not have painted them a bright yellow, decided I hated it, then repainted them in gold, so they have about 10 coats of paint on them now.
- Removed the old mantel trim and baseboards.
- Patched the major damage I did to the drywall by doing step #8. Whoops.
- Mounted the mantel to the wall. We used nails and a punch.
- Mounted new baseboard and quarter round (since the old was too short for our skinnier mantel , also using nails and a punch. We decided on white quarter round rather than the kind that matches our floors because 1) we couldn't find any that matches our floors, and 2) I wanted the quarter round to be white anyway. So now this wall doesn't match any others downstairs, but I still like it. Hopefully one of these days, we'll get around to painting the trim anyway. Also, Isaac was disappointed with how the baseboards turned out, but I think it's a learning process.
- Patched all nail holes using wood putty.
- Caulked mantel to wall, floor, and cracks that occurred from nailing to to the wall (it is 150 years old, after all).
- Painted the whole thing again to cover up caulk and putty.
- Put a coat of poly acrylic on the top to protect the finish.
- Raised picture so that it's not 1.5 inches from mantel.
- Bought accessories! I found the vases at Home Goods, and I really, really like that they are slightly different shades. I think it plays off of the tonal qualities in the sting rays.
Looking back, no wonder this took three months! That's a lot of steps. Seriously, though, it's time for pictures. First, the before.
See what I mean about the brass strips? Yikes!
And here's a picture of Marbles, just for good measure (picture by Isaac).
This is why we call him Fat Face. Just look at those fluffy cheeks!