It’s been a few years since we made our mantle and we still love it! Thinking of making a mantle or remodeling a fireplace? Read on to learn what we did when we renovated our 1920s fireplace & how our DIY wood mantle is holding up..
The tutorial for our easy DIY wood mantle is one of my most popular posts. I have received lots of questions about all aspects of the fireplace, not just the mantle. I’ll give some background on our house and renovation journey before I share how our DIY wood mantle is holding up and other questions.
Our Tudor Revival home was built in 1929 and appeared to have been mostly unchanged until the 1960s when a new family purchased the home. When we purchased the home in 2017, many cosmetic changes had been done in the 1960s, 1970s and perhaps in the 1980s. From what was changed, it seemed like the goal was to erase the Tudor characteristics.
When we were house hunting we drove by this house and didn’t stop. From down the block we saw a leaning chimney and imaginary dollar signs swirling around. My husband and I were hoping that it wasn’t the house we were supposed to see. Sure enough, it was indeed the house. We didn’t even stop! Besides the chimney, we noted the peeling paint, overgrown landscaping, and unwelcoming vibe. We kept driving on to the next house on our open house list and didn’t think twice.
Leaning chimney of Seattle.
After a few weeks of open houses and driving neighborhoods, we were not finding anything that we loved. Then came a cute Craftsman with a bit more space than our last house and vintage charm galore!
We excitedly bid on the house, started making plans for all the rooms, like the living room with original fireplace and windows, the dining room with original built-ins, the kitchen with an antique ice box. We wrote a letter and included a photo with our bid to show how much we loved the house.
Did the sellers find our gestures endearing? Maybe. But they chose an all cash offer that included 100k over asking. They found money more endearing than our note and family photo lol.
We were crushed. How could we compete in such a crazy market?
Then in my daily scrolling of newly listed homes for sale, I saw a house in our desired area that had a price price reduction. In a market where overbidding is the norm, a price reduction was exciting and in hindsight maybe should have set off alarm bells. Lo and behold it was the house with the leaning chimney. The house we once sped away from was starting to look a lot more appealing.
Our Living room after purchase.
Fast forward, we got the house. There was some family drama from the sellers. A son was still living in the home who wasn’t ready to leave, a daughter who lived nearby was sad to see the house go, and the two sisters in charge of the sale just wanted to unload the house and move on. When we got the keys to the house some of the son’s items were still in place. It felt like he had just left on an errand and was due back any minute and like we were intruding in someone’s space.
First steps to transformation.
After he was all moved out, we came back and that was when we saw the 1960s wood paneling in the living room was starting to peel off the wall and light was somehow coming in! My husband tore back the panels and we saw beautiful original windows and the outline of what the original fireplace shape had been. A vast majority of the other original windows had been replaced, so we were overjoyed to find these.
This leads me to an often asked question.
How did you not see the windows from the outside??
I am still not 100% sure how we missed the windows from the outside. We very clearly saw the chimney and maybe we fixated on that. The house sits on a hill and there is a lot of overgrown brush on the side where the windows are. Then the path to get to the side of the house was sort of blocked from the front.
Also, maybe sleep deprivation from our infant’s lack of sleep was to blame.
Did you remove some or all of the stone from the fireplace surround?
We removed all of the stone. Our original plan was to keep the 1960s stone, but once we found the windows and the original shape of the fireplace, we wanted to return to the 1920s charm. I’ve always loved homes from the 1920s, especially the Tudor Revival style. I do feel bad that the stone was smashed and not salvaged. Hubby is to blame for that one ha ha.
It looks like there was a wood burning fireplace before. Why didn’t you leave it intact?
There was a wood burning fireplace. In order to keep the wood burning fireplace we would have needed a mason to rebuild the entire chimney.
Why the need to rebuild the whole shebang when only part of the chimney was crooked?
One word- creosote.
The chimney had not been cleaned in years and there was major creosote build up, which is very dangerous. Our alternate, and the option we ultimately chose was to have a mason rebuild the part of the chimney that leaned and have an insert plus sleeve installed.
What fireplace insert and sleeve did you use?
We went with a Lopi brand fireplace insert. The dealer we purchased through also sold the sleeve and handled the install.
How did you get the look of the painted brick?
With the flagstone removed and the original brick used to build the firebox exposed, a mason rebuilt the brick surround by anchoring to the original brick remains. We ended up painting the brick to match the surrounding drywall that was installed.
How did you make the bell curve shape?
In our former house, which was a Spanish Revival, we used a company called Archways and Ceilings for a remodel project. They create kits for coved ceilings, arches and more. I have seen some people create their own arches by hand, but this company is a time saver when you have multiple projects going!
Are you happy with your mantle and do you wish you did anything differently?
We are happy with the mantle! The stain color has held up and we have a place to hang our Christmas stockings! As for things I would have done differently, it would have been nice to find salvage tile from the 1920s to use for the hearth. We used leftover tile from the bathrooms, which saved money. After seeing neighbor’s original fireplaces however, I have more ideas of how I would have achieved a more vintage look.
And finally- How is your DIY Wood Mantle Is Holding Up???
It is holding up so well! Hasn’t fallen down lol. Or cracked or faded.
Pin How Our DIY Wood Mantle Is Holding Up for future reference!
Thanks for reading! I hope you found some useful information. If you have other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I love talking about old homes, renovations and diy!
Make sure to check me out on Instagram!