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How to Remove a Fireplace Mantel in 7 Easy Steps

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Fireplaces come in different shapes and sizes, but all have a primary function: creating room to burn wood safely inside a building. People in colder climates require special measures to keep their buildings warm, and using a fireplace is one of the oldest and most effective methods.

The fireplace comprises different parts that ensure the proper combustion of the wood, the right soot and smoke channels, heat transfer, and decorative purposes.

One such important part of the fireplace is the mantel which focuses on aesthetics, among other things. The mantel can be partial, having just a shelf at the top of the fireplace, or full with a sideways design and a shelf on top.

As the fireplace draws attention to itself, the mantelshelf is one of the best places to display essential pieces like family pictures and memorabilia. Removing the mantel may pose a challenge for inexperienced DIY enthusiasts; however, a good guide will blow any worries away from the water.

This piece provides a simple guide to changing your mantel and enjoying a new look. Before we go ahead, here’s why you may need to change your mantel.

Why Do You Need to Change Your Fireplace, Mantel?

Why Do You Need to Change Your Fireplace, Mantel?

The mantel is the exterior decorative design around the fireplace, including a trademark shelf on top of the fireplace.

Removing and replacing is popular, but why? Here are some reasons you should change your fireplace mantel.

1. Damaged Mantel


After a long usage period, the fireplace mantel may have received several bumps, hits, and scratches that have defaced it and made it lose its decorative purpose.

As a result, you may notice broken-off parts, deep scratches and gouges, and faded looks. Removing the mantel becomes essential when the old one is damaged.

2. Outdated


Some designs go out of style after a while and look outdated. While some love the ancient style, most people would want to replace the outdated fireplace mantel with a more modern mantel. Removing the old mantel becomes vital in this case.

3. Redesigning


Typically, fireplace mantels match the design of the building. So when the building interior is redesigned, the fireplace mantel may require changing to a more fitting design.

Types of Fireplace Mantel

Fireplace mantels come in different shapes and sizes and are made from different materials. The materials differ based on style and can affect the method of removal. Here are some of the mantel types:

1. Wood Mantel

Wood Mantel

Wood is the most common mantel due to its versatility as they come in varying designs. Wood is not the most durable as it is easy to find scratches and gouges on them.

2. Cast Iron Mantel

Cast Iron Mantel

Mantels made from cast iron are typically expensive due to the material. Cast iron mantels have a classy look and, depending on the finish.

3. Tiled Mantel

Tiled Mantel

Tiles are generally inexpensive but limited sturdy. They are easy to clean and maintain with water and rag.

4. Brick or Stone Mantel

Brick or Stone Mantel

It is harder to get designs on brick or stone mantels; however, they are sturdy and cost very little.

Tools Needed

Removing the fireplace mantel will require some tools to make the process easier, safe, and more effective. However, removing a mantel requires only a few standard means most people have in their garden sheds.

  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Rubber mallet
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill driver
  • Socket and ratchet
  • Nail puller

Steps to Removing a Fireplace Mantel

Steps to Removing a Fireplace Mantel

Now we understand some of the reasons we may need to remove the mantel; we need to know how pulling it works.

Removing a mantel only takes a few hours and can be a great bonding experience with your family as you work on their favorite part of the house.

In addition, single-piece mantels are easier to remove as they either use their weight to stay in place, glue, or screw. Here’s a complete breakdown of steps to removing a fireplace mantel:

1. Set the Area

Set the Area

Working on your fireplace may see soot, dust, and mantel pieces flying around. Covering the area will make it easier to clean after the project.

Some of the things you can do include covering nearby furniture and laying old newspaper or nylon around the mantel area.

Remove everything sitting on the mantelshelf, from pictures to flowers. You also want to ensure proper ventilation and proper nose protection to avoid inhaling some of the soot and dust.

2. Identify the Material Holding the Mantel

Identify the Material Holding the Mantel

Some mantels have extra protection, with nails and screws joining the walls.

Especially heavy fireplace mantels will typically have nails and screws to ensure stability. However, before going ahead, you must carefully observe the mantelpiece for any sign of a nail or screw.

Use a nail puller or screwdriver to remove all the screws and nails on the mantel before proceeding with the next step.

Forcing the mantel out with nails and screws still attached will damage the walls, even more, causing more expenses and stress to repair damaged walls.

Also, the nails and screws can be under wood fillers and wooden furniture buttons, so you will need to scratch out and remove these coverings first to reveal any material under them.

3. Remove Braces

Heavier mantel pieces have corbel braces for support to ensure the weight of the shelf does not pull it down.

However, since only some fireplace mantels have corbel braces, you first need to check for the brace and then remove it.

Chisel the area around the brace to create room to work with a pry bar. Once that room is visible, you can fix the tip of the pry bar behind the brace and tap the head with a hammer.

Repeat the process around the braces to loosen its grip and make it easy to pull out.

4. Remove Ledger

Some mantels go the extra mile by utilizing a connecting ledger that holds the board to the wall.

However, removing the mantel will prove difficult when a ledger is attached to the board, so you need to unscrew the ledger using a drill driver first.

5. Pry the Mantel

Before using the pry bar, you may need to use your rubber mallet and hammer to create room if the mantel is still firmly on the wall.

Place the pry bar tip behind the mantel and shake from side to side to loosen the mantel from the wall. Continue using the pry bar on the corners to weaken its hold on the wall.

When the mantel is sufficiently loose, pull it from the wall. For a single-piece full mantel, you can bring it down by pulling it from the top down and laying it in its face.

You will need to remove the shelf and top parts for mantels with different parts first to avoid destabilizing the setup. Having an extra hand for this step is beneficial as it improves safety when dismantling.

6. Sort the Materials

You can reuse some of the materials removed from the mantel depending on the style of the new mantel you want to use.

Sorting the removed pieces to decide which ones are reusable and which to dispose of can save you money.

Reduce the materials you want to dispose of into smaller chunks using a hammer or mallet. Having the materials in smaller pieces makes it easier to pack and discard.

7. Clear the Area

Clear the Area

Pack the pieces in bags, remove the old newspaper and nylon you placed around the mantel area and replace them with the new mantel design.

Replacing the mantel is different and may require some help if you’ve not set up a fireplace mantel before.

Here is Some Tips for Removing a Fireplace Mantel

Here are some extra tips to guide you when removing your mantel:

  • The walls may require repairs after working with the pry bar and mallet. Filling with joint compound, sanding, and painting may be required to return the wall to its original state.
  • Wear a nose mask to protect yourself from harmful soot and dust around the fireplace.
  • Ensure proper ventilation both during mantel removal and when using the fireplace.

Final Thoughts

Moving houses may leave you with an unappealing fireplace mantel that requires changing.

Removing the mantel is the first step and is usually easy with proper guidance. With a few essential tools, you can remove any mantel, no matter how attached to the wall.