Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Breathing New Life into Our Dated Mantel (For Less Than $10!!)

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience)

Oh, the mantel...
The family room, and the mantel in particular, has been driving me crazy since the moment we moved in.

Since the family room doesn't have any windows (though it does get light from the adjoining sunroom), it can feel dark. Painting the walls a lighter color definitely helped a lot, but I still wanted to lighten the room more.

I had my heart set on a "new mantel." Originally, I had thought about painting it white, but it would have gotten too dingy with regular fireplace use. My next plan was to brighten and bulk up the mantel by adding a distressed 1x6x12 to the front and cap the sides, similar to what The Lettered Cottage did here, but in a lighter finish.

Before we tried that, however, Hubby convinced me to let him attempt to refinish the existing mantel. And boy, am I glad he did. For less than $10 out of pocket and a few hours of work, he was able to give our mantel a brand new look!

The Process:

He started by removing the huge 2x8x12 board from the wall and taking it outside. Then, using his sander, he removed all the ugly dark brown paint that screamed of the 1970's.

Once sanded, we were pleasantly surprised to find that hiding behind that gloomy paint was a beautiful knotty board with a reddish tint and lots of character. I would have been perfectly happy to leave it like it was, but Hubby wanted to provide some protection, especially since it will be exposed to the heat from our wood stove insert all winter long. After some research, Hubby decided to try mineral oil, since we already had an almost full bottle on hand.

The oil really brought out the natural grain in the wood, but it also darkened it considerably. I would have loved to keep the mantel a bit lighter, but once he started, there was no going back. (And it was still much better than the dated dark brown paint!)

To seal the wood, we used a Beeswax Wood Polish and Conditioner. Both the mineral oil and the beeswax treatment really brought out the natural wood grain, which both Hubby and I loved!

Finally, a little less than a week later, Hubby and his little helper installed our "new" mantel. I love how much this little boy wants to help and learn from his daddy. He's really going to be a help as he gets older!

Once the decor was back up, our project was complete!

The Cost Breakdown:

  • Wood Mantel - already had
  • Sander and Pads - already had
  • Mineral Oil - already had (we use it to condition our wooden cutting boards)
  • Howard Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner - $8
  • Rags to apply mineral oil and feed-n-wax - already had (we cut up old t-shirts)
Total Out-of-Pocket Cost: $8, plus tax!

 The Final Product:

And here's the result of a weekend project that only cost us about $10 out-of-pocket. What a difference, right?

I would still like to do something different with the mantel decor, but for now what we have works well. (Plus, I'll be taking it down and putting up Christmas stuff before too long anyway.) Design can take a long time for me, and I don't want to rush into something I'll end up regretting. So, for the time being, this simple solution (using pictures from our last house) is doing the job. However, I am always open to suggestions for decorating such a long mantel!!

I still cannot believe that such a small amount of money made such a huge impact. And I'm loving the rustic look of the knotty wood! What do you think?

Frugally yours,


  1. Now that is a fabulous update! Your "new" mantel looks great!
    ~ Ashley

    1. Thanks so much, Ashley! I'm loving the change!


I love interacting with readers and learning more about you. You are always welcome to leave a comment. I make sure to answer every single one!
*I have added word verification because I've been receiving a lot of spam comments. Thanks for understanding!*