How to Remove a Fireplace Mantel: A Step-By-Step Guide

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on June 9, 2021

Fireplaces are statement centerpieces that add individuality to your house. A staple part of any family home, especially during the wintertime, there’s no better feeling than curling up by the fire and being cozy and warm with the ones you love the most.

But while the fireplace provides a practical purpose, the mantel above it may be outdated. Whether you’re looking for a design makeover or the mantel has simply become damaged over the years, learning how to remove a fireplace mantel is a great way to revitalize your living room.

fireplace mantel
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Table of Contents

What Type of Mantel Do You Have?

Before delving into the removal process, you need to know the type of mantel you have. This will help determine the easiest and safest way to remove it. There are two mantel types found in most homes:

wooden-board
  • Knockdown Mantel

This mantel type is usually built from multiple pieces that surround the actual fireplace on three different sides. Many knockdown mantels have side columns for stabilization which also serve a decorative purpose. They are almost always connected to the wall with bolts or screws.

  • Shelf Mantel

These mantels are attached to the wall without any visible column or support. Unlike the knockdown, shelf mantels use corbel braces. These pieces are used as decoration and attach to the wall. They can be made from many different materials, including wood, stone, plaster, or metal.

When deciding to remove a mantel, you should also note the material of the wall behind the fireplace. Determining what the mantel is attached to makes it easier to remove correctly. For example, if the mantel is secured to a brick chimney, masonry tools will be required to remove it. However, if it is only secured to drywall, the removal process will be much easier.

What Tools Will You Need?

Once you’ve identified your mantel type, you’ll need to purchase the correct tools for the job. Depending on what your mantel is attached to, there may be certain pieces of equipment you won’t need. Figuring out what wall material you’re working with ahead of time can save you money on supplies. All the materials you might require for both mantel removal types include:

  • Rubber mallet
  • Screwdriver
  • Pry bar
  • Masonry chisel and hammer
  • Socket wrench set
  • Cordless Power Drill
diy-tools

Knockdown Mantel Removal Guide

Step 1: Loosen the Mantel Sides

The easiest way to remove a knockdown mantel is by starting from the bottom and working to the top.

Use your pry bar or mallet to loosen each side from the wall, ensuring you don’t pry too hard. Too much force has the potential to damage the mantel and the surrounding fireplace.

Step 2: Remove the Fasteners

Knockdown mantels are usually attached with screws. However, the screws are sometimes hidden by moldings.

Chisel the mantel to find the screw heads. Use a socket wrench to unfasten the bolts holding the screw heads in place.

Step 3: Slacken the Mantel Shelf

After removing the sides, pry the mantel from the fireplace. If it is stiff, use your rubber mallet and tap it softly from the bottom.

Many knockdown mantel shelves are not attached to the sides, so you won’t need to remove the whole component as a single unit.

Step 4: Mantel Removal

Next, you can remove the mantel from your fireplace. You will need assistance with this part, as knockdown mantels can be extremely heavy. They can also fall forward and damage your flooring if you attempt to remove them without sufficient support.

Shelf Mantel Removal Guide

Step 1: Slacken the Corbel Braces (if necessary)

If your shelf mantel has braces, you’ll need to remove them first. Depending on the material type, you may need to chisel the section where the bolts and screws are secured to the wall.

If chiselling is not required, remove the braces by positioning a pry bar behind them and applying pressure until they become loose. To maneuver the edge of the pry bar between the wall and the brace, use your mallet.

Step 2: Remove the Fasteners

Use your power drill to remove the screws from the mantel. If the screws don’t require the drill force, you can use a screwdriver to remove the fasteners instead. Use a socket wrench if bolts are securing the braces to the wall.

Step 3: Remove the Braces

Once you remove the fasteners, you can detach the braces from the wall. Some shelf mantels may need support depending on the wall material and how securely the braces are fastened. This is to ensure the mantel doesn’t rip straight from the wall after you remove the braces.

Step 4: Slacken the Mantel

Now you’re left with the mantel shelf. Gently rock it back and forth to loosen it from the wall. If the mantel requires a little extra force, use your pry bar to gain some extra space.

Step 5: Mantel Removal

Nails usually secure most shelf mantels, so they are generally easy to pry off and remove.

If your shelf mantel has a secondary brace attached underneath for extra security, remove the fasteners first and then pry it off the wall.

using-a-crowbar

Extra Tips For Fireplace Mantel Removal

Wear Safety Equipment

Just like any home renovation project, employing safety measures is critical. Mantel removals are not particularly dangerous, but if you’re not prepared with the right equipment, it’s possible to sustain an injury. With this in mind, always wear eye protection, a breathing mask, and thick gloves.

Cover Your Fireplace and Floor

Fireplace mantel removal is guaranteed to be messy. To avoid damaging or spoiling your interior, use some plastic or tarp to cover the surrounding areas.

Don’t Do it Alone

While your DIY passion may be undeniable, it’s always advisable to recruit an assistant for home improvement DIY projects. From helping with heavy lifting to providing extra support, you’ll not only increase your safety, but you’ll get the job done quicker, too.

Take the First Step

Following these steps for how to remove a fireplace mantel will give you the knowledge to perform the task safely and correctly. By identifying your mantel type, you’ll be able to use the right tools and methods to remove your mantel successfully. Once the old fireplace mantel is out of the way, you’re free to have some fun updating your living room decor to reflect the modern era.

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