When he was getting ready to make a fireplace surround for his living room, special-issues editor Charles Miller went with an untraditional choice: concrete. That material fit the requirements he’d outlined: It could be shaped to reflect the other trim details in the room; it was affordable (less than $30 in materials for the mantel and two pilasters); and it was fireproof. Miller attached the mantel and pilasters to the wall framing with 6-in. TimberLok screws. The mantel does not rest directly on the pilasters. To make sure the concrete work would match the room, Miller built molds with shapes that would relate to the rest of the room. To ensure easy disassembly of the concrete parts, he coated the mold surfaces with slippery housewrap tape. The concrete is ready mix, with no additives.
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