A Crown-Mold Concrete Mantel
A stock crown profile and quarter-round form the mold for an inexpensive and unique fireplace surround.
Synopsis: When he was getting ready to make a fireplace surround for his living room, special-issues editor Charles Miller went with a nontraditional 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.
I had three goals in mind when I started designing our living room’s fireplace surround. First, it had to reflect the other trim details in the room; second, it had to be affordable; and third, it had to be unmistakably fireproof. Concrete seemed like the clear choice, giving me a good excuse to put together a small-scale concrete pour. I really like this kind of low-anxiety concrete project. It’s devoid of the handwringing scenarios that often accompany a visit by the transit-mix truck, and you can’t beat the price tag. The mantel and both pilasters cost less than $30 in materials.
Fastening the surround to the wall
I used long screws to secure both the mantel and the pilasters to the wall framing. As shown in the section drawing, the mantel hangs from the chimney-shaped framing by way of two 6-in. TimberLok screws. The pilasters are screwed to blocking in the walls. The screw heads are concealed by spray-painted wooden caps that look like…