Monday, October 17, 2011

Revisiting Our Fireplace DIY Projects: Building a Mantel For Under $100 & Mounting a TV to a Brick Fireplace

  It was brought to my attention a couple weeks ago by one of our readers named Jackie (thanks Jackie!) that our posts on Building a DIY Mantel and Mounting a TV to a Brick Fireplace were leaving out a couple very important details.... like where the heck are all the cords, cable box, DVD player, etc???

REALLY GOOD QUESTIONS!  How the heck did we miss that???
I can only say that back in June of 2010, I was VERY new to blogging and I think I was better at confusing people with my typos and run-on sentences than I was at accurately describing our projects. Yep, even blogging takes a lot of practice! So, I'd like to revisit these projects and shed a little more light on how we got our precious TV working with all the TV accessories/gadgets.  Also, I think this is a challenge for many people that live in older homes. Heck, a 1920's home certainly wasn't designed to accommodate a location for a TV and all the necessary electrical outlets (another big challenge on this project).
Before I start I should give you a better idea of our Living Room layout.  
And just for fun- did you know this is what our Living Room used to look like?
The fireplace is centered between 2 windows on the left and the staircase is to the right.  At the end is a large window and then an archway where this photo is taken from.
With this layout, we were left with no other options for the location of the TV.  It had to go on the fireplace, but that was fine anyway since the fireplace is the focal point of the room. 

Here 's how we mounted our TV to the brick:
We picked up a wall mount at Target for $80 and the mason drill bit at Home Depot for $12. Alex measured out the location for the mount where he would need to drill, and marked each spot. Sadly, I do not have more pictures of this process, this was before our blog existed so I didn't document everything. The only thing I took a picture of was Alex wearing my sassy BCBG shades during the drilling since we didn't have safety goggles on hand :) It was hilarious and I didn't want to forget this moment! 
I bet P. Diddy or Dirty Money or whatever his name is would drill wearing stunna shades too....
Sorry, I couldn't help myself

It took Alex a while and a LOT of pressure to drill as deep as we needed for the wall mount.  BUT... we got the TV up!

 Then it was time to build a mantel so we could help hide all the crazy cords (and decorate it for each season of course)! In between, we also ripped out all the old icky white carpet then sanded and refinished the wood floors underneath... oh and we painted those peach walls gray too!

Back to the mantel... again, this is what the fireplace looked like before (and how crazy messy the house was, ick!).

Here are the DIY steps for building a fireplace mantel:
To start, Alex picked up 1x2's, 1x3's, 1x4's, to create a frame to stick the wood to. Alex used Loctite Power Grab construction grade adhesive to bind the wood to the brick.
Then he added 1x8's and 1x10's of pine as the face of the mantel. Note: pine chosen over plywood because it has a finished grade. He used the same adhesive and 1 and a 1/2 inch wood screws.
We both picked out the trim for the top of the mantel (which was the fun decorative part). Then Alex nailed all of the trim in, taped off the mantel, and then started painting it to match all of our white trim.
Here is the finished product!  Much better right?  So inexpensive too! we didn't tally up the cost for each piece of wood and paint at the time but we know it didn't cost more than $100, might even just be $75?
(photo from our Fall 2011 mantel decor post)

Now, where are all the cords for the TV?  Where's our cable box and DVD player?

Take a closer look at the left side of our mantel, notice anything new?
If you spotted this little notch in our mantel you WIN! Just kidding, but that is our little 'cord' secret.  When Alex built the mantel he carved out 2 notches for the TV cords, one at the top here and one at the bottom where they come out.
Now, this part is hard to explain since I didn't get photos back when Alex was actually working on it (again, pre-blog existence) so bear with me.  The cords come out at the bottom left side of the mantel where Alex drilled a hole into the floor to route the cables into the basement. They travel along the wall and come back up through another hole behind this big Ikea cabinet (I guess they don't sell this exact one anymore? Can't find it online)...
Behind this cabinet is also where the nearest electrical outlet was, so even if we had somehow put the cable box closer to the mantel there still would have been cords to run from the wall.  Inside the big Ikea cabinet on the middle shelf (behind the glass part of the door) is where our cable box & DVD player sit. The whole set up is nothing fancy, and we don't have a lot of other fancy pants TV electronics in there so that helped to make it easier (although I think Alex still wonders how he can get the surround sound to work in our house).
 All in all, it wasn't the easiest thing to figure out when we got the house, but happy it works for us!


That wraps up how we were able to make a modern TV function in our old 1924 Dutch Colonial with a DIY built mantel and drilling into some brick!
It was kind of fun to take a look back at our house early on.  Reminds me that we have put a lot of work into it to make it special and our own!

If you are curious about the original Living Room posts from June 2010 here are the links. Be warned they are confusing and a bit messy!
Living Room: Before and Afters
Carpet removal, sanding and refinishing wood floors
Building a DIY Mantel for Under $100
Mounting a TV to a Brick Fireplace

Linking this project up!!!!



  1. Very cool. When you aim your it at the TV or the cabinet? I always wondering if it mattered?

  2. Another good question I failed to answer...Boo :( but happy you asked!!! We aim the remote at the cabinet to change the channel, and TV to change volumne. Sounds annonoying, weird, and felt a bit odd at first but I guess I am now used to it. Again, not ideal, but I think when you are dealing with a very old house, you have to get creative with the solutions. This works for us, and it as for almost 3 years now... Holy cow I can't believe it has been that long! Gosh, I picture us in a newer (or brand new) house with the whole electrical (cable, internet, multiple outlets) ready to go and it sounds so heavenly! We'll see what comes next, for now my goofy set up works fine... and more imporantly, it is pleasing to the eye!

    ~ Carla

  3. I LOVE this! (I despise cords & you hid them PERFECTLY.) In fact I love all your projects! I found you through Lauren@OBFFW:CEA (quite a while ago, but I was nerdy and never commented...sorry!) and I'm a big fan!

  4. Very clever how you hid the cables. I love the mantel and surround you added.

  5. I didn't realize you guys DIYed your floors! I'm impressed Alex used a belt sander. I was afraid I'd ruin the floors so I used an orbital. In retrospect I wish I'd used a belt sander to really get down into the wood. Oh well, yours looks great!

  6. Oh, Thank You!!! We are trying to reconfigure our living room, and the only place for the tv is above our mantle, too... but to figure out how to do the cable box and cords... yours looks great!

  7. Your mantle is beautiful ! I found you through coastal charm. It is funny I just did a post on weather or not to paint my steamer trunk white ... then I came here to check out your mantle and low and behold you have a painted steamer trunk ... small world :) Have a great week ... your newest follower, Francine

  8. This is so SO great!!! I absolutely love how you not only made it super functional but super beautiful too! :-) We are so glad you shared this with us at Inspiration Friday this week!
    P.S. Sorry for being a crazy exclamation point lady. LOL!

  9. Wow you guys put in quite a bit of hard work, but it was totally worth it. I absolutely love what you did! The mantel looks amazing.


  10. Thank you for posting the details of how you built your mantel. I'm going to use your instructions to redo mine.

  11. LOVED your gather banner so much, I did a lil twist on it! I hope ya don't mind that I linked to your page also! If you're interested, check it out here

  12. Hi Carla, what a lovely job you both did with the mantle, especially when you managed to conceal those ugly cords so expertly. Kudos. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  13. Your fireplace looks great and your entire room looks so much better - I love your wall colour too. Good idea too with the cords, very clever! I've got this linked to my fireplaces post too today, well done!

  14. I am officially inspired! I'll have to send you an email or something once I get mine done. Great idea with the cords! I found you while I was googling DIY Mantle ideas. I made a really basic mantle just for Christmas stockings, but am ready to do something more substantial now that the holidays are over. I wasn't sure what a full mantle surround would look like, but it looks Awesome. I'm sold on the design and hoping to do my own really soon.

    Your newest follower...

  15. What color did you use on your walls? Please email me at Thanks so much!!

  16. Hi, i also would love to know the color of your walls? and where did you get those baskets?

  17. I was looking for articles on building custom high heels and design and this page came up. figured it couldnt hurt to check it out. Nice work and very well done. Did you know that inthe pictures of actual construction there is a tons of dust spots in the pics? some peopel call these orbs and would call them spirits. Just noticed a lot of em in the construction pics only. Wierd stuff! but again nice job on the mantle and very professional looking.

  18. we've been living with a mantle-less fireplace for almost 7 years! i kept telling my husband there must be a simple (and cost-effective) way to build one onto our existing brick...
    i stumbled across your blog post yesterday and now we're in full-on mantle installation mode!
    thanks so much!
    (i'm going to post with a linkback from my little blog, too :)


    1. That's awesome! So glad you found our blog and tutorial! I will have to check out your blog now to see how it turned out!

  19. Thank you for posting this I am going to use your ideas to inform my project.

  20. I'm curious about how you feel about the height of the TV at this point. I'm thinking of mounting mine above the fireplace (and building a custom mantle just like yours!), but I'm worried that it might be too high for viewing...especially since I read that TVs really shouldn't be higher than something like 15 degrees above natural eye level. Any thoughts or experiences on that?

    1. Honestly, I wish it was a little lower but we're hoping to get a new larger TV soon so that might help solve that problem. I don't think ours is too high really but since our living room is narrow we have to sit closer to it, if the room was a bit wider it might not matter. I read somewhere that you should gauge the position for you TV by standing in front of it and the bottom of the TV should be even with your eye level. I know that will depend on a person's height but kind of goes along with what you mentioned. I say mark the center where it would hang for what you are thinking and then sit in all sitting areas in the room to see how you feel about the height, then keep in mind that lower than you think might be the safer way to go!

    2. Thank you! That's a great tip (standing in front of it), and I hadn't heard of it before. My space is similar to yours from what I can tell, which is why I loved your conversion so much! This is really the perfect (or well, maybe only?) option for my space and layout, and I'm on a budget, so I'm grateful for your tutorial. :) Now to see if I have the skills to build this myself!

  21. Hi, Carla!

    This looks great! Do you all use your fireplace? Was there any concern about the materials you used and the safety of them? I'd like to try this at my house!

  22. So glad to find your blog and diy! We've been struggling with how to do this is our 1930's home. Yay!


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