Bargain Block's Keith Bynum Shows You How To Make A Custom Wood Mantel

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Fireplaces are gorgeous statement pieces in the home, but if your fireplace is starting to look a little tired, it may be time for a refresh. Keith Bynum, design expert and co-host of HGTV's "Bargain Block," has a great method for making your fireplace stand out that doesn't require a major renovation. Bynum's trick, as featured on an episode of "Bargain Block" (via YouTube), is to add a custom wood mantel on top of the current mantelpiece. The wooden mantel adds new dimensionality to the fireplace and infuses the room with more warmth and texture. Plus, the slightly larger mantel gives you a little bit more surface area for placing items. 

If you want to try this Bynum-inspired DIY project, you'll only need a few materials. Naturally, you'll need to buy some wood. While you can splurge on some fancy wood, a regular board will work just fine, such as a 6-inch-by-8-inch whitewood board available from Lowe's for $13.32. You'll also need wood stain and a brush for finishing the mantelpiece. You can get Varathane wood stain at Home Depot for around $13. And, if you don't already have a paintbrush, Amazon sells a set with different sizes for about $9. This project also calls for an electric screwdriver and a few screws. The screw length will depend on the dimensions of your mantelpiece, but 1 ½-inch screws should be a safe bet. With just these items, you'll be ready to make your own custom wood mantel.

How to DIY a wood mantel

Keith Bynum definitely comes from the school of "work smarter, not harder," and this simple mantel project is no exception. To follow Bynum's concept, your first step is to measure out the right-sized wood piece. The size of your wood mantel piece comes down to personal preference. Generally, it will look best if you make it slightly larger than the current surface area of the mantel — this way, it hangs off a bit and creates a more defined silhouette and extra space for decorating your mantel. Depending on the structure, you may also need two small wooden pieces to cover the sides of the mantel top that wraps around the chimney. If you don't have the tools or skills for cutting wood, don't worry — most home improvement stores will do it for you.

Position your wooden board on top of the mantel. For precision's sake, use a measuring tape to make sure the board is centered. Then, use an electric screwdriver to secure the wood into place. Gently wiggle the wooden board to check that it's firmly attached. In most cases, you'll only need one or two screws on either end of the board, but you may need more if you have a particularly large mantel. For a final touch, stain the wood to give it a polished, refined finish. Bynum uses a paint sponge to apply the stain, but a regular paintbrush is also fine to use. 

Customizing your own mantel

This mantel DIY is super easy, meaning you can customize it any way you like. For instance, Keith Bynum uses a standard wooden board with a straight edge, but if you want a more natural feel for your space, consider getting wood with a live edge. You can buy a 4-foot-long walnut live edge board for around $150 at Home Depot. This will be much more expensive than using a regular wood board, but if you have room in the budget, it's well worth the beautiful results. 

Your choice of wood stain is another area of this project where you can exercise a lot of creativity. To get a look similar to Bynum's project, you'll want to find a wood stain that contrasts with the rest of the fireplace color. So, if your fireplace is dark, you should use a lighter stain, like Minwax wood stain in the espresso shade from Amazon. On the other hand, if you prefer the classic aesthetic of a dark wood mantelpiece, opt for shades like classic oak or pecan, which are both available from Minwax, as well. 

Alternatively, you can forego the stain altogether and choose paint for your mantel instead. This is a good option if you want to add more color to your space but don't want to paint the entire fireplace. Keep the fireplace a natural brick or neutral shade, and then add a subtle pop of color on the mantelpiece to complete your refreshed fireplace.