How to make a faux cast stone fireplace mantle from scratch.

Hi Jane,

We have bought the 'money pit' house, it seems. But we are very creative and good with our hands. We are turning this house into a Spanish Revival home and need to put in 2 gas fireplace units. However, we cannot afford cast stone mantels to be consistent with the look we are going for.

We thought to design our own mantel by building out a wood frame, putting on a mesh and then plastering. Standard mesh, (chicken wire) is too difficult to work with for the curves true to the style. And we insist on creating a refined, high-end result with our work, not something that on closer inspection shows an amateur job. We are willing to put in the time and craftsmanship to make it right!

I was wondering if you had any tips on materials or techniques to accomplish this challenging project.

Thanks so much.


FabFrugalJane writes:

Wow, what a great question! You've got my mind spinning now with all sorts of fireplace mantel ideas.

In case you haven't finished your fireplace mantel yet, Or you want to add further enhancements to what you've already done, here are some ideas...

One way to get the curves you speak of could be accomplished by using wood moldings. For example Home Depot had twisted spindle moldings that were cut in half and sold in the lumber department. For larger areas, there may be inexpensive fiberglass ones sold online that could be used.

Other embellishments they sell are raised wood designs you can add to cabinets to make them look like they were carved. You could attach them to your mantel with construction glue, be it wood, concrete or plaster, and then cover over with whatever finish is on your mantel.

Another idea for adding curved accents would be to add those shelf holders that look like sconces as they can be very inexpensive and come in plastic, wood, or plaster. You may even find some in consignment stores. Again, cover them in whatever finish you choose for the fireplace. If it's plaster then try putting a thin layer of plaster over the design for color. It should be primed or painted first in a similar tone to the finish, so that it's easier to cover, and so that the plaster will adhere better.

***Very Important for safety! Never put anything over the metal portion of the fireplace front and only use high temperature stove paint in those areas***

What's nice about working with Venetian plaster is that you can still add tile work to your design. For example in flat areas where you want structure your base/form could be sections of drywall. then you can glue small tiles on and finish around the edges with plaster. Or, make cutouts in one piece of drywall and attach over another and it will look like carved wood or stone when you cover it with plaster.

For a rough stone look use Ralph Lauren's River Rock paint instead of Venetian Plaster.

Can you please share a photo with us when this project done? And let us know your creative process too!


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