Tag Archives: rustic

Master Bath Remodel – Fireplace Phase

Master Bath - Fireplace Header

We are pretty lucky to have a double-sided fireplace in the bathroom/bedroom.  However, I am not a big fan of the tile surrounding the fireplace.  As part of the master bathroom remodel, I decided to add wood mantels and stone to both sides of the fireplace.

Because this bathroom remodel project was so big… I decided to post about it in phases.  If you are interested in the other phases, here they are broken down (I will link to the other phases as I post them):

This picture shows the bedroom side of the fireplace (taken before we moved in).  The other side was surrounded by that yucky 4″ white tile that was pretty much standard with all houses built at the time.

Master Bath - Before 1 The fireplace part of this project started with making 2 mantels exactly the same way as I had before (as seen in this blog post) and adding stone (as seen in this blog post)

Master Bath - Fireplace MantelsHere they are installed using some rebar and epoxy.

Master Bath - Fireplace Mantel Inside

Master Bath - Fireplace Mantel OutsideIt took a while to find the time to actually install the stone, but I think it came out pretty well.  It definitely went a lot faster than the other stone jobs I have done in the house (maybe because there was less of it, or maybe I am just getting better at it).  Here is how they came out!  Much better than they were before and the new mantels gives us another place to collect dust in the house 🙂

Master Bath - Fireplace Outside Final

Master Bath - Fireplace Inside FinalNow it is time to get moving on the final phase of this project.  New cabinets, vanity and mirrors are in order!



Fireplace Remodel With Stone

Main Fireplace - Before and After

The fireplace on the main level of our house should be a beautiful focal point of the living area, but it was…. well… builder grade.  It could be much worse, but cheap ceramic tile and a skimpy white mantel were not demanding much attention.  Neither was the tile on the floor in front of it.

Our fireplace before the remodel

Our fireplace before the remodel

For this project, I wanted to surround the fireplace with stone (or manufactured stone), raise the fireplace to accommodate a hearth (instead of just tile on the floor) and add a new rustic wood mantle.  I had worked with manufactured stone before, but that was only a month ago when I added a fireplace to my basement.  Luckily I learned a few things from the first install.

To get started, I removed the old mantel, tore out all the tile and disconnected the fireplace from the gas line (after turning off the main gas line of course).  I built a box for the fireplace to sit on and had to re-frame a part of the outside wall to accommodate the fact that I also had to raise the vent pipe.  Now I have a siding repair project, but that should go quick.

Main Fireplace - Demo and Raise

All the “builder grade” has been removed and the area prepped to put the fireplace back in

The gas line also needed to be raised by taking out a section of the old pipe and replacing it with a longer piece.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Home Depot could cut and thread black pipe.  After using some Rector Seal to ensure no gas leaks, the hole I had made in my wall was ready to welcome back the fireplace.

Newly raised gas pipe peaking over the box

Newly raised gas pipe peaking over the box

Because I was installing the stone inside the house, I didn’t need to put up a vapor barrier and could put the metal lathe directly on the drywall after patching it.  Metal lathe is nasty, nasty stuff and will cut you in half if you are not careful.  Wear gloves (which I did) when working with it.  It just needs to be nailed into studs with the “cup” parts facing up and separate pieces overlapped by a few inches.  You can see I also built a box for the hearth stones to sit on as well.

Main Fireplace - Lathe 1

Floor to ceiling metal lathe

Main Fireplace - Lathe 2

Lathe is overlapped by a couple inches and nailed into studs

Next came the “scratch” coat.  It is basically mortar that is smeared onto the metal lathe to give the stone something to stick to.  The first time I did this, I actually put the mortar on smooth and went back and scratched it up before it dried.  This time I just used a notched trowel and saved myself the hassle and mess.

Scratch coat is up on the wall

Scratch coat is up on the wall

Now for the hard part… laying out the stone.  We chose a field stone with various colors from Sunset Stone and  in order to get all the pieces to fit into this giant puzzle, I went out into the garage and used some of the kid’s sidewalk chalk to draw out the areas we needed to cover with stone.  The first time, my wife and I spent hours and hours trying to get pieces to fit and the color to balance only to find that the stone doesn’t install exactly like you lay it out and I had to add filler pieces anyway.  This time we were smarter about it and focused on getting the colors balanced and getting the pieces to generally fit together.  I also took note from my first stone install and made sure that none of the exposed edges would get cut.

This is a very big, very heavy jigsaw puzzle

This is a very big, very heavy jigsaw puzzle

When installing the stone onto the wall, I found it easiest to work with sections at a time, starting from the top.  I set the big pieces that did not need to be cut and then would cut/set stones as I went.  I also tried to set any stones with an exposed edge first to ensure that if I had any unplanned cuts, they would be on the inside.  I just used an angle grinder with a diamond blade to make the cuts.  Make sure you wear glasses, ear protection and a mask when cutting manufactured stone, because concrete dust is NOT good for you in any way.  After all the big stones are set, I went back and cut/added filler pieces with scraps or custom cuts where there are big gaps between the stones.  Easily the worst part of this job is cutting and adding the little filler pieces.

All of the stone is installed along with the hearth.

All of the stone is installed along with the hearth.

After giving everything a day to dry, it was time for the grout.  It is the same mortar used for applying the stone to the wall, except that I colored it using Quikret Cement Color.  It is a little un-nerving to pour some neon orange colored water into your cement mix and expect it to come out brown… but it did.  Unless you plan on mixing a ton of grout, take note of how much liquid color you use to how much mortar mix (I used 1 oz. color to 16 lb of dry mortar).  The easiest way I found was to mark a line on a disposable cup and to use a separate bucket to measure out my mortar mix.  Grouting goes quickly and despite holding a 10 pound icing bag…. is pretty fun.

Grouting tools and neon orange cement color

Grouting tools and neon orange cement color

Getting the grout installed (see... I am actually doing this stuff), and the grout job complete

Getting the grout installed (see… I am actually doing this stuff), and the grout job complete

Nearing the home stretch… I made a new solid wood mantel the same way I made the mantel for the basement fireplace.

Mantel is drying after its final coat of polyurethane

Mantel is drying after its final coat of polyurethane

One night after work I got a bug and decided to go ahead and set the mantel with some 1/2″ rebar and some epoxy.  I had used Liquid Nails and lag bolts with the heads cut off for the basement fireplace and the epoxy and rebar worked much much better.  This project is done!  … well … besides patching the siding on the outside of the house.

It's all done!

It’s all done!

A couple notes and thoughts about installing manufactured stone:


  • Be patient mixing your mortar.  You may think you have not added enough water, but keep mixing until you are certain you need more water.  I should know better, but a couple times I added too much water initially and had to hover over my mortar pan with an 80 pound bag trying to add a tiny bit of mortar to thicken the mix up (not fun).
  • Let the mortar set for a while before using it.  I would bring the mixed mortar into the house and start using it only to find that it set up a bit and I had to add a bit more water to make it usable.  I just kept a container of water inside to splash and mix after it had set up a bit.

Stone Install

  • A garage with a chalk outline of your stone area works great for laying out stone.  I am sure stone masons do not even need this step, but us DIYers definitely need it.
  • Do everything possible to have your cuts on the inside.  Cut manufactured stone looks like concrete and it will stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Use a spray bottle to wet your scratch coat before setting the stone… it makes a huge difference in the adhesion.
  • Work from the top down to avoid dropping mortar on the stone.
  • Do NOT try to wiggle the stone into position after you have pressed it onto the wall.  This will just break the bond and you will be scraping mortar off the wall and the stone.  Get it into the exact position first, then wiggle WHILE you press.
  • Do NOT beat or bump the stone into place.  You may cause the surrounding stones to fall off.  Just press it onto the wall.
  • On the edge pieces, wipe out the mortar (while it is still wet) that squirts out of the edge to give yourself a little cavity to fill with grout.  Don’t worry about it on the inside pieces because those “mortar boogers” will get covered in grout anyway.


  • Pay extra special attention to the grout consistency.  If it is too runny, you will make a huge mess and most likely stain your stone.  Too thick and it won’t come out of the bag.  Don’t be afraid to dump out your grout bag and mix a little more water into it.
  • Be very careful using a metal strike with manufactured stone.  It will make marks on the stone if you are not careful.  I still used a metal one, but most masons will tell you that a stick works just fine.
  • WEAR GLOVES!  These gloves will get destroyed during the process, but will save your hands.  After using the strike, I would use my hands to smooth out the grout even further.


  • Spend a little extra time covering everything up.  I didn’t do this the first time and the mess was out of control.  I tried to clean up after every major step and my carpet (and wife) appreciated it.

DIY Rustic Wood Mantel

Wood Mantel - Header

For my basement fireplace project, we were undecided on what to do about the mantel.  I always liked the look of those rustic mantels that look like someone chopped a log in half and hung it over the fireplace.  My wife likes the look of a stone mantel.  After deliberating and doing some research, we quickly ruled out a stone mantel (either made from concrete or an actual stone) because of the weight and no real way to support it.  We also ruled out the “cut in half” log after realizing that we (unfortunately) don’t live in a log cabin (it would just look out of place).  That left us with a non-log-sawed-in-half wood mantel (no mantel was not an option).  After doing more research and figuring out that solid wood mantels run $300 or more, I thought I was going to have to make a box mantel.  I was at a local woodworkers store buying wood for a box mantel, and on a whim asked the man behind the counter if they happened to have any solid wood that was thick enough to use for a mantel.  Unfortunately they didn’t have anything, but he gave me the number of a saw mill near by (well, 50 miles away… close enough).  I called up to Casey’s Lumber and not only did they have tons of lumber to use as a mantel, it was definately not going to cost me $300!  I was going to have to finish the lumber, but that is a heck of a lot more fun than buying something off the internet and installing it.

I had a friday off of work and drove the 50 miles up to the saw mill.  I have been in and around construction since I was 13, but have never been to a saw mill.  It was a very cool experience and it definately got my juices flowing.

Casey's Lumber

Casey’s Lumber

It took about an hour to pick out lumber, pet the “yard dog”, get the lumber cut to length, pet the “yard dog”, and pay the $70 for 4 mantel sized pieces of ponderosa pine.  I couldn’t help myself… I got 4 pieces of lumber to make solid wood mantels for the other fire places in the house (one fireplace is double sided) as well.  I also grabbed some of the scrap from the cuts so that I could test out some different finishes before making the actual mantels.

Lumber from the yard: The two on the left have already been planed. The two on the right are waiting their turn.

Lumber from the yard: The two on the left have already been planed. The two on the right are waiting their turn.

I had an idea to “fancy” these mantels up a bit and I decided to test it out on my scrap piece.  I thought it might look good if the mantels appeared to be attached to the wall with a thick wood post.  I got out my router and rounded over the edges of the test mantel and then routered out a square hole to place a 1″ thick “post” into the hole, creating the look that the mantel is installed by driving a big post through it and into the wall.  Because I was just testing the look, I did not bother to make a jig for the hole and it is a little sloppy… but good enough to get the idea of what it will look like.

Test Mantel: Hole routered out and "mock post" installed.

Test Mantel: Hole routered out and “mock post” installed.

Test Mantel: Close up of the "mock post"

Test Mantel: Close up of the “mock post”

After running the idea by my wife, we decided to go with it.  I cut off 1″ from my test mantel and used my table saw to cut them down to size to make my faux posts.  Using a 1/4″ round over bit with my router, I rouned over all the edges of the mantel except the back (which was going to sit flush with the wall).  I measured out where my “posts” would sit and drilled the pilot hole with a spade bit, the routered out my holes.  A small chisel was used to square the holes.

Laying out the holes for the "faux" posts

Laying out the holes for the “faux” posts

Everything routered/chiseled out

Everything routered/chiseled out

Everything was sanded down smooth, and the faux posts were glued into place… and it was time to distress the mantel!  The only distressing I have done in the past was by accident, and I usually had to do something to fix it.  We have some distressed furniture in the house so I took a close look at the details.  Worm holes, gouges, dents, scratches, corners that looked like someone dragged the furniture along the driveway…. it seemed simple enough.  I chose to use a chisel, a poker, 80 grit sandpaper and both ends of my hammer to distress the mantel.  You need to be careful not to over-do it with all of these tools or your “distressed” look will end up as a “should be used as firewood” look.  I have seen all sorts of medievil looking contraptions to distress wood, but just decided to keep it simple and take my time.

Tools of choice for distressing

Tools of choice for distressing

Here is how I did the distressing:

Distressed Corners – I used the 80 grit sandpaper to make those perfectly rounded corners from my router look like someone dragged the wood up the driveway on its corners.  I then used my chisel to “tap” the sharp end on the sanded corners.

Worm Holes – Just use the poker to poke random, but closely bunched holes.

Hewing the Edges – For the rounded edges that needed to be made more imperfect, I used my chisel with very little pressure to scrape off some of the rounded edges.  I tried not to go overboard here and just did a few spots.  Use some sandpaper to sand of any spliters left from the chisel.

Gouges & Dents – I used the claw end of my hammer to randomly tap the wood faces to create small gouges (seen below on the front face of the mantel).  The hammer end was used to create dents on the faces and edges (seen below on the corner).  Again… I used very light pressure.

Distressing the Wood - corners, worm holes and hewing

Distressing the Wood – rough corners, worm holes and hewing

Scratches – The chisel was used to drag scratches into the faces where I started with light pressure and slowly increased it before easing off the pressure again.  This created some pretty “sharp” looking scratches that I was not happy with, so I used my poker turned on it’s side to drag through the scratches to smooth them out a bit.

Distressing the Wood - Scratches

Distressing the Wood – Scratches

To be able to actually hang this mantel, I carefully measured out some pilot holes for the back of the mantel and the wall.  I used some 10″ x 1/2″ lag bolts, coated with liquid nails to screw into the header that I had framed in.  If I had to do this over (which I will on the upstairs fireplace), I would use rebar and some masonry epoxy.  The liquid nails didn’t set very fast and cutting the heads off the lag bolts was a lot more work than I anticipated.

Wood Mantel - Pilot Holes

Pilot Holes on the back of the mantel

Wood Mantel - Mounting Posts

Mounting posts

Finally it was time for stain.  This turned out to be a lot more difficult task than I planned.  Not because staining wood is hard, but because I was a lot more picky with the details.  I grabbed 3 different stains to test out.  Minwax Red Mahogoney (left), Minwax English Chestnut (middle & top), and Minwax Dark Walnut (right) were tested on my test mantel with two coats each (the stain on the top is English Chestnut with one coat… a second coat made a huge difference).  Based on this test piece… we decided to go with the English Chestnut (the darker one).

Testing Stain Colors

Testing Stain Colors

There were a couple things that didn’t pan out like I wanted them to when it came to staining.  First, I should have given more time for the Minwax Pre-Stain Treatment (you NEED to use this on softer wood like pine) to dry.  In fact, I didn’t use the pre-stain treatment on my test piece, so the colors came out much darker.  My second mistake was to wipe off the first coat too early.  I should have given it the full 15 minutes.

First coat of stain using the English Chestnut color

First coat of stain using the English Chestnut color

As you can see… it was much lighter than what I was going for.  The second coat didn’t make it much darker and the third coat was closer but not close enough.  You shouldn’t have to use 3 coats, and I ended up adding a 4th coat of the Red Mahogoney to darken it enough to my liking.  After 2 coats of Polyeurothane, it came about pretty good though.

All I had to do was put some liquid nails into the pilot holes on the mantel and push it onto the mounting posts.  A rubber mallet was needed to bump it into place.  Here is how it came out (the stone isn’t grouted yet so the project is not done… but the mantel is!) …

Final Product

Final Product

And here are a few detailed close up pictures…

Wood Mantel - Final 1Wood Mantel - Final 4 Wood Mantel - Final 3 Wood Mantel - Final 2

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