We Bought a Farmhouse

stories of renovation, home decor inspiration & sprinkles of country life

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A Fireplace Update: Installing A Wood Beam Mantel

Most importantly, a very special thank you to my friend Maggie of StoryStyleVision for giving us the beam to finally update the fireplace in our living room. Not only was this amazingly generous and kind of her, but it's extra awesome because now we think of her when we look at it. Thank you, Maggie!

As with most everything in this house, I had a pretty clear vision of the fireplace mantel, which did not include the existing wood piece, and instead, included a chunky wood beam. But, beams like that are actually hard to find and pretty expensive. Well, let me re-phrase. These are hard to find and expensive if you decide you want an actual reclaimed wood beam with a story and history. This is what I originally wanted. I thought to myself, Well, this house is old, and it seems fitting to put something from its time up on the fireplace. Plus, I'd be recycling, and it shouldn't be hard to find an old beam somewhere so it's a win-win. 

This did not happen as planned.

When I started researching reclaimed wood beams, I saw how ridiculously expensive they are. Like, hundreds of dollars. I get it, and I don't at the same time. I understand that you pay for the character and the story attached to the wood. I can definitely see value in that. But for the size we'd need, we were looking at $300 or so, maybe more, for a reclaimed wood beam. It was out of my comfort zone. And also, a little bit of a shock.

My original plan was go to to Home Depot and just buy a 6 in. deep beam in the lumber department. But when my friend Maggie told me to reach out to her before doing anything, I decided to do that, and she stepped in to save the day. Her and her husband were even kind enough to cut it down to the right size so it fit into our tiny Honda Fit for easy transport to its new home. 

I don't have any photos of the staining process because, well, staining is messy, and I don't have a camera crew that follows me around while I do these things. But, I do have befores and afters. 

Here's a before:

I contemplated leaving the wood in its total natural state (no sanding or priming or staining or anything). Then I thought better of myself and gave it a decent sanding - not too much though, just enough to smooth it down a little and round off the edges), and decided to stain it Minwax Provincial.

One thing I didn't know before I started this project, though, was that pine soaks up a lot more stain than other woods. So it came out to be about three shades darker than my tester board (which was NOT pine, stupid me), but it worked out in the end because I actually prefer it this darker color. We also applied two coats of poly to seal it in, and protect the wood. 

Here's what we have now:

The main complication we had with this project was mounting it. I had in my head since the beginning that I wanted to use thick, industrial corner brackets, and spray paint them bronze. We couldn't find any in the size that we needed that were sturdy enough to hold up the beam, though. So I had to let go of the idea. Our next thought was to make it a floating beam, but after looking into it, we were concerned about puncturing the stove flute if we drilled too far into the stone, so that was immediately crossed off as an option. Finally, we just decided to go back to brackets, and find the best ones in the size we needed. Finding 6 in. deep brackets was actually harder than I thought (most come in 8 in.), but we ended up finding the ones we used at Home Depot, and we spray painted them bronze. At first, I hated these when we got them home and put them up against the stone.  The black was a harsh contrast, and I thought it made the whole project look dated for some reason. While I'm not in head-over-heels in love with the brackets now, the bronze spray paint made them a whole lot better. 

Bronze on left, black on right.

I'm fully aware of how minimal the difference in color is, but I'm crazy, so they needed to be bronze. The bronze just blended in with the stone more, and I dunno ... it just worked in a "you'll have to do" kind of way.

The previous owners had installed their mantel into wood blocks, which unfortunately, are still visible under our beam. That, we don't know what to do with. We'll probably try to paint those a similar color as the stone to blend in.

Overall, though, it was so nice to get this sucker up, and to take down the existing one, especially going into the holidays when the fireplace is such a huge focus for decorating. I can't wait to decorate it during Christmas. Can I do it now? No? Okay.


  1. It looks lovely, such a big improvement! And love the wedding photo :-)

    1. Thank you so much! It really does make a huge difference, right?

  2. I'm so impressed with how much you two have done so far. It's amazing with what a few changes can do!

    1. Aww, thank you! It feels like all we do is work around the house, but it's actually really fun. We're not getting as much does as we wanted before the cold weather set in, but little projects here and there are making enough of a difference :)

  3. I didn't notice the wood blocks, and even had trouble finding them after you mentioned it. Everything looks amazing!

    1. Thank you! That means a lot! I'm so glad you couldn't see them :)

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