Burbank Fireplace Un-Updated – Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

People do weird stuff to old houses. For almost 75 years our Burbank house had remained largely untouched… except for the fireplace. The fireplace mantel was the one and only feature to be completely removed and was replaced with a 1970s super-special-teak-mess. To add insult to injury, someone put the wrong type of wood treatment/sealer on the teak so it was a gooey mess. Luckily the former home owners left the original brick surround when they tore out the old mantel, so I had a decent foundation to start from.

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

Now, how do you rebuild something you’ve never seen? Avid internet stalking! I watched Burbank real estate listings for a few months and saved every fireplace I found in similar aged houses before I started my fireplace plans. For more 1930s fireplace inspiration check out my 1930s-1940s Home Inspiration and Burbank Fireplace Re-do Pinterest boards.

While drawing up redo plans, I painted the fireplace white (much to our contractor’s dismay.)

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel
“But it’s beautiful teak!” No. Just no.

Once I had an idea of what the overall look of the new surround would be I started making some Photoshop mockups of different options. Builtins? Recessed panels? Ultimately we decided there wasn’t enough space for the builtins, but I’m glad we explored the option.

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

Rather than completely remove the current mantel, I decided to use it as a base for the new plan. You need to be sure to check your local codes to make sure you maintain the proper clearance space between the firebox and any flammable materials (aka the wood surround.) I used 1/4″x 3″ project wood from Lowes to create the base for my new surround, and filled in the recessed area with oak veneer sheets to avoid having the teak oil leach through the paint again.

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel
Peekaboo!

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

I added thin moulding to the seams and used crown moulding to bridge the gap between the mantel top and the rest of the surround.

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

Once everything was assembled I filled all the joints with wood filler and sanded everything like crazy to get a nice, smooth finish. After caulking the edges of all the trim the mantel was ready for paint! I did one coat of Kilz primer followed by 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Paper Mache in a semi-gloss finish.

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel
Rebuilding a 1938 Fireplace Mantel

And there she is! What do you think of the final product?

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