How To Remove A Fireplace Mantel (Step-by-Step Guide)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

A fireplace is an excellent part of any home, particularly when the weather starts to cool down. Nothing is better than curling up next to a roaring fire on a cold, wintry night. While the fireplace itself is practical, what about the mantel above it? Whether it’s damaged or you just want to upgrade it, you need to know how to remove a fireplace mantel.

To remove a fireplace mantel, first, ensure the mantel is clear and then identify how it is attached to the wall. Then, use a pry bar to pull the mantel from the wall. More often than not, mantels are attached with nails, screws or bolts. Ensure you have the right tools for removal.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to remove both a shelf and a knockdown mantel, as well as discuss best practices and safety tips for this project. Here’s what you need to know.

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Which Mantel Type Do You Have?

Shelf Mantel – This type is attached to the wall with no visible supports or columns. Instead, the mantel uses corbel braces, which are decorative pieces that attach to the wall. These braces may be made of plaster, wood, metal, or stone.

Knockdown Mantel – This type usually consists of multiple pieces that surround the fireplace on three sides. In many cases, the side columns help provide stabilization, but they may be decorative instead.

Another point to consider is the material of your mantel. If it’s made of wood, removing it will be relatively easy. However, if it’s made of stone or metal, you might want to get a professional to do the job since it could be more dangerous.

Also, pay attention to the wall behind the fireplace. For example, if your mantel is attached to a brick chimney, you’ll need masonry tools to get it off. If it’s attached to drywall, the project will be much easier.

What You’ll Need to Remove a Fireplace Mantel

We are listing all of the possible tools that may be necessary for this job. Feel free to ignore any materials that are not related to your unique situation.

  • Prybar
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Philips Screwdriver
  • Masonry Chisel
  • Masonry Hammer
  • Tarp or Plastic (to collect debris)
  • Cordless Power Drill
  • Socket Wrench Set

Step by Step Guide for Removing a Fireplace Mantel

For Shelf Mantels

  • Step One: Loosen the Corbel Braces (if applicable) – Most shelf mantels will have these braces in place, so you’ll have to remove them first. Depending on the type of material they are, you may have to chisel the section where the screws or bolts are attached to the wall. Otherwise, you can remove them by putting a pry bar behind them and wrenching them loose. Use the mallet to drive the edge of the pry bar between the brace and the wall.
  • Step Two: Remove the Fasteners – Typically, mantels are attached via screws. To make the job easier, we recommend using a power drill to get them out faster. However, you can use a screwdriver if a drill is too cumbersome. If there are bolts holding the braces to the wall, you’ll need a socket wrench set.
  • Step Three: Remove the Braces – Once the fasteners are off, you can pull the braces from the wall. In some cases, you might have to support the mantel so that it doesn’t rip out of the wall once the braces are gone.
  • Step Four: Loosen the Mantel – Now that you just have a shelf, you can rock it back and forth to loosen it from the wall. If necessary, use the pry bar to create some extra space.
  • Step Five: Remove the Mantel – Fortunately, the mantel should be attached by nails, so you can simply pry it off. However, in some cases, there may be a secondary brace underneath. Check to see if there is one and remove any fasteners from it first.

For Knockdown Mantels

  • Step One: Loosen the Sides – The best way to remove this type of mantel is to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you’re trying to salvage the whole thing, be careful not to pry too hard, as you could damage the pieces. Use the mallet and pry bar to loosen the sides from the wall.
  • Step Two: Remove Any Fasteners – The mantel is likely attached with screws, which may be hidden by moldings. You might have to chisel a little bit to find the screw heads. Again, using a drill will make this process a lot faster. If bolts are holding the pieces in place, use a socket wrench set instead.
  • Step Three: Loosen the Mantel Shelf – Once the sides are detached, you can start to pry off the mantel itself. If it’s not coming loose, use the rubber mallet to hit it softly from the bottom. In some cases, the shelf may not be attached to the sides, so you don’t have to remove the whole thing as a single piece.
  • Step Four: Remove the Mantel – You will need someone helping you to make sure that the whole thing doesn’t fall forward. Knockdown mantels can be quite heavy, so don’t try to do it all yourself.

Safety Precautions

Before starting any home renovation project, you want to make sure that you’re utilizing proper safety procedures. While removing a mantel is not highly dangerous, it can lead to injury if you’re not careful. Here are some ways to stay safe while doing this.

  • Wear Eye Protection – Whether chiseling brick or blowing dust around, you want to avoid getting any particles in your eyes while working.
  • Wear Gloves – Although a rubber mallet is not as hard as a metal hammer, it can hurt if you happen to hit your fingers. Thick work gloves can soften the blow. They will also come in handy if there are any nails sticking out of the mantel once it’s off the wall.
  • Use Tight, Controlled Motions – If a piece isn’t coming loose, don’t yank on it. Instead, work slowly and apply pressure evenly as much as possible. This will avoid any potential accidents.
  • Wear a Breathing Mask – Dust can not only be a problem for your eyes, but your lungs as well. Also, if you haven’t cleaned your fireplace in a while, you could kick up ash while working.

Tips and Tricks for Removing a Fireplace Mantel

As they say, it’s better to work smarter, not harder. Here are some ways to make this project run as smoothly as possible.

  • Use an Assistant – While it may be tempting to do this project yourself, it’s better to have someone helping you. They can brace the mantel, hold a flashlight, or hand you tools as needed.
  • Cover the Floor and Fireplace – You’ll likely create a big mess with this project, so be prepared by laying down plastic first. Also, covering the fireplace can reduce the chances of blowing ash everywhere.
  • Be Prepared to Patch Holes in the Wall – Even if you’re replacing the mantel with a new one, you might have to fill some holes with caulk (or mortar) first. Have those tools ready beforehand as well.

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Related Questions

If I have a shelf mantel, can I replace it with a knockdown model?

You should be able to, but always double-check if there are any pipes or electrical wires behind the wall before starting. You can also take this time to reface your fireplace with a better-looking brick or stone.

Will removing my fireplace mantel damage my chimney?

If the mantel is attached to the chimney, there will be some superficial damage. However, if you’re replacing the mantel with a new one, it should cover up those spots. Otherwise, you can use mortar or caulk to fill them in.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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