How To Make A Distressed Fireplace Mantel | DIY Mantel

by Ashley

DIY Distressed Wood Beam Mantel

This post will show you how to distress wood beams to make a DIY mantel. Its an easy DIY project, and will be a huge upgrade for your fireplace!

DIY Wood beam mantel

As soon as we bought our house, we started thinking about ways to upgrade the look of the basic builder grade gas fireplace and add a mantel.  We’re always looking for ways to stretch the home renovation and decor budget, which sometimes requires getting a little creative.

A DIY distressed wood beam mantel was the perfect solution.

I knew that a perfectly aged, beautifully weathered, reclaimed wood beam mantle was probably going to be out of our price range.

That’s when I came up with the idea to do a little DIY to get the distressed wood beam mantel look I was going for!

Below is my step by step process to make a brand new piece of wood look perfectly distressed!

Related: Must-Have DIY Blanket Ladder Step-By-Step Guide

How To Make A Distressed Fireplace Mantel

a distressed wood beam mantle hung on an unfinished fireplace

(Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more information see my disclosure, here.)

Supplies used:


At our local building supply store, a 4″ x 10″ x 12FT Douglas Fir wood beam was $39.99.  However, we asked and they cut it down to 6FT for us!  They sold it for $20! This made it a far more affordable option than the reclaimed wood beams that found, many of which were well over $100!

Even if you end up having to purchase a full board, it will still be drastically cheaper than a reclaimed lumber store.

a wood beam before distressing

How To Distress Wood Beams

Distressing wood beams is more of an art than a science. You want the distressing marks on a DIY mantel to look as authentic as possible.  There is no right or wrong way to distress, but try to make the markings in random places, in random directions. Use different tools to make each mark unique looking.

Sanding The Wood Beam

We started by sanded down the fresh cut edges of the wood beam. The goal is to make the beam look old and weathered, so I didn’t hold back with the sanding. I used both medium and fine sandpaper strips to mix up the look and to keep it from looking too uniform. Next came the fun part!

Distressing The Wood Beam

To get the distressed wood look, I grabbed any and every tool I thought would leave a nice authentic looking imprint on the wood.

A hatchet was my primary tool.  The blade made nice little chips out of the wood, while the back side of the hatchet worked well to dent the wood.

This would be a good project for a day when you need to blow off some steam. My favorite part was using a hatchet to chop out a few areas along the sides and corners to give it some authentic looking wear.

Make sure to distress the wood at random leaving marks all over. You really can’t mess this part up.

The wood beam looked like this when the distressing was finished:

distressed wood beam before staining

Stain and Seal The DIY Mantel

The next step was staining.

I used my favorite stain:  Minwax Dark Walnut. I’ve used Dark Walnut for several projects including the DIY wood accent wall in our master bedroom which turned out amazing!

After the first coat of stain was applied, we let it soak into the wood for about 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes were up, the excess stain needed to be wiped away with an old rag.

On the second coat, I really focused on the edges and corners of the wood. This gave it the uneven coloring which added to the weathered look.

Once it looked how I wanted, I sealed it with clear wipe-on poly and let that dry overnight.

Related: How To Install A Wood Accent Wall

I let my husband know the next morning that the distressed wood beam mantel was ready to be hung on the fireplace.  Being the amazing guy that he is, he jumped right on it! After it was installed, I sat back and admired my beautiful rustic mantel. See how I decorated it for Christmas in this post.

Here are some closeup pictures after the DIY mantel was hung.  The closeups show how the distressing looks once the beam is stained and sealed.

close up of a distressed wood beam mantle

close up of a distressed wood beam mantle

close up of a distressed wood beam mantle

distressed wood beam mantel on stacked stone fireplace with clock above

There you go, a DIY distressed wood beam mantel. To say I’m happy with how it turned out would be an understatement.

You can view the completed fireplace project here! You won’t believe the before and after pictures!

Looking for more DIY inspiration? Checkout all of our DIY projects here.

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13 comments

Rochelle April 4, 2017 - 1:44 am

You are amazing, SIL! Looks fabulous! I love the rustic look.

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Ashley April 6, 2017 - 6:22 pm

Thank you so much!! Come visit soon! 🙂

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Kathy April 4, 2017 - 4:01 pm

I love it. It looks super. I need a mantle…except I don’t have a fireplace. Hmmmmm.

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Christine Bowles September 28, 2017 - 2:51 pm

Looks Beautiful!! How did your hubby attach it to the wall? Thank You!!

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Ashley October 5, 2017 - 2:54 pm

Thank you! He actually had to frame the fireplace all the way up to the ceiling before we put the stone on so he was able to drill the mantle right into the frame (you may be able to see the process a little easier by viewing the fireplace makeover post). 🙂

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kim October 24, 2018 - 3:01 pm

This turned out beautiful. Can you tell me what kind of wood that is? I love the veining and I would like to find a similar piece! Nice job!

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Ashley October 27, 2018 - 11:33 am

Thanks so much! This was pine. Look for lots of variation and then the stain will really bring it out!

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Amanda November 9, 2018 - 2:50 pm

Beautiful! I’m adding this to my list of projects! I’m curious, how did your husband hang this?

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Ashley November 12, 2018 - 11:43 am

Oh yay, it makes such a huge difference! He had to frame the entire fireplace before adding the stacked stone so he was able to secure the wood beam right to the framing.

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Brittany November 16, 2018 - 5:58 am

How did you hang it?

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Ashley November 21, 2018 - 1:58 pm

My husband had to frame the entire fireplace before adding the stacked stone so he was able to secure the wood beam right to the framing.

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Tim Gilmer January 21, 2019 - 6:49 pm

Very nice. How did he attach the mantel to the fire place frame?

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Ashley January 23, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Thank you! He actually had to frame the fireplace all the way up to the ceiling before we put the stone on so he was able to drill the mantle right into the frame (you may be able to see the process a little easier by viewing the fireplace makeover post). ?

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