Four Unique Ways To Repurpose An Old Fireplace Mantel

Fireplaces have been used for hundreds of years to heat homes, and an integral part of each of them is the mantel. The mantel was originally used to provide support for a protective grate that hung in front of the fireplace, but it later evolved into mostly a decorative structure. Mantels still play a key role by serving as a focal point for the fireplace and offsetting it from the rest of the room. That lends them a special place of importance in most homes, and that is also why their lifespan can extend far past their time as a fireplace centerpiece.

Creative homeowners can re-purpose antique fireplace mantels and give them new purpose and life. Below are a few ideas for how you can re-purpose old fireplace mantels and make them a special part of your home:

Headboards for Beds

One particularly creative use for old fireplace mantels is to reuse them as headboards for beds. Their often-imposing appearance, plus the presence of intricate designs, makes them ideal for a master bedroom. In addition, installation boils down mostly to attaching the mantel to the wall behind the head of the bed; as long as the bed frame, box springs and mattress are not dependent upon the headboard for support, the bed doesn't even need to be attached to the mantel.

However, when reusing old mantels as headboards, it is important to keep safety in mind to ensure the mantel does not fall onto the bed. That means using several secure fasteners that bolt or screw into wall studs at highest points along the top of the mantel and along the jambs, which are the vertical side pieces.


Another creative reuse of old mantels is to convert them into shelving units. For many mantels, this simply entails inserting horizontal shelf boards that stretch from jamb to jamb. If you like the appearance of the top of the mantel but don't have the room or desire to use the jambs, you can cut them from the top piece to create a floating shelf for a wall.

The bottom of the mantel should be firmly attached to the floor, if possible, to provide a sound footing. For free-floating shelves, use wall anchors to hold the mantel against the wall and also consider using construction adhesive to provide additional support; old mantels can be heavy, and the strain may pull your drywall away from the studs and even cause it to crack if the support is weak.

Counter Tops

Old mantels have been used to create bar tops, and you can mimic this use to create unique counter tops for your home. To do so will require more work than is necessary to transform a mantel into a headboard or shelf, but the payoff can be well worth the time and effort. Keep in mind that if you convert a mantel into a counter top, you may need to refinish the wood and seal it with a waterproof coating to prevent swelling of the wood over time. Also, mantels used as counter tops will need to be carefully integrated into existing plumbing, and you may wish to contract with a professional woodworker for assistance in making the fit and appearance just right.

Entertainment Centers

Another way to recycle a mantel is to create an entertainment center that frames your television. This provides a look that is reminiscent of the days when fireplaces were the center of a room. To reuse a mantel as part of an entertainment center, you may wish to simply "drape" the mantel over your television set on its existing structure, or you can pursue a more elaborate plan by incorporating it into a custom-designed piece of furniture.