Mantels are kind of tricky business. First, since it is sticking off the face of the brick so far, you have to make sure it is really well supported. And second, if you're adding one to an operational fireplace like ours, there are code restrictions that specify both how close the mantel can be to the firebox opening, and how deep the mantel can be, given it's proximity to the firebox.
To recap from my design post: In our area, the building code states that you can't have any combustible materials within 6 inches of the firebox opening. Then, at 6 inches and further away, the combustible material (wood, in our case) can only be projecting 3/4ths of an inch off the face of the fireplace, and can project further out by 1/8th of an inch for every inch you move further away from the firebox opening, until you get up to 12 inches away from the opening. This seems to be the standard guideline, according to the National Fire Protection Association, but we also verified this with our county's building inspections department.
So using that information, we determined that we could have a 10 inch deep mantel at the height we were aiming for. But since we wanted it to wrap around the sides of the brick fireplace, we needed to attach side pieces to our mantel top. We did this with some hidden pocket screws, wood glue, clamping and then sanding.
Plastic baggie between the mantel and supporting wood used to for clamping, so they wouldn't be glued together if any glue squeezed out
And here you can see where we marked off where the mantel would attach with painter's tape.
To actually mount the mantel, we first needed to install the ledger board. This is a piece of wood that you secure directly to the face of the brick, and then rest the mantel on top of it, so it helps support the mantel.
First, we figured out where we wanted the brick anchors to attach, and drilled pilot holes through our ledger board so we could mark the exact location on the brick.
Then it was time to drill into the brick. This was a bit nerve wracking because we really didn't want to destroy or crumble the bricks (keeping it so we could technically remove this in the future if we ever wanted, and just have small holes to patch), and it also took quite a lot of force to drill the holes with a special masonry drill bit (of which we went through several during the whole process, because they got dull quite quickly). We were kind of terrified that everything would come crumbling down and we'd ruin our whole fireplace, but luckily that did not happen!
We opted to do two passes with the drill, first, starting with smaller holes.
Then working up to a bigger hole to accommodate the anchors, which you can see on the right.
We also put tape around the drill bits to mark how deep we wanted to drill, which you can kind of see in this photo.
Since we often like to do things the cautious, overkill way, we decided to do a double thick ledger board, two 2x4s thick, just to give our deep mantel extra support. So we traced the anchor holes we'd pre-drilled on the first ledger board onto the second, so everything would be exactly lined up.
Then it was time to get to the anchoring. These were the brick anchors we used:
We had a few bricks randomly lying around our yard (why? no clue.), so we first experimented with a couple of the anchors. Here is one of our trial bricks, the anchor on the right is the one done correctly, and you can see how they expand inside the brick to really hold things in place.
Anchors installed into the first ledger board.
You'll notice that we have a break in the ledger board centered above the fireplace. That is for our TV cables, which we will run down through the top of the mantel to hidden compartment in the underside of the mantel and over to the cabinet being built to cover the firewood box on the right side of the fireplace.
Next it was time to install the second ledger board to the first, which we'd already drilled the anchor holes for.
Here you can see what the two thicknesses of ledger board looked like, compared to just the one. Twice the mantel support FTW!
And here you can see how we attached the second ledger board to the first, a whole ton of screws.
Then it was mantel time! We brought it in from the garage and held it up to the ledger board for a final fit test, and to mark where we would make the small cut out for our TV cables.
Then all we needed to do was place the mantel back up on the ledger and screw from the top down into the ledger board to secure it in place. To help hold the mantel up and make sure it was level, we used tension shower rods (blue rod in the below picture) to hold the edges furthest from the brick up, and adjusted them while using a level. This worked well to hold everything in place and level while things were screwed into place.
And here is the mantel top, all attached securely to the brick surface.
Next up, the rest of the project: building the bottom of the mantel, installing the rest of the brick covering facade, including the cabinet and shelves on the right side, and trimming everything out.
Have you ever installed a mantel on brick before? Were you nervous about drilling into the brick too?