Mantle Refinishing Tutorial

What a weekend!  I hope everyone had a nice relaxing break.   The weather here in Birmingham was so sunny and wonderful.  It was a bit chilly, but I'll take it any day over drizzle which we have had our share of lately.  
In between outings to enjoy the weather, I managed to put this post together.  

If you recall, a few weeks ago, I promised to show you how we refinished the mantle in our family room.  For a refresher, here is the project planning for the media area and here is the finished product.   I was so surprised by just how simple it was to refinish the mantle (wish the rest of the project had gone this smoothly!)
This mantle board was in my childhood home growing up.  Then about 13 years ago my parent's home was struck by lighting and burned for a total loss.  This was one of the only things salvaged from the architecture of the home.  Here's what it looked like after the fire . . . 
 In this picture, you can really see the smoke damage. 

With an electric sander using a medium grade sandpaper, we (notice the liberal use of the word "we" here) sanded off as much of the blackened, charred layer as we could remove.  You really need to use a electric sander for this step - it would have taken forever to do it by hand.  
 There was one spot which was particularly trying.  My Mom had a grouping of brass candlesticks with tapered candles on this end of the mantle.  All the wax melted into the wood and created a sticky gooey mess.  We went through several sanding pads on this one spot.
   We removed as much of the smoke layer as possible without sanding the mantle entirely smooth.  I really wanted it to still have a rustic feel.
Now for the staining . . .  OK, here's the deal.  For years, I have been disappointed with staining projects.  The finished product never seems to be dark enough.  I always followed the directions of selecting a stain the color I want the finished product.  I always apply the stain and then wipe over it with a dry cloth.  But, it never looks good to me.  

  So this time, I vowed not to make these mistakes.  I purchased the darkest stain Minwax makes called Ebony.  The guy in Home Depot even tried to talk me out of it.  He kept saying, "it's going to be black, really black, just so you know."  He had almost talked me out of it when I remembered all my previous projects.  So, I ignored him and went with it!

All I did was brush the stain on using a sponge brush.  I did two coats.  Also, I did not wipe it off after applying the coats.  In fact, it was so quick and easy that I forgot to take a picture of it!  
 I also chose not to finish it with a varnish and really like the rustic look of it. 
What I learned from this project?  You don't need to be afraid to try something new.  I read a lot of blog posts on staining techniques and not a single one said anything about wiping off the stain.  Anything would have been an improvement on the looks of this mantle, and you can fix almost anything you try like this when it comes to wood.  Just sand it off and try something else.  M. 


  1. Mandi, I LOVE the look of this -- it's the perfect color with just the right note of rusticity. And how wonderful that you have a piece of your parents' home in yours now -- those connections are what make our homes meaningful. Awesome. :)
    Happy Monday!

  2. It looks incredible! I love the story behind this piece too. What a great addition to the family room!

  3. Ooo, it looks GOOD! It's perfect. Makes me want to tackle mine . . .

  4. Wow, what a story! It is pretty cool that you were able to reuse such a historic family piece. Looks fantastic in your home.

  5. I am so glad you posted about this today of all days! We were just discussing this weekend about wanting to replace our make shift new construction mantle with a chunk of distressed wood. We have a lot to pick from here in Oregon. I was worried about the how to but you just calmed my nerves!


Thank you for thoughts on my post! M.