November 20th, 2014

How to Refresh Wood Mantels


Are the wood mantels in your home stained a dark color? Do you desperately want to paint them white or a vibrant color to match your decorating style?

I had two such mantels—and I’ve painted both of them white. Recently, I refreshed them with a coat of Glidden paint’s Marshmallow White. Here’s my take on why you should go ahead and take on this project in your home.

Many homeowners hesitate to paint woodwork or trim, but who says you can’t paint over stained or polyurethaned wood? That’s old school thinking. I know that mantels look fabulous when painted.

How to make a mantel look larger

Repainting your wood mantel is also an opportunity to update it with decorative molding before you paint. I added a larger board to the top of my original family room mantel so I could place larger items on top. Once I painted everything, the new top became a seamless part of the mantel.

Wood Molding to add to a mantel

Decorative molding also adds interest. These pieces can switch up the entire look of even the plainest mantels. All you need is some wood glue to attach the decorative pieces, and it doesn’t matter if you use wood or MDF since you don’t have to match the stain. Two coats of semigloss or gloss paint make all the ornamental additions look as if they were always part of the original mantel.

If you’re painting your mantel or trim white, don’t buy it right off the shelf. I find those whites too blue in color. It’s better to gather a few paint chips in shades of white and see how warm or cool they’ll appear in your home. Colors that I have used are: Marshmallow White, Crisp Linen White and Dove White.

Here’s How to Paint a Wood Mantel

You will need:

  • High-quality angled paint brush
  • Foam roller with round edges
  • Paint tray
  • Glidden Gripper Primer
  • Semigloss or gloss paint
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth or rag


1. Rough up the surface with 100-grit sandpaper. Clean off grit with a tack cloth or damp rag. Let dry.

2. Apply one light coat of Glidden Gripper Primer. Let dry. Smooth out any dried ridges or drips in the paint with sandpaper and wipe away residue. Apply a second coat. Let dry. I used white primer, but if you’re going to paint the wood mantel a vibrant or dark color, then use a grey primer to bring out the top coat color (and you’ll use less paint).

3. Brush or roll on two coats of paint, letting the first coat dry before applying the second. Let dry.

4. Allow the paint to cure for a few days before placing anything on the top of the mantel.

Painted wood mantels

As I mentioned earlier, I refreshed the mantel in my dining room with two coats of Marshmallow White in semigloss. While you’re at it, why not paint the brick fireplace?

Paint a fireplace

Here are some tips for updating the brick: clean the brick well with detergent, rinse and let it dry. Use a stiff paint brush to apply primer, and paint into the grooves between the bricks. Then, take care of the rest using a regular brush or roller.

Painting your mantel and brick fireplace are both quick and easy paint projects that take just a few hours—is there a better reason for you to grab your paint brush and start painting?


I have been sponsored by the Glidden® brand paint for PPG to write this post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.