DIY Faux Fireplace Made from Tongue and Groove Panels

Lexy Ward, of the blog PROPER, longed for a mantel to decorate. But since she didn’t have one, she did what any clever DIYer would do– she designed and built a faux fireplace. It has tile in the “firebox” and tongue and groove panels to form elegant columns on either side. It provides a great place for displaying art, holiday decorations and potted plants. And best of all, she can pick it up and take it with her when she moves.

Here’s Lexy’s step-by-step tutorial.

If you have an actual, REAL fireplace with a mantel, then I am jealous of you. Really truly. I have tried mimicking a mantel over the years by building stacked shelves, a random shelf over a mini fireplace, and even hanging some fireplace art, but none of those replacements did the job.

I shopped around for a few faux mantels and did a ton of online research, but just couldn’t find one that I was 100% crazy about. So what does one do when that happens? You build your own faux fireplace yourself! And I’ve partnered with The Home Depot to show you just how we did it.

I love wood paneling and the detail and depth it can add to a room, so I knew I would want to add some sort of element like that for the columns. After drawing out a sketch, and some heavy convincing of my husband Logan on my part, we made a supply list and were on our way.

How to Build a Faux Fireplace


  • 2 Finished pine boards – 67 in. x 12 in. x ½ in.
  • 4 Tongue & Groove Boards – 49½ in. x 6 in. x 1 in.
  • 2 Cedar planks – 1½ in. x 56 in. x 10 ft.
  • 6 MDF boards – 49½ in. x 5 in. x ½ in.
  • 1 MDF board 43 in. x 9 in. x ½ in.
  • 1 MDF board 43 in. x 50 in. x ½ in.
  • 1 MDF board 62 in. x 10 in. x ½ in.
  • 2 Cedar planks – 3 in. x 10 in. x 2 in.
  • 1 stretch Flat casing – 14 ft.
  • 1 box Simple Mat tiling adhesive
  • 1 quart Fusion Pro grout in Charcoal
  • 1 case White subway tile – 3 in. x 6 in.
  • Finishing nails
  • Paint – we used Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint in Nano White (satin finish)
  • Paint brushes and roller
  • Assorted tools for the job (hammer, clamps, construction adhesive or wood glue, nail set, level, measuring tape, pencil, drill, and table saw)
  • Drywall/stud anchors for mounting

Step 1: Build the Base

We have tile floors so I knew I wanted to build a base for the mantel to rest on.

To build this, we cut one of the 3 in. x 10 ft. x ½ in. boards and cut it into five 8-in. pieces. We then used the other 67 in. long piece as the “front” of the base. We spaced the boards out and glued and nailed them in place.

Once that was finished, we added the top of the base.

The top of the base and the top of the whole mantel are the same type of wood and are the exact same size to keep things uniform. We simply glued and nailed that down making sure it was level. We then used this to stabilize the rest of the mantel as we built it from scratch.

Step 2: Build the Two Columns

Two tongue and groove panels clamped together

Using wood filler at seam of two tongue and groove panels

To create the two columns, we first messed around with the tongue and groove boards until we had something we liked. The beauty of these boards is that one just slips right into the other and creates a look of four boards when you’re only using two. We love when products allow us to do less work!

I used our table saw to rip the tongue off the length of two of the boards to give them a flat edge on one side. I then used wood filler to fill the groove on the other side.

Once the filler was dry, we sanded and placed them on top of the two 56 in. long planks. Glued, nailed, leveled and set. The columns were complete!

Step 3: Build the Faux Firebox

The tricky part for me had to be this little faux firebox. When I first described what I wanted to people, they didn’t see my vision or thought I was crazy for building a fireplace made from wood. But remember? The firebox isn’t an actual firebox. This mantel is purely for show!

We created the box by essentially building two “mini” columns from the 49½ in. MDF boards. Once we had the two columns, we placed another (43 x 9) on the top to hold them together and then a backside (43 x 50)  to create the area to be tiled.

Once that was clamped and set with wood glue and nails, we shimmied it in between the two columns and sanded and leveled again to make sure everything stayed uniform.

We placed the largest piece of MDF (63 x 10) on the front just above the firebox. We laid the fireplace down and just laid the wood down on top of the columns. We attached that guy with more nails and wood glue. By now, it was totally looking like my sketch and I was feeling pretty high and mighty!

I wanted to add a little more dimension, so I attached flat casing to act as my moulding. We really just played around with this until I got something that I liked.

To attach it to the front and sides, we cut 45-degree angles on each end and matched them up together nailing them in place.

Finally, we placed the top piece (67 in. pine) on the very top of the columns. We nailed along the edges and were sure to use a nail set to keep those nails nice and low when it was time to finish.

Step 4: Sand and Paint

After I had attached every wood embellishment I could, it was time to sand and paint. We did three coats of paint. Whites are tough, but they sure are pretty!

Once the paint had dried (be sure to sand between coats – a 220 grit is great!), it was time to lay the tile in the firebox.

Step 5: Lay Tile

Normally, when attaching tile, you have to lay down thin-set, a form of mortar, lay the tile in it and then wait for the tile to dry.

Being the impatient woman that I am, I used Simple Mat (a new tiling adhesive that you can immediately lay tile on and grout after installing!) and mocked up where and how much to use. This is essentially a double-sided adhesive that you can lay down directly on wood (no Hardiebacker!) and press your tile on. I had actually attended a DIY workshop at The Home Depot a few weeks ago all about laying tile, and we used Simple Mat to install a backsplash! I was totally sold on the stuff.

Because the mantel was all white and the tile was all white, I wanted to break things up just a bit with a charcoal grout. I love how it turned out!

Step 6: Final Painting

After the grout had dried and been cleaned up, I covered the firebox in the final few coats of white paint. I just made sure to tape around the edges of the tiled area to protect it from getting covered in paint.

Step 7: Attach the Faux Mantel to the Wall

We attached this mantel to the wall by mounting it with drywall/stud anchors. It’s in there, alright! And when it comes time to move, we can simply unscrew the anchors and take the mantel with us! Everybody wins!

And that’s it! If I really sat down and looked at our hours, I would say we hammered this mantel out in three days. It adds just the right something to our living room!

Step 8: Decorate

To finish things off, I headed over to The Home Depot garden center and picked myself up a mini cactus collection. I love how they look in the fireplace!

I love how this turned out and can’t wait to keep adding more of my favorite knick-knacks to the space!

Lexy Ward is founder, editor, and craft boss of PROPER, a blog that encompasses all things that inspire one to live in a properly improper way. From recipes to projects to parties and more, there is endless amounts of inspiration to be found. She lives in Tucson with her husband Logan and daughter Vittoria.

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