By restaining a mantel, you can restore its beauty.

How to Restain a Mantle

by Heather Montgomery

The fireplace mantel in your home often becomes the room's focal point and the perfect place to display your children's treasured art, photos and decor knickknacks. When the finish on your mantel looks outdated or begins to flake and peel, restaining it offers a cost-saving solution to replacing it completely. While restaining the mantel is a time-consuming process, select a stain color that matches the other wood in your home to create a cohesive design.

Lay a dropcloth over the floor surrounding the mantel and fireplace. Cover the hearth with plastic painter’s sheeting and newspaper to protect these areas while working. Cover the surrounding walls with plastic sheeting and newspaper as well. Secure in place with painter’s tape.

Open windows for ventilation and keep children out of the room to prevent the inhalation of toxic fumes. Use fans to move air and take frequent breaks in the fresh air.

Put on a mask, goggles and chemical-resistant gloves for the stripping process. Apply the wood stripper to the mantel following the manufacturer’s directions on the container. When the finish begins to bubble, remove it with a putty knife or steel wool. Work in small sections until all of the finish is removed from the mantel.

Wipe the mantel down with mineral spirits to remove any remaining stripper. Allow the mantel to dry for at least 24 hours.

Sand the mantel with 160-grit sandpaper to smooth the finish. Wipe away dust with a tack cloth.

Brush a wood conditioner onto the mantel to seal the wood grain and prevent blotchy stain absorption. Follow the directions for the conditioner on the container.

Apply a coat of stain to the mantel using a quality paintbrush. Work using long, even strokes slightly overlapping each previous stroke with the next. Wait 5 minutes, then wipe off excess stain with a clean fiber-free rag. Allow the first coat of stain to dry. If you desire a darker finish, lightly sand the mantel, wipe away excess dust, and apply a second coat of stain. When dry, lightly sand.

Brush a coat of polyurethane onto the mantel after you have lightly sanded the finish and removed the dust. Use long, even strokes, slightly overlapping each stroke. Allow the first coat of polyurethane to dry before lightly sanding and applying the last coat of polyurethane.

Items you will need

  • Dropcloth
  • Plastic painter’s sheets
  • Painter’s tape
  • Newspaper
  • Mask
  • Goggles
  • Chemical resistant gloves
  • Wood stripper
  • Quality paintbrush
  • Putty knife
  • No. 00 steel wool
  • Rag
  • Mineral spirits
  • 160-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood conditioner
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane


  • If you want a lighter color mantel than the original wood grain color, mix a bleach solution of 1/2 pint of liquid bleach with one gallon of water. Apply it to the wood and wait two minutes before rinsing off with a damp cloth. Let the mantel dry for 24 hours before conditioning and staining the wood.


  • Dispose of rags and tools used with chemical stripper and mineral spirits in a container full of cat litter, sand or dirt. Seal the container and place in household trash to prevent combustion and fires.

About the Author

Based in Lakeland, FL., Heather Montgomery has been writing a popular celebrity parenting blog and several parenting and relationship articles since 2011. Her work also appears on eHow and Everyday Family and she focuses her writing on topics about parenting, crafts, education and family relationships. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in early education from Fort Hays State University.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images