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6 Tips to make a DIY Cottage Fireplace and $ 100 Lowes Gift Card Giveaway

The little 1905 cottage I am working on it coming along. The drywall is all done and we are painting this week. For the last couple of Saturdays we have been working on the fireplace. I wanted a really classic cottage-y look with a planked wall. And I am so happy with the way it’s turning out. Here are 6 tips I have learned as we have created this Cottage Fireplace.

Plus, Lowe’s is giving away a $100 Lowes Gift Card to one of you at the end of the post so you can create something awesome at YOUR house!!

We used MDF for all of the detailing. Why MDF and not wood? MDF is very easy to sand and make smooth. It kicks up a lot of sawdust when you cut or route it, but it looks good.

(here’s a little progress collage — the before pictures, framed, new drywall and now with new tile and planked)

Fireplace top (above mantel)

We used 5 1/2 – inch MDF, cut into panels of appropriate length. We used a plain base molding and then used a rounded bit on the router to make both the top and bottom look the same. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not —  not much more than a couple of minutes per board. In other words, one of the edges was already round, and we just used the router to round the other edge to match.

Even though we’ve re-framed and drywalled this 1905 house, the walls are still not perfectly plumb, so we found that we had to compensate for that by not cutting all of the boards at once — we couldn’t cut more than a few boards at a time, then we’d need to re-measure. No matter how new your house is, this is a good idea.

To create the paneled look for the back, we used these MDF panels and just lined them up one on top of another. We used a level and started from the bottom. Why the bottom? Because we knew that we would be covering the top with crown molding.

We used a nail gun to pop each board into place.

To finish the trim, we used MDF boards on each side to finish the look and make the sides even with the mantel.

We had originally planned to just caulk the interior corners, which were about 45-degree bends. But that didn’t look finished enough for me, so we got some plastic inside corner molding, used the table saw to “rip” the interior edge off, and then put it in the corners. It was a great fit.

Fireplace bottom (below mantel)


Our building codes required 6 inches of non-combustible clearance around the fireplace opening — what a perfect opportunity for subway tile! I picked up a bunch of the smaller subway tile at Lowe’s.

I also used some metal edging (it’s professional grade stuff from Schluter) on the edge of the hearth and around the fireplace insert to give it a finished look and protect the edges. How did I find this? My tile expert recommended it (and he has a great tile-it-yourself video you can buy too!).

Underneath the hearth

Underneath the hearth I used the same MDF that I had used above the mantel, but instead I laid them side by side vertically. Since the floor in this old house is not totally straight, I had to cut them each individually. I used a lot of caulk at the top to smooth out the look.

While I haven’t done the base molding in the rest of the house yet (since I still have to stain the hardwood), I’m planning to use the taller molding — so I used a smaller piece in front of the fireplace and used my compound miter saw to cut 45-degree ends for now.

Between the hearth and the mantel

I wanted to try something simple on the sides of the fireplace, so I used the same MDF that I used for the hearth and cut pieces to build up each side even with the tile.

I had to do a lot of manual trimming to accommodate a wall that wasn’t perfectly straight, but by doing so it straightened the look a lot.

I then did simple molding frames using the same kind of MDF trim — but this time in the smallest size. I routed both sides of these to give it a uniformly rounded look, too, and used the compound miter saw.

Of course, all of this was attached with my handy nail gun.

Fireplace mantel

I could not find sheets of MDF that matched the exact thickness of the MDF molding I was using, so I instead bought the closest I could find — slightly smaller. We cut the top to size, using two pieces of MDF. To join the pieces, I used wood glue and screwed the seam in place with another (scrap) board overnight to hold it in place while it dried.

I cut another piece of MDF to fit underneath the mantel overhang (I cut the mantel to overhang a bit), and glued it in place, holding it together with clamps overnight.

I used my birthday router again to round the edges to match.

We slid the mantel into place after we’d finished the top and the bottom of the fireplace.


Just one comment about caulking — not only does it make everything look better .. but in this case, I purposely did not caulk between the “panels” above or below the fireplace to give it a more cottage-y look.

Other thoughts

the primed MDF saves paint time later.

Don’t be in a rush to finish; it takes some time to get everything right, and it’s okay if you miscut something or mess up. We all do.

Don’t forget the spray grout sealer!

I’ll talk more about the fireplace insert I chose — and why — in another post

And now — the awesome Lowe’s folks are giving a $100 Lowes gift certificate to one of YOU — so you can tackle a project on your DIY list! Here’s how to enter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Join Lowe’s on Facebook for more great ideas and sign up for their FREE Creative Ideas Magazine with TONS of great IDY ideas and instructions!!

lowes creative


Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!!


  1. how I could put much needed shelves in my garage

  2. Thomas Murphy says:

    I would like to do the Glowing Snowflake project from Lowe’s Creative Ideas

  3. Thomas Murphy says:

    I would use it to paint my bathroom

  4. Amanda Korty says:

    I followed loves and lowes on pinterest, and Jenifer hadfield. One thing that I think I would make is a kitchen set for my little girl, she loves to help mommy and daddy in the kitchen and that would be a great Christmas gift for her to wake up to on Christmas morning. I could see her playing with it every morning and all day long. I would also like to tackle building a mud room for right by the front door so we can hang our jackets and keys and put our shoes their too.

  5. Jessica A says:

    Lowe’s Creative Ideas-I love the sprucing up a patio with stone. That’s another project to add to our list-building a back patio/porch.

  6. Jessica A says:

    I have sooo many projects I want to tackle….where do I even begin?? Living room, complete gut & remodel of our ONLY bathroom (that currently has no tub-only a shower), turning spare bedroom into a dressing room….the list goes on and on…

  7. I would redo my living room wall area.

  8. I have so many projects to do in my house it is not even funny. Would love a mantel over my fireplace in time for Christmas stockings!

  9. We are redoing my bedroom and I would love to use this gift card for painting and a light fixture

  10. I would work on our redesigning our master bedroom!

  11. Becky Hinman says:

    I would put it toward Christmas decorations for my daughter’s classroom!

  12. i would use it to fix our bathroom!

  13. Diana Conway says:

    I would put in a new bathroom floor

  14. On their website, I’d like to tackle how to Update a Dated Kitchen Ceiling

  15. I’d plant a rose garden.

  16. I want to redecorate my daughter’s bedroom

  17. I need to start a veggie garden, and $100 would go a long ways!

  18. I would repaint our bathrooms. I tweeted the giveaway.

  19. I could really use the help to organize our craft/junk room.

  20. Linda Jernigen says:

    This is great as I was planning to add a fireplace in my living room! Thanks for the help!

  21. Actually, I miss my band saw ( sold it to move down here ) and I would put this towards a new one.

  22. The toilets in the new house we are buying.

  23. We are 3/4 finished putting in a DIY plywood floor in our kitchen/living room. $100 would let us finish the floor and the trim!

  24. I would love to make the fold away laundry rack!

  25. We need to redo our front porch!!

  26. I would use the gift card to make a new surround for our fireplace.

  27. I’m wanting to redo my bedroom!

  28. mary fanara coleman says:

    I could use it for we are redoing our bathroom.

  29. Oh I love the Glowing Snowflake project! I would love to see you do that one! :)

  30. Hi Jen! Thanks so much for hosting this giveaway! Gosh, I don’t know where to start! I think I’d put it towards our guest bathroom. It’s VERY old and needs a fresh makeover. I’m thinking white subway tiles, a petestal sink, new shower doors…LOL…this would go towards that :)

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  31. I’d like patio floor paint – our patio floor looked stained and dirty even when it’s clean.

  32. Hands down I would love to put some shelving on both sides of my fire place!

  33. I would paint the living room

  34. We need a new baseboard heater in our living room and I would use it for that. Thanks for the giveaway.

  35. Replace a Bath Vanity!

  36. Build steps for the deck & porch

  37. sallie fitzpatrick says:

    I would tackle my bathroom faucets and shower heads!

  38. barb mathers says:

    thanks, jen!!

  39. From Lowe’s Creative Ideas I would like to build the simple guitar hook. We have 4+ guitars at any given time & our little babes love to strum the strings. It would be a lot safer to have them off the ground stands and transfer them to the wall hooks

  40. I would use the Lowes card to make a Ruler Growth Chart.

  41. I would add Board and Batten to our “soon to be” living area.

  42. Katie Murray says:

    I am redoing my Master and would use it for that.

  43. Thanks for this giveaway .. love the idea of making the “Fold-Away Laundry Room Drying Rack” :-)

  44. We have been remodeling/renovating our house over the last year (while living in it) and I have a question about your r-tech foam. Does it have a radiant barrier? Is it your only insulation?

    I pinned your post: http://pinterest.com/pin/109493834661909460/

  45. Need new flooring in living room


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