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A Fireplace Mantel Makeover

October 28, 2021

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We used a water based gel stain to transform our fireplace mantel in minutes and bring it back to life without sanding or prep. 

Quick & Easy Fireplace Makeover

Way, way back in 2002 we moved into this house.

We'd been looking for a long time, for the perfect home in our tiny beach cottage neighborhood, but nothing seemed to fit the bill.

Until this place showed up for sale.

Located literally across the street from our old home, it was the gem we'd been hoping to find.

Built in the 1920's, it had tons of old world charm and original details. There were archways, built-ins, wood floors and skeleton key locks. 

Best of all, there was a big old, floor to ceiling, stone showstopper of a fireplace in the living room. Dreamy.

Except for the mantel.

Years ago, the original owner stained the wood paneling on the walls gray and the mantel to match.

Unfortunately, now with painted walls and updated decor, it just didn't go.

The beams on the ceiling were a rich, dark brown and while there was gray in the fireplace stone, the beige and brown tones were dominant. 

Plus, it was faded and chipped.

It desperately needed a makeover.

Old Gray Barn Wood Mantel Before

Of course, with a growing family, a teeny kitchen that needed a renovation and outdated plumbing and electrical systems, a mantel makeover wasn't really the priority in this old house. 

Then when things finally calmed down and I could focus on that that gray mantel, the refinishing process always seemed too complicated.

Sanding it in the middle of the living room, and then staining it in place, in the house, was a major no with my bad lungs. The dust and odor issue was something I couldn't get past.

When my husband examined the mantel to remove it, so he could do it outside, we realized that the process might damage the mortar and stone, so we decided against that route as well.

I was crushed, but resigned to live with my mismatched mantel.

Then one day, an email from The Dixie Belle Paint Company appeared. They were offering me an opportunity to try some of their products.

How wonderful.

I jumped at the chance, their paints are top notch, however, while I was checking out their website, I spotted something I didn't know existed.

Their water based Voodoo Gel Stain

Dixie Belle Voodoo Get Stain

Wait, what? Water based? Hmmm. I was intrigued. 

You see, we've used gel stains before, but they've all been oil based and they smelled for days on end...and it was potent. 

But water based I could do. No odor, no messy clean up and, as I read further, I found out that the Voodoo gel stain could be applied on top of the existing finish. So no sanding either. 

I could put it right over the old stain. 

It was a no brainer.

How To Stain A Fireplace Mantel With Gel Stain

I have to say that I was extremely impressed not only with the products I received, but with the how to use the tools they provided.

I read the instruction book and watched the videos on their site before I dug in. 

Very helpful. 

You can also peek at my video on Instagram


Dixie Belle Applicator Pad

Voodoo Gel Stain in Tobacco Road
2" Chip Brush
Stain Applicator Pads
Paper Plate
Satin Clear Coat - optional 

There are seven lovely Voodoo gel colors to choose from, including a green which I've used:

For this project though, I ordered a bottle in Tobacco Road which is a warm brown, to coordinate with the other wood in the room.

The process was unbelievably easy and the results were dramatic.

Honestly, I can't believe we waited this long to tackle this project. 

Step 1: We started by removing all the decor and vacuuming off the mantel. Then we gave it one good wipe with a dust free rag.

It was very clean, no sticky or dirty spots, so that's all it took as far as prep goes.

I had ordered the White Lightning Cleaner, but since the wood was so pristine we didn't end up needing it.

As I said, we also didn't need to sand. If the finish was super shiny, I might've been tempted to rough it up a bit, but as I said, not necessary in this case. 

Step 2: We squeezed some of the gel stain onto a plate and applied a bit of it to the mantel with the brush. 

Paint Brush, Applicator Pad and Voodoo Gel Stain on plate

We went slow, and used strokes in the same direction as the wood grain for an even application.

Applying Dixie Belle Voodoo Gel Stain With Brush

Step 3: Then we grabbed the applicator pad and used it to wipe away any extra stain. 

Wiping Off Stain With Pad

To be honest, the wood was very, very old, rough in some spots and super dry all over. It soaked up the stain immediately. 

We did lay it on pretty thick to start and with our first coat, there really wasn't a lot to wipe away, the mantel drank it up.

The pad was very helpful though. In addition to wiping away the excess, it also worked the stain into the wood.

We applied the stain to small areas at a time, since the gel does dry very quickly, but the difference was apparent immediately.

Problem areas, like water spots, disappeared like magic.

Water Stains On Mantel

The gray was disappearing quickly, too and being replaced with a much warmer tone. The stain covered it all beautifully.

Covering Water Marks On Wood With Voodoo Gel Stain

Step 4: After the first coat, we let the entire mantel dry, for about 15-20 minutes, then we went back over it with a second coat.

As I said, the coverage with one coat was fabulous, we just wanted a darker tone.

We considered sealing it with Dixie Belle's satin clear coat - an amazing product by the way, I've already used it on several other projects and am hooked. I actually prefer it over Mod Podge for decoupage, too.

However we liked the look of the stain the way it dried on its own

It had a nice, clean finish.  

It just fit the room. 

Stone Fireplace Mantel Makeover

All in, this makeover took us less than an hour to complete. That's about how long it took to make the wooden leaf banner.

There was absolutely no odor and the stain washed off our hands, off the brush and off the applicator pad easily with soap and water. Mostly water.

My living room fireplace has never looked better.

That rich brown mantel makes me smile every time I walk into the room.

No more cold gray wood in a room full of brown. 

Cottage Style Fall Living Room Mantel

And no more unfinished DIYs in here anymore.

Well, not any old, overdue ones anyway.

I may have a few new ones up my sleeve.

After all, I have a lot of stain and some new paints to play with.

So stay tuned.

Dixie Belle VooDoo Gel Stain Fireplace Mantel Makeover

Have you used gel stain?

Happy DIYing, Friends!
Kim Signature

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  1. Love it my friend. I'm so happy you found a solution. I know it's not easy with your lungs


    1. Thanks so much, Cindy! I am loving the way it looks and now I'm getting ready to stain everything in house!! ❤️

  2. Kim, that looks amazing. I didn't think anything could make your mantel look prettier but it worked its magic. What a good feeling to have everything done up and looking so good..Happy Thursday..xxoJudy

    1. Thanks Judy! It's bothered me for a loooong time. I'm completely in love with the way it turned out. Better than I ever could've imagined and done in a jiffy. Plus, right in time for the holidays! Thanks for peeking!! xo

  3. What an easy way to get the final look you wanted. This turned out so nice. Love easy peasy and getting a really sweet look. Happy Thursday. xoxo

    1. Kris, you know me, I'm all about the super easy DIYs. This one was crazy simple and the results exceeded my expectations! I hope you have a lovely weekend! xxoo

  4. love the update...very pretty and adds a richness to the room. how nice it was so easy !

    1. Thanks Alda!! It was a long overdue makeover. I'm so happy with the result and the process was so easy, done in an hour. Love that.

  5. Fabulous as always Kim, but I need the info on the leaf garland too.

    1. Thank you so much! And yes...that leaf garland DIY is on its way. Hopefully this weekend! Thanks for asking. ☺️

  6. It looks great! I may need to check into it, as I have a table I’d like to redo!

    1. I highly recommend it, Deanna. You know me, it's got to be easy or I'm out. If you try it, I hope you'll share!! Oh...and thank you!! ❤️

  7. Your fireplace mantel looks really really good Kim! Don't you just love the voodoo gel stain? The tobacco road is my favorite color in the line up and the one I gravitate to most. It must feel so good to have this project off your to do list. Just in time for the holidays too!

    1. Marie, I was blown away by the Voodoo stain. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was so easy, and yes, the color is perfect. I have so much left in the bottle and I'm so excited to stain more, that I'm actually looking around the house for pieces to make over!!

  8. How exciting for the paint company to reach out to you to try out the paints. The mantel looks great and I love the fall decorations.

    1. Thanks Julie!! That mantel makes me so happy now. It just wasn’t right before. I hope you have a lovely weekend!!

  9. Wow Kim, it looks amazing! You did a great job.

    1. Thank you so much! I'm very pleased with it now.

  10. Kim - first your house is to die for. This makeover looks amazing. What great and easy to follow directions.

    1. Thank you, Regina!! Your comment is making me smile from ear to ear. ☺️ I'm glad you found the tutorial helpful. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but...

  11. Kim this looks amazing! I love this beautiful room and fireplace!

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for taking the time to visit and leave such a kind comment. You just made my day!

  12. Glad that stain worked for you. Your mantel looks great.


    1. Thank you so much, Dalila! I'm happy it worked out so well, too. Big difference.

  13. That looks wonderful! Don't you just love when something simple makes such a big impact? My front door desperately needs new stain, I may give this a try and see how it works out. I also love the leaf garland, and look forward to reading about it :-)

    1. Thank you so much, my friend. I can’t believe I waited so long to do this. If you try it and stain your door, I hope you’ll let me know…and I’m hoping to share the leaf garland tomorrow. That’s another easy project! Have a great weekend!

  14. It sounds like you found the perfect solution, Kim. I love the new look!

    1. Thanks Ann! I waited way too long to do this, I guess I was just waiting for the right solution to come along. Have a great weekend!

  15. It looks amazing! I've never used gel stain, and this is also water based, so another plus. If I need to stain something, I'll check it out.

    1. Thanks Mari! It was great stain, worked out so well and I just adore the results. Worth keeping in your mind for a future project for sure.

  16. Being a basically lazy person when it comes to things like this, I love that it only took you an hour to beautifully transform the mantel! And if it makes you smile when you walk by, well, that's a win!

    1. Thanks Amy! I'm all about the quick and easy DIY. I'm definitely a product over process kind of girl. Enjoy the weekend!

  17. Replies
    1. Thanks Penny! This color fits the room so much better.

  18. It looks great Kim! Isn’t it nice to put old projects to bed! Can’t wait to see what you do next!

    1. It really is, Sara, this one was long overdue...and thank you!! I'm excited to paint and stain some more. I have a project list...

  19. I love your home Kim. That fireplace makes me smile every time you share it.

    1. Thank you, Carla. It really is a lovely fireplace, some days I can’t believe it’s actually in my home!!

  20. Your fireplace is gorgeous!!! I’ve seen so many amazing makeovers w/ Dixie Belle…I have to order some of their stuff! Beautiful job.

    1. Jennifer!! Thank you so much!! Dixie Belle products are top notch. I highly recommend. You'll have to let me know if you try it. ☺️