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Should this mantel be replaced, or am I good?

Patrick G
February 11, 2019
last modified: February 11, 2019

New construction house. Just completed the fireplace. Attached are two close-up side views of the unstained 6x8 cedar mantel. Notice the large check/crack. The mantel is attached via lag bolts from behind, so if I were to insist the builder replace it, it's going to require a large section of the stone veneer be removed, which makes me nervous. Builder insists it's structurally sound, and we'd only want to replace if the check/crack deepens or otherwise gets worse. I'm just as concerned with the aesthetics though. Should I let it go, or pressure him to replace, risking damage (even if only aesthetically) to the stone veneer that would need to be removed/replace? Thought about another option of inserting a couple of large black lag screws (perhaps with decorative heads) through the front, which would add support and prevent the check/crack from widening, and may or may not tighten it up. Thoughts?





Comments (17)

  • millworkman

    You can replace but I can pretty much guarantee any pc of solid lumber like that will check exactly the same way again and again.

  • Patrick G

    Would you say it's nothing to worry about, or are you saying I shouldn't use a solid piece of lumber like this for my mantel?

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    How long are the existing lag bolts? What is their spacing? And how wide (deep) is the mantle?


  • PRO
    PPF.

    I don't see anything that looks hand hewn or reclaimed, and as millworkman said, timbers tend to split like that when they are cut from the center of a log.


    Ideally this would be cut from a much larger, old growth timber, so you are getting a piece away from the center.



    Patrick G thanked PPF.
  • Patrick G

    Sorry, it's a 6x8 piece of cedar. Trying to find out lag bolt size now.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    The checks are already more than halfway through the depth of the piece on both ends, making a 6X8 into two 6X4s. If the piece is not fully dried, it will continue to check over time as the moisture content works to a stable content consistent with the interior of the house.


    Do you plan to put anything heavy on the mantle?


    I would consider carefully countersinking three holes on the face of the mantle, at the thirds points and inserting a black 5-inch lag screw and black metal washer in each of the three holes, such that the head of each bolt is slightly recessed behind the face of the mantle.

  • Patrick G

    Where would you say the greater risk lies - leaving it as is, or putting in 3 ledger locks (equivalent to 1/2" lag bolts - covered with decorative clavos) and risking it causes further splitting/checking?

  • ksc36

    I'd squirt some epoxy into the crack before I'd consider ruining the face with bolts. You could install a few long wood screws and cover with matching plugs.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    I would give it ten years, if nothing happens in that period of time, leave it alone.

  • Oliviag/ bring back Sophie
    in these days, its really hard to get great lumber.
    center of the log is pretty normal. though not your favorite situation.
    this is not my grandfather's lumber. not first growth, not even second .
    if you want a lot better, you may have to look at reclaimed. imo.
  • robin0919

    ditto what Mark said....if it stays that way, it adds architect to it. What's your guarantee time frame on the new construction?

  • Patrick G

    There's a one-year builder's warranty. I guess if the consensus is to do nothing now, I can just measure the width and length of the checks and record them, and then inspect them periodically over the next year.

  • millworkman

    A decorative piece like a mantel will not be covered under a builders warranty in my opinion. Plus as has been stated I do not think you will ever stop a large pc of lumber like that from checking, period.

  • Sammy

    I like ksc36’s epoxy idea — or maybe even wood glue mixed with sawdust or Durham’s Rock Hard water putty. You might even be able to close the cracks some with some heavy-duty clamping. Just make sure you get all the junk out of the spaces first, though.

  • Patrick G

    I thought epoxy would prevent the natural shrinking and expanding, which could cause bigger problems.

  • ksc36

    They've been using epoxy to glue scarf joints in boat building for years.

    I milled some 300 year old heart pine beams for my floor a couple of years ago. All checks got epoxied and clamped, then installed. You can't even see most of the cracks.

  • Hansen
    Was the crack in it when the builder installed it? If it was, I wouldn't trust the builder. Of course it should be replaced or epoxied by the builder, with no hesitation.

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