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My wife and I are in the process of revamping our basement and are hoping to install a new floating mantel over our gas fireplace in the basement. I'm hoping to get a piece of 2" thick, live-edge cedar for the mantel. My question is how best to mount it to the drywall above the fireplace. My concern is that our basement is framed in with steel studs and I'm concerned about the weight distribution of the wood slab. The mantel would be approximately 70" wide, however, I have access to a crawl space behind the fireplace and found that in addition to the drywall, a sheet of 19/32 plywood has been installed behind the drywall for presumably, extra support.

With that, what would be the best way to mount this? I've done a bit of searching online and haven't landed on anything. I've read anything from toggle bolts to lag bolts to carriage bolts with nuts and washers. Should I aim to go into the studs or just utilize the plywood backer or something completely different? Any thoughts or tips would be very appreciated!

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A plywood backer is a great starting point. From there you could bore some hole edgewise in the live edge mantelpiece and install the anchors mounted into the plywood. If done properly and carefully your Live Edge mantel piece should be able to withstand much weight plus its own weight without moving. One thing to keep in mind is the height to distance ratio of your mantelpiece. Combustibles going over a fireplace have a ratio of how much horizontal distance off the fireplace to how vertically high above the fireplace your combustibles are.

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