When Ryobi came to me with this idea to build something inherently Canadian I will admit that I was pretty stumped. Muskoka chairs immediately came to mind but I didn’t have the right spot to showcase them. What else? It was difficult to come up with an idea that was wholeheartedly Canadian, that I had the skills to build, AND that would work in my space. Canoe? No. I started thinking symbolically. What represents Canada to me? Then it hit me, fires. More specifically fire places. They were essential to early life in our country to survive cold winters that stretched on and on and on. People used them for cooking too and we still come together around fires and fire places in our modern Canadian lives. We roast marshmallows over backyard fire pits, love to cook breakfast on the campfire over May long, and who doesn’t have at least one winter photo staged in front of the family fireplace mantle?
Another concept that reiterates Canadian values for me is being a good neighbour. We have only been in this neighbourhood in Fort St John for one year. This is our second summer here. We have been really lucky to discover that our neighbours are fantastic people. On the left, he is in and out of work camp. When he is away we mow his lawn as we do our own and when he is here, he does ours. On the right, a young couple who let us know they often sit around the fire pit at night and that we were more than welcome to join in – or let them know if we were bothered by it (We aren’t. Not at all.) Across the street, our kids play with their kids and we’ve exchanged cell numbers so we can text and keep in touch with where our children are. “Can Nathan stay for lunch?” “Sure!” We wanted to be a part of this community and just being outside more was a way to do that.
Naturally, this all came together for me as I was looking at our dismal front porch which had lots of space to get cozy and little in the way of comfort. We needed to do something about that. Enter the great Canadian front porch faux fireplace!
My parents happened to be here as I was building this project and so I was lucky to spend some time with my dad over power tools. We build this whole thing out of scrap wood so it was really inexpensive in terms of supplies. I bought paint, stain, wax and stencils for this but feel free to use up what you have on hand. I also spent a little on decor by way of citronella candles -the mosquitoes here are enormous! I am so so so pleased with our front porch space now. This faux fireplace really added a focal point and it naturally draws us all together. Here’s how to make one of your own:
Wood cut list:
- Pine base: (1) sized 48″ x 16″
- Pine top: (1) sized 48″ x 10″
- Front cross piece: (1) 1×4 40″ wide
- Column pieces: (6) 1×6 42″ high
- Lathe: (15) 1″ wide cut 20″ long
- Trim: 3 pieces cut to fit your top on a 45 degree angle. I used 2″ baseboard
- Paint (I used a mineral / chalk paint)
- Stain (I used a gel stain)
- Paint brushes
- Brad nails to fit your nailer
- Ryobi 18v ONE+ AirStrike finish nailer
- Ryobi 18v ONE+ONE Sliding Mitre Saw
- Circular Saw (optional – it allowed us to have more than 1 saw going at a time)
Notes: This is a pretty simple build and is ideal for a beginner. Using the AirStrike finish nailer, (any excuse to use this thing is welcome, it is FUN) makes quick work of the assembly process. If you wish to have this portable and easy to move around, I’d add in a few screws just so that you could lift it conveniently by the top for moving. I will not need to move this often so the finish nails were more than enough stability for me.
The first step is to assemble the columns which are open in the back. Butt three pieces of 1×6 together in a ‘U’ shape and tack in place with the finish nailer. Make 2 columns.
Next, Measure and mark 6″ in from the outside edge of your base. Nail the outside edge of your columns (squared up at the back) at this 6″ mark.
Once your columns are secured to the base, stand the unit up and secure the top in the same manner, measuring in 6″ and lining your outside edge of the column up with this mark. Also ensure the back edges of the column are at the back edge of the top piece.
Next, nail the lathe in place. Measure down 4″ from the top and begin attaching the lathe, butting each piece up against the prior one until you have at least 15″ of lathe in place. Make sure your pieces are level prior to nailing them down. You could continue your lathe all the way down the back – we didn’t have enough material to do so.
Center the front panel and nail that in place. It should cover up visibility of the 4″ gap between the lathe and the top. Again, we didn’t have enough material to cover the whole back of the piece – if you do, don’t worry about leaving a gap at all.
Attach your trim. We cut ours on the Ryobi sliding mitre saw which made it pretty easy to get accurate 45 degree angles. That laser guide really helps make this foolproof. Really though, don’t be afraid to use putty if needed. Even pros use putty now and then! Fear of not being able to make something perfectly shouldn’t stop you from making something at all.
Sand, paint and stain to your desired finish.
I did not want a perfect, interior worthy piece. We chose scrap wood and went for a rustic feel on purpose because this was going to be outside on our front porch. I waxed over the stain to provide a bit of weather proofing but our porch is covered and it will not come in contact directly with much weather. A bit of frost, maybe but it won’t be soaking in rain water. The wear it takes over the years is only going to add to the rustic look and feel of this faux fireplace. Once we had our mantle built, I was able to style it with candles and decor and the front porch came to life.
The lathe backing was the perfect spot to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. It is important that we all take this time to look back at our history for what it really was and look forward towards making Canada what we all need it to be. A place to come together, to be neighbourly and to celebrate being Canadian. There is so much more we need to do to make Canada a place for everyone to live their best lives. We might not be there yet, and it might be a long road to get there, but being Canadian is still something to be proud of.
We are going to spend our summer nights around the fire pit in the back yard and around the faux mantle on the front porch. I added a vintage Canadian fruit crate inside our mantle to hold some firewood that i wrapped in twinkle lights. It’s also a great spot for our citronella candles and the glow it gives off really allows this faux fireplace to shine.
My parents live on the west coast and they brought up some driftwood. The mantle was the perfect space to showcase some of the fun shapes they brought. I added in a few other decorative pieces. Overall, I wanted a bit of vintage (always) and a bit of campiness (love it) and some red and white. Nothing too fussy or complicated for outside, that’s not us. Some battery powered candles set to a timer allow us to just walk out the front door and sit in front of the glow.
I added the little folding chair which I painted and mod podged as well as the bentwood rocker. Every front porch needs a rocking chair! At least I think so. I still have a few other things I’d like to do, we need to re-stain the decking and I’d like to also build a bench to sit on the opposite side of the space. Maybe a few more plants. More plants are always good, don’t you think?
Happy Canada Day my friends!