Fireplace Facing and Surround Buyer's Guide
- Superior WCT Builder Series circulating wood burning fireplace
There's more to a fireplace than just the box that holds the fire. Elements like a fireplace surround play both a practical and decorative role. Metal surround panels are sometimes required to protect nearby combustible surfaces. Other times they simply serve to enhance the aesthetic of the fireplace to give it a finished look.
Other terms associated with fireplace surrounds include fireplace faceplates, fireplace fronts, fireplace frames, or fireplace trim. There is not a strict definition for these terms, so you may find that companies use different names. Also, fireplace surrounds are not the same thing as mantel surrounds or fireplace facings. A mantel refers to the shelf and/or pedestal legs that surround the fireplace. The facing is the tile, stone, or other veneers on the front surface. For the purposes of this article, we will define a fireplace surround as the metal frame that surrounds the fireplace opening.
In this article, we'll cover the function and design of such fireplace surrounds. This includes the materials they are made from, how to install them, and maintenance tips to keep them in good condition. We'll also go over some of the different terminology commonly used in the industry so you know exactly what you're looking for.
What is a Fireplace Surround?
A fireplace surround is the metal frame around the fireplace opening. On fireplace inserts, the surrounds hide the gap between the insert and the edge of the fireplace. Masonry fireplaces don't have a gap to cover, but a surround can still be used for decoration. Surrounds also create a barrier between the fireplace and any surrounding combustible material.
- Real Fyre 4-sided surround
That extra barrier is a safety feature. (Some models require metal surrounds for safe installation.) Zero-clearance models come pre-assembled with safety surrounds that protect combustible surfaces like your wall, cabinet, or bookshelf enclosure.
Surrounds can also help with drafting issues. They create a tighter area for combustion and limit the heat that escapes up the flue. This means more heat is radiated into your room instead of being lost up the chimney.
- Real Fyre iSeries IPI Control Direct Vent Fireplace Insert
Fireplace surrounds are usually black and come in a variety of widths and styles. They help visually anchor the fireplace and make it look complete. The surround hides burn spots that may have accumulated around the opening. You can even transform an arched fireplace opening into a modern rectangular opening or vice versa with a more custom fireplace surround design. It's worth checking out the different styles since there are so many options to suit your decor.
Fireplace surrounds are made from high-quality metal such as steel or cast iron. They are durable, fireproof and provide a layer of protection around the fireplace. The finishes are usually either matte black or bronze. Some models offer a selection of powder-coated finishes, too.
- 3-Sided vs. 4-Sided Fireplace Surround
The surrounds are either 3-sided or 4-sided, depending on whether you have a hearth pad or not. The 3-sided models fit around the top and sides of the fireplace opening (with the base being the hearth pad). The 4-sided models frame the entire opening of the fireplace in the absence of a hearth pad.
What Are The Types of Surrounds?
Faceplate, front, surround, trim - what's the difference? Time to set the record straight. Part of the confusion comes from not knowing the difference between whether they are or can be used on fireplaces or fireplace inserts. Fireplace inserts need a surround to cover the gap between the insert and the fireplace opening. Masonry and prefabricated fireplaces do not always need a surround.
Face or Faceplate - These terms are interchangeable and usually refer to a large overlay that covers the majority of the fireplace front. (In case you're wondering, the fireplace front is the front surface around the fireplace opening. If there is a mantel, the front usually extends all the way to the mantel.) If necessary, faceplates can be used to cover the unfinished edge of the drywall around the fireplace. To give you a better idea, this area surrounding the opening of the fireplace opening is also called the facing, which is typically covered by some type of veneers such as stacked stone, tile, brick, or slate.
- Real Fyre 4-Sided Surround
However, manufactured faceplates serve as a one-stop-shop to bypass the labor-intensive practices typically associated with covering the face of the fireplace. Manufactured fireplace faceplates come in a variety of materials and colors, with steel or cast iron being the most common. They range from sleek designs to scalloped steel or decorative bolt heads. Some faceplates serve as a frame and attachment for fireplace doors.
- Osburn medium faceplate black trim kit
Fireplace Surround - Fireplace surrounds and trims differ from faceplates in that they cover less of the front of the fireplace. Surrounds range from 4 to 6 inches in width for each surround panel. Unlike faceplates, surrounds are more often used to cover the unfinished edges of drywall or tile that cover the facing of the fireplace. In other words, the surround acts as a frame that goes around the decorative facing or faceplates used on the fireplace. Some fireplace surrounds are adjustable for various depths of materials. The goal of a surround, in many cases, is to create a picture framed look for the fireplace, allowing it to stand out or "pop" against other background materials.
- 4-Sided Fireplace Trim
Fireplace Trim - A trim kit serves the same function as a surround, but is only 1 to 2 inches in width. They are also light enough that some use only magnets for attachment. Due to their size, fireplace trim is more commonly used with built-in prefabricated fireplace units. The trim serves a similar decorative purpose to frame in the fireplace to give it a distinct, polished look that stands out from its enclosure.
Fireplace Front - Fireplace front used for a fireplace insert (also called a face or faceplate in this case) overlays all but the viewing area of the fireplace insert. Unlike prefabricated or masonry fireplaces, fireplace inserts typically come with a surround as a standard addition to the insert front because it serves both functional and aesthetic purposes.
Fireplace Surround Installation
- Installing Fireplace Facing
Fireplace surround kits are relatively easy to install. Read the instructions and make sure you have the necessary tools before you begin. Here is an overview of the installation for a fireplace insert. (Note that the details may be different if you are installing a surround on masonry or prefabricated fireplace.)
- Install the fireplace insert according to the manufacturer's instructions. It is important to choose the right size and configuration so the gaps are all covered.
- Assemble the surround. The surround may be a single piece or it may come in up to five pieces. The necessary screws, nuts, or brackets should be included in the kit.
- Attach the surround to the front of the fireplace. Usually, the surround comes with fasteners that attach to adjustable brackets on the side or front of the fireplace insert.
- With the surround in place, you can install the optional faceplate. In many cases, the faceplate overlays the surface of the surround. Faceplates can also house fireplace door assemblies.
What about Wood Mantel Surrounds?
- 3-Sided Fireplace Surround on Raised Hearth
Although this article is focused on metal surrounds, you may find yourself interested in installing a wood mantle shelf or a full wood mantel surround. In that case, you'll need to adhere to building codes. Metal surrounds do not need clearance, but wood mantels are dangerous if installed too close to the fireplace opening.
Start by checking for any local codes for wood fireplace mantel surrounds. If you don't have local codes, follow the guidelines for the National Standard Building Code or the National Fire Code. Also remember to keep stockings, greeting cards, and other combustible material away from the heat of the fireplace. Use the required clearances for the wood mantels as a guideline for keeping any other flammable material away. Click here to see a visual diagram of the clearance requirements for a wood mantel surround.
In general, this means that any combustible trim or mantel must be at least 6 inches from the fireplace opening. If any components of the wood mantel placed along the edges of the fireplace facing projects farther than 1.5 inches, then you should add extra clearance.
The additional side clearance should compensate for the additional projection of the combustible parts to ensure your mantle is safe. For example, if any parts of your mantle project out 5 inches from the front of the fireplace, you will need 5 extra inches of clearance space from the sides of the fireplace opening. (This makes 11 inches of total clearance from the opening of the fireplace.)
The mantelpiece across the top has its own clearance requirements. Again, the minimum clearance for any combustible material is 6 inches away from the sides of the fireplace opening. If the mantel projects more than 1.5 inches (which most mantels do) then you need more clearance.
One way to maintain the clearance is to install the horizontal top mantelpiece 12 inches or more above the fireplace opening. If you want it to be less than 12 inches away, the rules get more detailed.
Remember these details:
- You must have an inch of clearance for every 1/8 inch that the mantel extends. (Again, this is referring to the top mantelpiece above the fireplace.)
- If your mantel extends ⅞ inch, you'll need 7 inches of clearance.
- Note that the 6-inch minimum rule always applies, so even if the mantle only protrudes 5/8 inch, you will still need 6 inches of clearance.
Factory-built fireplaces often have their own clearance requirements. Read the manufacturer's installation requirements to make sure you maintain safe clearances.
Zero-clearance manufactured fireplaces also include specific guidelines and installation requirements. Many allow for wood or framing that comes right up to the insulated fire-box. However, always make sure you follow the restrictions for your particular model.
Most fireplaces need some non-combustible material that surrounds the front of the fireplace. Wood-burning fireplaces also need non-combustible material on the hearth. The non-combustible material could be a metal surround. For some fireplaces, it could also be material like brick, stone, or tile.
Care and Maintenance
Fireplace surrounds and faceplates are designed to last and rarely require maintenance. You can occasionally wipe down the surround or faceplate with a soft cloth to remove any dust. If the surround gets scratched, you can touch it up with high-temperature paint.
Most fireplace surrounds, faceplates, and trims come disassembled. This makes them small enough to ship via small parcel post. If the surround is shipped with the actual fireplace unit, it may arrive with the unit via LTL freight. Inspect the item for damages and report any issues to the manufacturer immediately.
- 3-Sided Fireplace Surround
Your fireplace model may need a surround for safety, or you may wish to install one purely for style. Either way, there are several options to make your fireplace functional and beautiful. Some fireplaces require surrounds specifically rated for use with that model. This is especially true for prefabricated fireplaces or inserts. It's worth doing your homework to make sure you buy a surround that is safe and compatible.
Please reach out to us if you have any questions about your fireplace surrounds! Our NFI Certified Technicians are happy to help!
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Facings & Surrounds Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
17 Questions &
from BC Canada asked:
June 26, 2020
Can I use plywood to face the front of a gas fireplace? Do clearance inches apply?
No, you should only use noncombustible materials as facing/finishing on the front of gas fireplaces.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on June 26, 2020
from Buffalo, NY asked:
May 9, 2020
Do you have a 3” wide by 40-3/8” faceplate for an Empire DVP36FP3 to cover the gap between the top of the fireplace and the existing porcelain tile?
Unfortunately, the only frame/trim available for the DVP36 models is about 1-inch thick.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on May 11, 2020
from NJ asked:
March 28, 2020
Am I allowed to tile right up to my wood burning stove insert on the face of my fireplace?
Whether or not you can do this will depend on the model information and its specific clearance requirements. This will be found in your installation manual.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on March 30, 2020
Do you have black louvers for the Superior DR600CMN?
Those are no longer available. You could look at our high-temperature paint
to change the color of existing louvers.
on March 3, 2020
from Chesapeake, VA asked:
December 12, 2019
I need retainer clips that hold glass door to the steel doors of my wood burning fireplace insert.
This part is not something we have access to.
on December 12, 2019
from Winchendon MA asked:
November 16, 2019
Do you have anything that would fit a 35" W x 27" H insert?
The surrounds we have advertised are specific to the fireplace inserts and certain fireplaces we also offer. Unfortunately, these are not universal and we do not offer any options with these measurements.
on November 19, 2019
from Okeechobee Fla asked:
June 24, 2019
What is required for the front of a wood burning fireplace? Is a pull from the side mesh screen enough? I've been told they are not using glass doors anymore.
Woodburning fireplaces certainly still have glass doors as an option, though the doors are usually specific to the model fireplace. Most units include a pull mesh curtain screen standard.
Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on June 24, 2019
from dining rooom asked:
October 30, 2018
What paint can be used to paint fireplace surround?
You can use any of our Fireplace Paints
on October 31, 2018
from Somerdale, NJ asked:
January 16, 2018
I would like a simple fireplace surround. Width of opening is 34.5" and height is 28.5", do you have anything I can use?
Our surrounds are model specific and we will not have anything that precise. We would recommend you have something locally fabricated for the best fit.
on January 16, 2018
from Glade Valley, NC asked:
November 28, 2017
I have built a indoor fireplace , stick built , covered inside and out with durarock board.i will be installing a ventless gas log set .what is the best thing to install over the durarock inside the firebox
Perhaps you would consider decorative firebox panels inside the fireplace.
Please see the following links:
One 24"h x 28"w Panel
Two 24" h x 40"w Panels
These panels are about 1" thick and can be cut down to the size you need with a masonry blade or tile saw. They are suitable for use as side, rear and floor panels inside any manufactured woodburning fireplace.
on November 28, 2017
from Keller, TX asked:
September 21, 2017
What's the difference between a fireplace front and a fireplace frame?
Generally speaking, a fireplace front will cover some of the firebox facing while a fireplace frame or surround will cover any gaps left during the finishing phase of installation. Please note that all of the frames and surrounds offered on our site will be manufacturer and model-specific to the fireplaces we also advertise on our site and would only work if you currently own one of these models.
on September 22, 2017
from Berkeley, CA asked:
September 7, 2017
How do I actually attach the surround to the wall? I am trying to make a fake fireplace and there is not a gas fireplace inset or furnace inside my current wood burning fireplace. May I use liquid nails to "stick the surround to the wall?" Thank you.
You might want to use a RTV silicone
, in case you ever decide to use the fireplace again.
on September 7, 2017
from Dallas, TX asked:
May 20, 2017
I have a 29 inch wide by 23 inch tall marble wood burning fireplace. I am looking for a facing surround for this size.
Unfortunately, the facings and surrounds advertised on our website are specific to certain fireplaces we also offer and will not be universal. I recommend having something fabricated locally.
on May 22, 2017
from CA asked:
May 9, 2017
I have a 24" X 36" fireplace and am looking for a decorative trim in satin nickle.
We only offer decorative trim and optional surrounds for the manufactured fireplaces that we also offer.
on May 9, 2017
from Utah asked:
November 30, 2016
How do I find sizes of the openings?
The surrounds we carry do not have opening sizes listed, as they are meant for specific models of inserts.
on November 30, 2016
from Baltimore, MD asked:
November 21, 2016
I'm looking to put a wood insert into a 71" (w) x 51" (h) fireplace.
Unfortunately, we do not offer custom surrounds. This is something you will likely need to have fabricated locally.
on November 22, 2016
from Burlington, VT asked:
March 2, 2013
How do I determine what size face to purchase?
The fireplace facings and surrounds that we carry are all intended to be used with specific models of fireplaces and inserts. You will definitely need to know that manufacturer name and model number of the fireplace to determine what parts will work with the unit. There should be a build tag or sticker with the unit, either just inside the opening at the left or right side, or in the void space beneath the firebox floor.
Collin C. - NFI Master Hearth Professional
on March 4, 2013