Are you considering adding a mantel to your fireplace? Before making that decision, it's important to know as much as possible about fireplace mantels and how they can liven up your space. These decorative pieces are a great way to emphasize and often improve the focal point around your fireplace.
In this article, we will discuss both the functional and decorative aspects of a mantel, while also discussing styles, types, and crucial information you should have before beginning your installation. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the purpose and process involved with choosing the perfect fireplace mantel for your home. And if you're an avid DIYer, we'll even offer some tips on how to build a mantel using one of our fireplace mantel kits.
Why You Should Consider a Mantel
A fireplace mantel appeals to a wide range of consumers. The timeless elegance provided by these beautiful additions can improve the look and feel of any home. Using decorative pieces to highlight your personal aesthetics, a mantel is also a great way to draw the focus of a room towards the fireplace, transforming it into your own piece of art. Not only does this offer a warm invitation to everyone who enters the home, but it also showcases your style.
Beyond their appealing look, fireplace mantels are also quite functional. These pieces offer protection and storage to the areas above the fireplace. They can also keep heat from damaging walls, a mounted television, or pictures while preventing other issues from occurring. Using a mantel to hold precious knick-knacks, family pictures, and other heirlooms is an ingenious way of not only keeping them safe but for displaying them to your guests.
Things to Know Before You Buy a Fireplace Mantel
There are still a few crucial pieces of information you will need to know before making your fireplace mantel selection and placing your order.
- Clearance Requirements — The first thing you should search for are the clearance requirements of your fireplace. This will directly influence the size and type of mantel required.
- Width Requirements — The second thing you'll need to do is measure the width and length of your fireplace on all sides. This will ensure the mantel is proportional to the size of the fireplace since a fireplace mantel must be several inches wider than the fireplace itself, on all sides.
- Room Requirements — It is equally important to take into consideration your individual room requirements. Room size, ceiling height, and other room features play an essential role in choosing the right fireplace mantel for a room.
Top Brands for Fireplace Mantels
When looking for fireplace mantels for sale online, you'll soon discover there are several brands to choose from. Below, we will discuss the different brands and what they can offer you.
- Pearl Mantels — Pearl Mantels was founded in 1995 and started with the goal of providing high-quality furniture made with superior craftsmanship for customers. Over the years, they have evolved to offer a broad range of mantels, embellished with their signature pearl addition. With options ranging from rustic to contemporary, Pearl offers both wood and cast stone mantels that adapt for any application.
- R.L. Trotter — Focusing on quality over quantity, R.L. Trotter is known for constructing quality mantel surrounds, all built in the U.S.A. Their business is consistently growing despite economic downturns and soaring material prices, showing the true quality of their products.
- Fireside Furnishings — Fireside Furnishings is a division of HHT who offers customers the look of a high-end mantel without paying high-end prices. Their mind-boggling selection of custom mantel styles, coupled with their customization options, makes them the ideal manufacturer for those who prefer granite or marble surround panels without breaking the bank for a fully custom-built mantel.
- Napoleon — Napoleon offers a wide range of hearth appliances as well as a series of great-looking fireplace mantel kits and surrounds designed to fit many of their models. Offering both flush mount and full cabinet mantels, they have taken the guesswork out of choosing a mantel for their fireplaces.
- MantelCraft — One of the best-known manufacturers of fully customizable mantels, MantelCraft has been in business for more than 30 years. While offering wood, marble, and stone mantel designs, their team offers superior quality at an exceptional value, while providing a vast inventory that encompasses all potential needs.
What Kinds of Mantels Are Out There?
There are several options for those in search of fireplace mantels. Whether you're looking for a floating mantel, mantel shelf, or a full mantel surround, having information on each style, including the different materials used to construct them, will help you make the best choice for your home.
Stone mantels are normally custom built to fit the unique dimensions of your fireplace. There are a few brands that have pre-made cast stone fireplace mantels for sale. But, these mantels are generally only available in the most common fireplace mantel sizes. Full surround stone mantels, on the other hand, feature stone legs that reach from the hearth to the mantel, while also featuring a fully stone mantel shelf. However, both full stone mantels and stone mantel shelves typically feature neutral colors and traditional styles, considering their lines and pale stone construction.
Wood mantels are most commonly found prefabricated. They vary in size from 24 inches up to 72 inches and come in a wide variety of finishes. The options range from traditional wood stains to more modern colors or unfinished options. Wood mantels give you more creative freedom to customize your mantel to match your home's decor.
Fireplace Mantel Shelf
A floating mantel or mantel shelf features a simple design that hangs on the wall above the fireplace. You have the choice to purchase it with or without decorative legs. This style is the easiest to add to a fireplace. All that is needed for installation is the fireplace width and clearance requirements.
How to Install a Floating Mantel
If you're interested in learning how to install a floating mantel on your fireplace, take a look at the expert installation video below from Pearl Mantels, one of the top manufacturers of fireplace mantels.
Full Fireplace Mantels
Full mantel surrounds offer a more traditional appearance. In most cases, this is the design people envision when they think of a fireplace mantel. This style includes a mantel shelf and legs that reach to the fireplace hearth or floor. Full surround mantels have more specific installation requirements. It's essential that you know the precise width, height, and clearance requirements for your fireplace before purchasing.
Corner mantels are designed to go with a corner fireplace. Similar in appearance to traditional mantels, these additions slide into the corner of a room on top of a corner fireplace. Like full surround mantels, corner mantels require specific installation requirements. Before purchasing, make sure you know the width, height, depth, and clearance of your fireplace.
These mantels include cabinetry built into either side of the fireplace. In some cases, they include bookcases built to either side of the fireplace or above it. These mantels have clearance built-in, which keeps items such as books, candles, knick-knacks, and other keepsakes safe from heat.
These company-designed mantels are manufactured for specific brands and models of fireplaces. Detailed information isn't needed for these mantels during installation. The manufacturers will have information on which fireplaces they are compatible with.
One of the biggest issues you may face when installing a fireplace mantel pertains to how far the mantel projects into the room. So, why is this important?
Mantel projection refers to the depth of both the mantel shelf and its legs for a full mantel surround. Knowing how far your mantel projects into the room is important for maintaining proper clearances to the fireplace and ensuring the mantel is installed properly. The greater the projection, the more space is required between the mantel and the top of the fireplace opening to dissipate heat. Projection depth also determines the type of anchoring needed for the shelf portion. The further your mantel shelf projects, the greater cantilever effect it will have on the wall. This means you'll need stronger anchoring support. So, having this information helps keep your combustible mantel in good shape and your home safe from fire hazards.
As you would expect, there are no specific clearance guidelines in place for cast stone and other non-combustible mantels. This means they can be built in close proximity to fireplace openings. It is important to take into consideration the type of material, as some porous stones can crack if overheated. And in certain cases, manufacturers may require clearances to be observed, even if your mantel is constructed from a non-combustible material. In these cases, you must follow the same projection requirements described in the previous section.
Factory Built and Custom Mantels
Certain manufacturers like Napoleon and Empire offer their own model-specific mantels and cabinets. Their mantels are designed for specific use with their own models. Thus, following their installation guidelines is important. These specifically made cabinets should not be used with other models of fireplaces. Doing so will void the warranty and can result in the clearance requirements not being met. When being used with the fireplace models they are designed for, the mantels will meet the clearance requirements needed.
Open Masonry Fireplaces
Open masonry fireplaces are not factory-built units, so they follow their own set of guidelines that are listed below.
The 2018 International Building Code section 2111.12, exception 4 for Masonry Fireplace clearance states:
- "Exposed combustible mantels or trim is permitted to be placed directly on the masonry fireplace front surrounding the fireplace opening, provided that such combustible materials shall not be placed within 6 inches (153 mm) of a fireplace opening. Combustible material directly above and within 12 inches (305 mm) of the fireplace opening shall not project more than ⅛ inch (3.2 mm) for each 1-inch (25 mm) distance from such opening. Combustible materials located along the sides of the fireplace opening that project more than 1 ½ inches (38 mm) from the face of the fireplace shall have an additional clearance equal to the projection."
While manufacturers normally follow their own shipping guidelines, most are quite similar. Wooden mantels are often shipped via parcel due to their packaging design. They are packed flat, almost like a DIY bookcase. As the consumer, you will be required to assemble the mantel yourself by following the guidelines that will be included in your package.
When it comes to larger wooden cabinet mantels or cast stone mantels, they will be shipped via freight due to the weight. When receiving your mantel, no matter the type or form of shipping, it is important to inspect them properly to ensure no materials have suffered any forms of damages.
This article intended to give those interested in purchasing fireplace mantels all the information required to choose the mantel best suited for their home. No matter which type of mantel you choose, your home will benefit greatly from not only the functionality but also the visual appeal they provide. If you need further assistance selecting a fireplace mantel, our NFI Certified Specialists are always here to help!