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    Fireplace Mantel Buyer's Guide

    Are you considering the addition of a fireplace mantel to your home? Before making this important home addition decision, it's important to know as much as possible about fireplace mantels and what they can bring to your home. These ornamental pieces are a great way to emphasize and often improve the focal point around a fireplace. In this article, we will discuss both the functional and decorative aspects mantels can bring to your home, 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. 

    Who Will a Mantel Appeal To?

    Visual Appeal

    A fireplace mantel can appeal to a wide range of consumers. The timeless, visual, elegance provided by these beautiful additions can bring an improved look and feel to any home. A mantel is also a great way to draw the focus of a room toward the fireplace. This offers a warm invitation to everyone who enters the home. 


    Beyond their appealing look, fireplace mantels are also quite functional for any home. These pieces offer protection and storage to the areas above the fireplace. This keeps heat from damaging walls or 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 those who enter your home. 

    Before You Buy

    Consumers will need to know a few crucial pieces of information before making the decision to add a fireplace mantel to their home. These bits of information are important to know before placing any order. 

    • Clearance Requirements — The first thing a consumer must know is the clearance of their fireplace. This will directly influence the size of the mantel required.

    • Width Requirements — The second things a person must know is the width of their fireplace on all sides. This is important in keeping the mantel from disappearing in relation to the fireplace. A mantel must be several inches wider than the fireplace itself, on all sides.

    • Room Requirements — Consumers must also take into consideration their individual room requirements. Room size, ceiling height, and other room features are an important part of choosing the right fireplace mantel for a room. 

    Industry's Finest

    When making the decision to buy a fireplace mantle for your home, you'll soon discover there are several brands to choose from. Below, we will discuss the different brands and what they offer to consumers. 

    What Kinds of Mantels Are Out There?

    There are several options for those in search of fireplace mantels such as styles and materials. Having information on each of the offered styles and materials will help consumers choose the one best suited for their home. 



    • Stone mantels are normally custom built to fit the requirements of a consumer's fireplace. There are a few brands that offer pre-made cast stone fireplace mantels. Generally, these mantels are only available in the most common fireplace mantel sizes.

    • Full Surround Stone Mantels feature stone legs that reach from the hearth to the mantel, while also featuring a fully stone mantel shelf.

    • Stone mantels are usually more neutral and traditional 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.

    • Wood mantels come in a wide variety of finishes. This can range from traditional wood stain to more modern colors or unfinished options. This allows consumers the option of customizing their mantel to match their home's decor. 


    Mantel Shelves

    • This simple design consists of a shelf that hangs on the wall above the fireplace. The consumer can choose it to come 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.

    Full Surround Mantels

    • Full surround mantels offer a more traditional appearance. In most cases, this is the design people see 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. The fireplace width, height, and clearance requirements must be known before purchase. 

    Corner Mantels

    • Corner mantels are designed to go with a corner fireplace.Sharing an appearance with traditional mantels, these additions slot into the corner of a home atop a corner fireplace.

    • Like full surround mantels, corner mantels require specific installation requirements. Before purchase it is important to know the width, height, depth, and clearance of your fireplace.

    Bookcase Mantels

    • 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. This keeps items such as books, candles, knick-knacks and other keepsakes safe from heat.

    Manufacturer Specific Mantels

    Technical Information

    Mantel Projection

    One of the biggest, issues consumers face when installing a fireplace mantel is mantel projection and why it's important. Mantel projections refers to both the shelf and leg depth for a full mantel surround. Ensuring fireplace mantles are installed properly is important when keeping your combustible mantel in good shape and your home safe from fire hazards and other implications of improper installation and an oversight in projection.

    Non-Combustible Mantels

    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 close to fireplace openings. It is important to take into consideration the type of material as some porous stones can crack if overheated. In certain cases, however, manufacturers may require clearances to be observed. In these cases, the same projections requirements must be followed. 

    Factory Built and Custom Mantels

    Certain manufacturers such as Napoleon, Empire, etc. offer their own model specific mantels and cabinets. These are designed for specific use with their own models. Following these guidelines are important. These specifically made cabinets should not be used with other models of fireplaces. Doing so will void the listing and can result in the clearance requirements not being met. When being used with the models they are designed for the mantels will already meet the requirements needed. 

    Open Masonry Fireplaces

    Open masonry fireplaces are not prefabricated and follow their own set of guidelines that are listed below. 

    • Building code section 2114.3 Masonry-built Fireplaces 4114.3.10 - All combustible mantels and similar trim shall be kept at least 6 inches from the fireplace opening. Parts of the mantel assembly located along the sides of the fireplace opening which project more than 1 1/2 inches (38mm) from the face of the fireplace shall have additional clearance equal to the projection extension beyond 1 1/2 inches. Parts of the mantel assembly located above and projecting more than 1 1/2 inches (38mm) from the fireplace opening shall not be placed less than 12 inches (305mm) from the top of the fireplace opening. 

    Mantel Shipping

    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. 

    When it comes to larger wooden cabinet mantels or cast stone mantels, they will come 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 is intended to give those interested in purchasing any fireplace mantels for sale 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. 

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    Fireplace Mantels Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists

    * Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
    5 Questions & 5 Answers
    K Kiernan
    from bethesda MD asked:
    March 12, 2018
    WE are trying to place a large tv over a gas fireplace. For the fit, we may need a mantel that is not 48"high. What is the lowest height mantel that would be appropriate with a gas fireplace?
    1 Answer
    The answer will vary per the mantel clearances outlined in the installation manual for your gas fireplace. Based on shelf depth (or projection), the mantel shelf may only come to a certain point above the fireplace. To answer this question, we would have to know the make and model number of your gas fireplace, but I would recommend considering a mantel shelf and not a full mantel surround with legs on either side as this option will allow you the ability to install the mantel shelf at the minimum height above the fireplace (based on shelf depth).
    Submitted by: Will M. on March 13, 2018

    from PA asked:
    October 14, 2017
    I have a free standing ventless propane fireplace with a mantel that has been used for many years with no issues and was serviced by a propane supplier. Last year, a noticeable amount of black residue appeared on the face of the mantle; this has been serviced again and the black residue continues to appear. What could be the cause?
    1 Answer
    You will want to make sure that your logs are arranged in the exact way the manufacturer recommends, as this is one of the leading causes of soot creation.
    Submitted by: Brennan W. on October 16, 2017

    from Bellingham, WA asked:
    September 10, 2015
    Your mantels show measurements for height, width and depth and I assume that the height and width are outside measurements but what does the depth refer to?
    1 Answer
    The depth measurement is usually referring directly to the mantel shelf. Some mantels will also show a leg depth, if the mantel uses vertical side legs.
    Submitted by: eFireplaceStore on September 11, 2015

    from Des Moines, IA asked:
    February 12, 2015
    What are the minimum required clearances for a wood surround and mantel applied to the brick face of a conventional masonry fireplace? Where would I find these figures including allowable projection of the legs and mantels?
    1 Answer
    Per the IRC, the guidelines are to have at least 6 inches of noncombustible veneer between the top and sides of the fireplace opening to the nearest combustible mantel legs or breast board. The legs do not have a projection limitation but between 6 and 12 inches above the fireplace, the breastboard can only project 3/4 of an inch. At the 12 inch mark, the mantel can project further, with no projection limitations.
    Submitted by: eFireplaceStore on February 12, 2015

    from TN asked:
    January 1, 2015
    Which side does the gas line need to come into on a model CFX32? Does it need to come in through the left side or right and how far up from the floor does it need to be made?
    1 Answer
    Per the manufacturer, the gas line is ideally routed from the left side on this unit and the knockout is approximately 3 inches from the base.
    Submitted by: eFireplaceStore on January 2, 2015

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