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    Fireplace Mantels Buyer's Guide

    Are you considering the addition of a fireplace mantel to your home? Before making this decision, it's important to know as much as possible about fireplace mantels and what they can add to your home. 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

    Visual Appeal

    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 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 can offer you. 

    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 or mantel shelf, a full mantel surround, or simply fireplace mantels for sale, 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 offer pre-made cast stone fireplace mantels. 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

    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.

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

    Manufacturer-Specific Mantels

    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.

    Technical Information

    Mantel Projection

    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.

    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 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." 

    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 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 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. If you need further assistance selecting a fireplace mantel, our NFI Certified Specialists are always here to help! 

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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!
    15 Questions & 15 Answers
    Sumi R
    from Florida asked:
    December 1, 2020

    Does the mantel function as a heat guard? Our wall above the fireplace gets hot and we are trying to add a TV above our fireplace 

    1 Answer
    If a mantel is installed to the proper clearances around and above a fireplace, it can serve to help shield a television above it, yes.  However, we would strongly recommend recessing the television into the wall. 
    Submitted by: Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on December 2, 2020

    George B
    from Croydon, NH asked:
    October 2, 2020
    Can I use a wooden mantel over a woodstove placed in an alcove?
    1 Answer
    Not over a freestanding wood stove, no.  But, if you are referring to an enclosed, built-in stove, that may be possible, depending on the specific model's framing and clearance requirements, particularly the mantel clearances.
    Submitted by: Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on October 2, 2020

    Bruce R
    from VA asked:
    May 24, 2020
    Where would you measure a 48" mantel?  At the very top and widest or at the bottom?
    1 Answer
    A mantel shelf is typically sized by the full length of the shelf on top.  A three-sided mantel is typically sized by the interior opening width (inside leg to inside leg).
    Submitted by: Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on May 26, 2020

    Teann N.
    from Dallas TX asked:
    February 19, 2020

    Do you have a black metal fireplace surround for a Superior DRL6500 that would work with a floating fireplace? It currently has a custom stainless steel we would like to replace.

    1 Answer
    While a surround matching this description is available, this fireplace has to be framed in a certain way for use with this surround. Since your fireplace is already installed with a locally-fabricated surround, the fireplace would have to be removed and re-framed to accept the surround in question. 
    Submitted by: Will M. on February 19, 2020

    from Virginia asked:
    January 9, 2020
    Does any manufacturer make a solid wood fireplace mantel that is not a veneer?
    1 Answer
    Click here for a link to our solid wood mantel.
    Submitted by: Kathy O. on January 9, 2020

    Mary M.
    from Bethesda, MD asked:
    October 31, 2019
    What exactly is included in a fireplace mantel and surround kit? Is the stone include?                                                 
    1 Answer
    No, stone/noncombustible facing is never included with a mantel - the mantel itself consists of either just the shelf (if it is a mantel shelf) or legs, breast board and shelf (if it is a full fireplace mantel).
    Submitted by: Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on October 31, 2019

    Kathleen P.
    from Aurora, CO asked:
    October 28, 2019

    Do you make custom mantel shelves made to fit 69-5/16" at the bottom?

    1 Answer
    We do not offer any custom mantel shelves and do not have any mantel shelves that have a bottom measurement exactly 69 5/16" wide, but we do have non-tapered 72" wide mantel shelves. 
    Submitted by: Will M. on October 29, 2019

    from Richmond, VA asked:
    October 20, 2019
    What would you recommend for a mantel shelf for outside?
    1 Answer
    For an exterior application, I recommend considering a noncombustible mantel shelf like the Pearl Mantels Zachary.
    Submitted by: Will M. on October 21, 2019

    Tom F.
    from Reading, PA asked:
    October 15, 2019

    What hardware do I need to install a model Pearl 618 Crestwood mantel?

    1 Answer
    The answer to this question will depend on whether you are mounting the shelf to masonry or drywall. For further guidance, please follow this link
    Submitted by: Will M. on October 16, 2019

    from Virginia Beach, VA asked:
    October 13, 2019

    I have a flag stone fireplace that has an uneven surface surrounding my fireplace insert.  How hard will it be to install a full surround mantel?

    1 Answer
    Without a flat surface, it may indeed be challenging to install a full surround. You will likely need something custom-made on-site to accommodate your application.
    Submitted by: Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on October 15, 2019

    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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